Seizures are the most common neurological condition in dogs. A seizure is the clinical manifestation of excessive and hypersynchronous electrical activity in the cerebral cortex. Seizures in dogs can be quite distressing to the pet and the pet owner.
Types of Seizures in Dogs
Seizures in dogs may be broadly classified as focal or generalized seizures. Focal seizures are due to abnormal electrical activity in one localized part of the cerebral cortex. The more common form of seizures is called generalized clonic-tonic seizures. In this form, the pet may stiffen, fall or lay down, then paddle with the legs uncontrollably. Many dogs urinate, defecate or salivate during the seizure. The seizure itself may last from a few seconds to several minutes. After the seizure, the pet may seem disoriented, blind or wobbly.
Causes of Seizures in Dogs
Seizures may be broadly categorized as problems outside of the brain that secondarily affect the brain (such as low blood sugar, poisonings, liver or kidney failure or electrolyte abnormalities), primary structural problems in the brain (such as a brain tumor, stroke, encephalitis, infection or hydrocephalus), or idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs. Idiopathic epileptic dogs typically start having seizures between one and five years of age. There is often a regular pattern to the seizures. They act normal between seizures and have a normal neurological examination.
Diagnosing the Cause
Most of the causes outside of the brain (such as low blood sugar and electrolyte abnormalities) can be diagnosed with blood tests. Most of the causes inside of the brain (such as brain tumors and encephalitis) require magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis for accurate diagnosis. Idiopathic epilepsy is diagnosed by ruling out all of the other causes of seizures inside and outside of the brain.
Treatment of Seizures
Appropriate and successful treatment of seizures relies on accurately diagnosing the underlying cause of the seizure. Veterinary neurologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of seizures in dogs and cats. Treatment typically involves medications to decrease how often your pet has seizures, how severe those seizures are and how long each seizure lasts. There are several newer medications that veterinary neurologists prescribe that may have some advantages. Prognosis depends on the underlying cause of the seizures as well as early and appropriate treatment.
Dr. Michael Wong and the staff at Southeast Veterinary Neurology (SEVN) are specialists in diagnosing and treating seizures in dogs and cats. If you have any questions about your pet with seizures and your veterinarian has recommended evaluation by a neurologist, please contact SEVN at (305) 274-2777.