What to do if your dog has a seizure
Believe it or not, epilepsy is quite common in dogs, affecting around four per cent of them, with certain breeds being more prone to it. If they are suffering from epilepsy, it can cause them to suffer from seizures or fits, which can be terrifying for both you and your dog. So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation?
If your dog has had a fit before, you may start to see signs that one is coming on. The period before a seizure is called the pre-ictal phase’ and can cause some dogs to act strangely. This isn’t the case for all of them and some may have a seizure without displaying any sort of symptoms beforehand. If they do, you may seem them becoming more anxious or restless. They may even appear as if they are drunk, stumbling or disoriented.
If you see any of these behaviours, try to move your dog to a safe, soft area where there are no objects that might hurt him. Move him away from any sharp edges, stairs or hard floors so that he can be as comfortable as possible during the seizure.
Once the fit starts, it is absolutely essential that you don’t panic or get upset. Your dog may pick up on your emotion and it could make him even more frightened so try to stay as calm as possible. Talk to him in a soothing manner, reassuring him and petting him gently. Do not, under any circumstances, put your hands or any body parts near his mouth. He may bite down and the seizure will prevent him from releasing you.
Your dog will not be able to control his muscles so they will twitch and jerk, and his whole body may seem to contort into uncomfortable-looking positions. Bear in mind that dogs tend to lose control of all bodily functions during a seizure as well, so your pup may defecate and urinate. He may also vomit so be prepared for this and ensure that you don’t tell him off as a result. He is likely to feel guilty when he calms down so be sure that he knows he isn’t in trouble.
While it is very frightening, remember that during the seizure your dog is not actually conscious of his behaviour so he won’t be in pain or in distress. There is some evidence to suggest that dogs actually go temporarily blind when they are fitting so the sound of your voice may calm them as they know they are not alone.
Once the seizure has stopped, your dog may be very confused and dazed about what has happened. Some dogs can be aggressive during this time, probably because they are unsure about what has just happened. Be aware of this and don’t antagonise him, but be sure to let him know you’re there if he wants you.
He may have a sudden need to eat or drink, so make sure there is plenty of fresh water and food on hand just in case. Keep him in a safe place until he fully recovers, just in case he stumbles or is unsteady on his feet. You may find that he is quite mopey and docile afterwards so talk to him and pet him if he allows it.
When to call the vet
A seizure is very scary to watch and your immediate reaction may be to call the vet, particularly if your dog has never had a seizure before. It’s worthwhile giving them a call for some advice and you should take your dog straight to the surgery if he has repeated seizures close together or if the fit goes on for five minutes or more.
The vet can do tests to see if the seizures have been caused by epilepsy and advise you on what to do next. They may also give your dog valium or diazepam to calm him down afterwards, though this isn’t always the case. If you can, video your dog during his seizure so the vet can see exactly what happens, helping them to make an accurate diagnosis.
Remember to stay calm during the fit and don’t let onto your dog that you are worried or upset. Reassure him as much as possible and call the vet for some advice if you are still unsure about what to do. Keep him in a safe, secure area during the fit so that he doesn’t cause himself any extra harm and be sure to monitor his behaviour before and after. A seizure is highly unlikely to kill your dog so keeping calm is the best thing you can do.