Causes of Seizures in Dogs

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As a pet owner, seeing your dog have a seizure for the first time can be a terrifying experience for you. You might think they are dying, and this can cause anyone to panic. It’s good for you to know that, typically, seizures are not fatal, and it may help you to get through such an experience if you know why seizures in dogs can occur.

What are the causes of seizures in dogs and cats?

In general, there are three main causes of seizures.  The first main cause of seizures is known as “intracranial” causes.  These are physical or structural problems within the brain.  The second main cause of seizures is known as “extracranial” causes.  These are causes elsewhere in your dog’s body that are negatively impacting the brain.  The third main cause of seizures is called idiopathic epilepsy.  This is when there is no identifiable cause outside of the brain or inside of the brain.

Causes of seizures inside the brain

These are causes within their brain, so it would take a diagnosis by veterinary neurologists to ascertain the exact cause. This category can include things such as degenerative brain conditions, lack of blood flow to the brain (strokes), congenital diseases, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), a brain tumor or some head trauma experienced by your dog causing injury to the brain. 

These conditions require an MRI of the brain and CSF analysis to find the cause.


Causes of seizures outside the brain

Since these are causes that are external to your dog’s brain, they may be easier to discover and, therefore, remedy. They can be conditions in other parts of their body that affect their brain such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), liver shunts, severe kidney or liver disease and electrolyte disturbances. You should know that extracranial causes can also include things in your dog’s environment that find their way inside them. This is the case if your dog eats something poisonous such as antifreeze or bufo toads.

These conditions are typically tested for using blood tests, urine tests and X-rays.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Sometimes, when your dog has a seizure, the cause is not easy to categorize. In fact, sometimes it’s impossible to determine a specific cause. This requires blood tests, an MRI of the brain and CSF analysis to rule out all of the other causes.  When this occurs, it is called idiopathic epilepsy. This is, in fact, the most common type of seizures in dogs. 


If you see your dog having a seizure, you need to go to the veterinarian immediately. Try to stay calm and comfort your pet.  Do not put your hands near your pet’s mouth as they could accidentally bite you.  Seizures that last longer than 3 minutes, or multiple seizures in a row are an emergency.  In these situations, you should take your dog to your veterinarian, an emergency veterinary hospital, or to Southeast Veterinary Neurology.

At Southeast Veterinary Neurology, we have the only team of board-certified veterinary neurologists in South Florida. Our teams in South Florida and Virginia Beach have the knowledge, experience and cutting-edge equipment to quickly and accurately diagnose your dog’s seizures.  Contact our team at Southeast Veterinary Neurology, so you’ll know your family will be getting the best care available in South Florida.  We are available 24/7, 365 days a year.