Seizures in Dogs: Overview, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Seizures in Dogs: Overview, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

PHC LLCAug 26, '19

A seizure (also called a fit or convulsion), is a neurological condition in dogs. It’s an involuntary burst of activity in a dog’s brain that causes twitching or shaking. This can last for several minutes or less.

If a dog shows repeated seizure episodes, this is called epilepsy. An epileptic dog may have a regular or unpredictable seizure pattern. The seizures may also occur in frequent clusters.  

Different Types of Seizures

A seizure episode may vary from dog to dog. But, three main types of seizures may often happen.

Generalized Seizure

This is the most common type of seizure in dogs. A generalized seizure causes a dog to convulse and lose consciousness. This is because of unusual electrical activity throughout the dog’s brain.

Focal Seizure

A focal seizure happens when a single-part of the dog’s brain is attacked by the unusual electrical activity. This causes uncontrollable movements of the dog’s single limb or sometimes one side of his body. The duration may vary and it can lead to a generalized seizure.

Psychomotor Seizure

This type of seizure causes a dog to have strange behavior, and lasts for a few minutes. Some dogs with a psychomotor seizure attack imaginary objects or chase their tail.

It’s easy to mistake a psychomotor seizure for a behavioral problem. But, a dog with this type of seizure would repeat the strange action every time he gets an episode.


Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs

Differentiating a seizure from odd behavior can be difficult. But, there are typical symptoms you should watch out for. Each type of seizure may cause different symptoms.

Generalized Seizure Symptoms

  • Falling
  • Limbs twitching
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncontrollable urination
  • Salivating
  • Jaw chomping
  • Barking for no reason
  • Dilated pupils

Mild generalized seizure symptoms can last for a few seconds to a couple of minutes. In some cases, seizures may last for 24 hours or more.

Focal Seizure Symptoms

  • Jerking or twitching of one side of the face and/or body
  • Head turning to one side
  • Moving one limb only
  • Curving the body to one side

During a focal seizure episode, the dog would be conscious. But, more serious episodes may impair a dog’s consciousness level.

A simple focal seizure may also cause dilated pupils, vocalizations, changes in vision and/or hearing, difficulty balancing, and muscle contraction.

A complex focal seizure attack can also cause aggression, hysterical running, jaw chomping, vomiting, salivating, diarrhea, and change in appetite.

Psychomotor Seizure Symptoms

  • Signs of hallucination
  • Chasing or attacking imaginary objects
  • Rage or aggression
  • Not recognizing family members or owner

Some people may think of these as odd or bad behavior. But, these may already be signs of a serious seizure which may lead to epileptic attacks.

Phases of Seizures in Dogs

Seizures may occur in 4 different phases. This may help determine the severity of a dog’s condition.

Phase 1: Prodome

During this phase, a dog would have a change in mood and behavior. This is the phase hours or days before the actual seizure would happen.

Phase 2: Pre-ictal Phase

A dog would feel nervous during this phase. He may become too clingy or he may try to hide often. Pacing, running, salivating, whining, and trembling are also other signs of this phase. This may last for a few seconds to a couple of hours

Phase 3: Seizure Phase

This is the phase when the actual seizures happen. During this phase, symptoms such as twitching, mouth foaming, and chomping may happen.

Phase 4: Ictal

This phase comes after the actual seizure. A dog may seem disoriented or confused. This would cause a dog to show signs of restlessness or may become unresponsive. It’s also possible that a dog may lose their vision and hearing temporarily after a seizure. This phase can last indefinitely.


It might be impossible to cure most epilepsy cases in dogs. But, there are ways to minimize the attacks.

Potassium bromide and phenobarbital are the two common medications used for treating seizures in dogs. For dogs who have a poor response to the medication, there’s therapy to accompany the treatment.

However, putting a dog on antiepileptic drugs will make him dependent on them. This means that he will need it for the rest of his life. Stopping medication may become a bigger health risk which will make seizures more frequent and worse than before.

The important thing is a vet’s support during the treatment. Constant medical checkups with a vet will prevent any complications and worse problems.

Also, any owner should give more attention to a dog with epilepsy. Being on medication can risk a dog’s kidneys. That’s why a vet would also recommend a change in diet once a dog begins treatment.


Preventing seizures in dogs may be difficult. Owners often don’t have control over the underlying causes of the seizures. Certain dog breeds are more prone to have seizures because of their genetics. These breeds include cocker spaniels, poodles, and German shepherds.

But, there are still many things an owner can do that may help a dog. First, eating a well-balanced diet. A vet may be able to give a diet plan that would be suitable for the dog’s specific needs.

Monitoring the dog’s health is also a great way to prevent seizures. Some diseases can lead to seizures. Some issues to watch out for are liver disease, low blood sugar, and brain tumors. It’s best to avoid these diseases and/or get them treated to prevent any kind of seizure from occurring.


A seizure may turn into a life-and-death situation for dogs. It’s critical to monitor a dog closely when symptoms of seizures arise.

Dogs with seizures must be given extra care and attention. Keep the environment quiet and safe. Bright lights and loud noises may trigger seizures or make it worse.

Skip going on trips especially going to the beach or pool. There are high chances of a dog to drown during a seizure attack.

Also, having many dogs can be a problem. If a dog starts to get a seizure, immediately remove other dogs from the area. This may cause the other dogs to get upset or attack the affected dog.