Parkinson Vet Surgery | Seizures in Pets | Parkinson Veterinary Surgery

Seizures in Dogs

Seizures can be very disturbing for owners to watch, and it is quite common for people to feel panicked and scared if they notice a loved pet have a seizure. It is not uncommon to be upset by this, as some people feel scared and helpless, and don’t know what to do.

Seizures can have many forms and appearances and can be an indication of something as little as hypoglycaemia  to systemic toxicity. In all cases, though, a seizure is typically a sudden onset episode of impaired consciousness with or without violent muscle contractions occurring in all skeletal muscle systems. They tend to cease without treatment, and have visible stages, broken down into three parts…

1. Pre-ictal phase: Generally composed of altered behaviour where they seek out their owner and become sulky, appear nervous or want to hide. They often show general nervousness, restlessness, whining, trembling or salivating. This can last between a few minutes and a few hours.

Ictal phase: Seizure. This is the convulsion or ‘fit’ phase, where all the muscles spasm and the patient falls generally to its side. The pet is unresponsive to verbal commands and their eyes may be fixed ahead or their eyes may rapidly move up to down or side-to-side. The pet’s head may be thrown back and their legs may seem paralysed while shaking, or may ‘paddle’ as if they were swimming. This phase is the most violent, and if this lasts over 5 minutes in duration, the patient may be in status epilepticus, or going from one seizure to the next without a respite period. If you believe your pet is suffering from status epilepticus, you will need to contact us ASAP.

Post-ictal phase: This is the phase where the pet regains consciousness, however they may be stunned, disoriented, confused, restless or pacing. There may also be salivation or temporary blindness during this phase

What should you do in case your pet has a seizure?

When seizures occur in people, there are a lot of different things that people must do to prevent harm for the person having a seizure (moving the tongue to the side of the mouth to avoid swallowing it, lie them in the recovery position and wait). These are not applicable to dogs having a seizure. If your pet is on the ground, they are safe, as long as the area is cleared of furniture or away from stairways.  Also, dogs cannot swallow their tongue, like people. If you try to put your fingers in their mouth, you will certainly get bitten badly, and pulling their tongue out will likely make them bite through or bite off their own tongue.

Do not try to give your pet any liquids or syrups while your pet is having a seizure. If you do so, your pet may involuntarily inhale the contents into its lungs, which will cause breathing difficulty with serious complications. Don’t force anything into your pets mouth, as you may get bitten, push your pets tongue in between the teeth, or fracture your pets teeth with the strength of the jaw contraction.

Do not try to calm your pet during the seizure, or pat your pet, or call out their name. Added audible stimulation may intensify the seizure, and even though your pet loves you, they will be stunned or disoriented, and they may not recognise you straight away in the post-seizure phase.

Do your best to keep track of the time that your pet is having a seizure. Some seizures last as little as seconds or as long as minutes. If you pet has had a seizure for 5 minutes or more, contact us immediately. If you are feeling emotional, do not risk a car accident by driving yourself – get a friend or neighbour to drive you to the clinic.

What happens next?

If you’ve been to see us, and we believe the condition is recurring, we may prescribe some medication to prevent seizures. This medication is called Phenobarbitone, and does an excellent job at preventing seizures. However, this medication needs to be regulated, as too much of this medication can cause liver damage.

After the initial diagnosis, we will ask you to bring your pet in 6 weeks after diagnosis. At this point, we can see how your pet has responded to the treatment, and measure their level of phenobarbitone in the blood. We aim to keep the medication dosage as low as possible yet still preventing seizure activity.

After the 6 week blood test, your pet will need a blood test every 6 months.

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones, also known as uroliths, are caused by excessive crystal accumulation in the bladder,  joining together to form a stone. Both dogs and cats are affected by bladder crystal formation, and both dogs and cats can be affected by bladder stones blocking the urethra, preventing the evacuation of the urine from the bladder. This condition is very serious, considerably painful and can be fatal.

Some pets are more prone to urinary crystals than others – canine breeds like dalmations, miniature schnauzers, bulldogs and yorkshire terriers are predisposed to developing urinary crystals, and in cats, male cats are more likely to have urinary crystals than females.

Poor or improper nutrition is a main cause of urinary crystals in dogs and cats. Excessive consumption of certain minerals, such as magnesium and phosphate, which are the building blocks of crystals. Some foods can also influence the pH of the urine, shifting the pH to make it more favourable for urinary crystals. Also, water intake will affect the formation of urinary crystals – when the urine is actively concentrated, there is a higher concentration of minerals in the bladder, increasing the likelihood of crystals and stones forming. Foods high in fat can lead to obesity, which predisposes dogs and cats to urinary crystal formation.

Signs to look out for:

  • Changes to urination, straining to urinate without producing any urine, blood in the urine, missing the litter tray, vocalisation while urinating and abdominal discomfort. Excessive licking of the genital area and irritated, swollen genitals.

If your pet is susceptible to bladder crystals, your vet will change their diet to help alleviate urinary issues. A change in nutrition will help prevent further issues by changing the pH of the urine, making it more acidic, to prevent the formation of urinary crystals. The diet is restricting in the minerals which lead to urinary crystals, and it will encourage your pet to drink more water, therefore flushing out the bladder on a regular basis.

Your pet will need to continue on this diet for the rest of his/her life. These diets are complete and balanced, and will provide your pet with all the nutrition that they need, and provides nothing they don’t need.

Most veterinary care brands such as Hills, Royal Canin and Eukanuba provide maintenance diets with components to prevent urinary issues- especially in the feline ranges and specialised breed diets. So even if your pet does not have urinary issues but are predisposed, they can still prevent urinary bladder stones by feeding a good quality diet. Ask your veterinarian for help on this.