Seizures in Dogs: What You Should Know

Sad Boxer looking at camera
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After your pet has a seizure, he may not seem like himself for a few days.

My 4-year-old Boxer recently had a seizure. How serious are they?

Seizures, also known as convulsions, are a common neurological problem seen in dogs. There are a variety of possible causes, and it is important that you work with your veterinarian to try to determine the specific cause of your dog's seizure — especially if you suspect that a toxin may be involved. An examination, thorough history and diagnostic testing may help find the reason for the seizures, although many cases are classified as idiopathic epilepsy, which is a seizure disorder with an unknown cause.

Though a seizure may be frightening to watch, the pet is usually not in pain. Seizures in dogs may affect just one part of the body or may be more generalized and tend to occur in three stages:

  • For a few seconds to a few hours before a seizure, your pet may act nervous or restless and may shake or salivate.
  • The seizure itself typically lasts for a few seconds or minutes. During this period, your pet may fall on his side and seem paralyzed while his body shakes. He may lose urinary or fecal control. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, take your dog to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. In general, it is best not to approach your pet while he is having a seizure. However, you should make sure that your pet will not injure himself by falling or by getting his limbs or head scratched by or caught in nearby objects, such as furniture.
  • During the post-seizure phase, which may last anywhere from a few minutes to up to two days, your pet will likely not seem quite like himself.

If your pet has one short seizure episode, contact your veterinarian for advice. If your pet has additional seizures that day or if you are concerned for any reason about how he looks, have him seen right away. Your pet will receive a thorough physical examination, including some basic blood tests, to try to determine the cause for the episode. You and your veterinarian can then devise a plan for monitoring your pet going forward.

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