canine epilepsy and seizures

Canine Epilepsy and the Causes of Canine Seizures

There are many causes of canine seizures, and fortunately for some dogs, those seizures are isolated incidents.

For many dogs however, the incidence of a seizure may not be isolated. When this is the case, it may be that the dog is suffering from canine epilepsy.

Note that epilepsy and seizure are not synonyms. Epilepsy is a cause of seizures and is sometimes referred to as ‘recurrent seizure disorder‘ due to the fact that epilepsy sufferers experience frequent seizures.

There are many similarities between canine epilepsy and human epilepsy, the main difference being the method of treatment, but also that it may be more difficult to recognise the occurrence of a canine seizure in some instances.

What is Canine Epilepsy?

As mentioned earlier, canine epilepsy is a recurrent seizure disorder, where the dog experiences frequent seizures. In general, a dog suffering from a seizure or more a month is considered to be epileptic. Isolated seizures or less frequent seizures may be the result of another underlying disease.

The onset of seizures in dogs suffering from canine epilepsy can begin as early as 6 months of age, or as late as 5 years. Seizures that arise in dogs aged over 5 years may again be the result of an underlying disease, and not a result of epilepsy. The frequency of seizures in epileptic dogs may also increase over time (without treatment). Depending on the severity, epileptic dogs may experience multiple seizures each month. Multiple seizures in a day is a cause for concern (see cluster seizures below).

Canine epilepsy causes seizures as a result of sudden abnormal ‘electrical activity’ in the brain. This unusual activity results in a complete or altered loss of conciousness.

In the majority of cases, the cause of canine epilepsy is unknown (idiopathic), however, in some cases, epilepsy may be the result of a known cause (e.g. scar tissue in brain).

Causes of Canine Seizures

Some of the more common causes of canine seizures are listed below:

  • Toxins – For example; antifreeze, toxic plants, excessive chocolate (theobromine) or even lead (peeling lead paint)
  • Trauma – A recent head injury can cause scar tissue formation in the brain, which could lead to the onset of seizures
  • Meningitis – Inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain (the meninges) can cause seizures in some dogs
  • Encephalitis – Inflammation of the brain, which like meningitis, can cause seizures
  • Canine Distemper – A viral disease that can affect the nervous system, causing muscle spasms and potentially, seizures
  • Tumours – A tumour in the brain itself or surrounding tissue can be a serious medical issue and can have severe symptoms such as seizures
  • Hypoglycaemia – A low concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood, which can have a mild symptoms (disorientation) or severe symptoms (unconsciousness, seizures)
  • Liver disease – In some dogs, the presence of liver disease can cause complications including kidney failure, infection or seizures)
  • Epilepsy – Recurrent seizures are usually a result of epilepsy, in the majority of cases the exact cause is unknown (idiopathic)
  • Genetics – In some breeds of dog, there is an inherited risk of developing epilepsy (see below), meaning the puppies of epileptic parents (male or female) have an increased risk of developing the disorder themselves

Breeds With an Inherited Risk of Developing Canine Epilepsy

Breeds of dog with evidence to suggested a genetic risk of developing idiopathic epilepsy:

  • Beagle
  • Boxer
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Border Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Poodle
  • Saint Bernard
  • Schnauzer
  • Siberian Husky
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Wire Fox Terrier

See here for more information on the genetics of canine epilepsy.

Types of Canine Seizure

Like humans, there are multiple types of seizure. From the more recognisable ‘General Seizures‘, to ‘Partial Seizures‘ – which can often be difficult to detect in dogs.

General Seizures

General seizures are easily identifiable and highly recognisable, due to their obvious effect on the whole body. This type of seizure results in the rapid relaxation and contraction of entire muscle groups, leading to the body convulsions typically associated with seizures.

This type of seizure is also known as a ‘Tonic-Clonic‘ seizure (or formerly ‘grand mal’). The Tonic-Clonic seizure has 3 identifiable states:

  1. Aura – Difficult to detect in dogs, but widely reported in humans; the ‘aura state’ is a sense of foreboding, disorientation or unhappiness before a seizure occurs. In dogs, this is most likely to present itself as a combination of strange behaviours, such as; fatigue, confusion, barking or other unusual behaviour
  2. Tonic – This brief state occurs for a matter of seconds and results in the contraction of muscles. The sudden contraction will often lead to collapse or vocalisation (due to air being forcefully expelled from the lungs)
  3. Clonic – The most recognisable state, rapid relaxation and contraction of muscles, causes body convulsions

Partial seizures (Focal Seizures)

Partial seizures affect an isolated part of the body, e.g. a limb or facial muscles, which causes twitching in the affect muscle(s).

Complex partial seizures (formerly known as psychomotor seizures) can be much more difficult to recognise. They cause no typical convulsions and only result in unusual behaviour. Commonly reported behaviours associated with these complex partial seizures include; frenzied barking, licking or chewing themselves, staring into space, snapping at invisible objects and accidental defecation or urination.

Like general seizures, partial seizures (both ‘standard’ and complex) are preceded by an aura phase. They also result in impaired awareness and responsiveness.

Seizure Types Requiring Emergency Medical Attention

Cluster seizures – When multiple seizures occur in one 24 hour period, veterinary assistance should be sought. Cluster seizures indicate a more severe underlying problem or epileptic state.

Status epilepticus – A persistent epileptic state that lasts for longer than 5 minutes (a typical seizure would not last longer than this). Status epilepticus can lead to permanent brain damage and requires immediate veterinary attention. This epileptic state may not self-terminate without veterinary aid.

What to Do During a Seizure

When your dog is experiencing a seizure, they will lose consciousness, meaning that your dog is not in a state of suffering; however, you should take some precautions for your own safety and the safety of your dog.

Ensure the immediate area is safe by removing all breakable items or furniture that could fall onto or harm your dog if knocked over. Also, move children in to a separate room until the seizure passes.

Whilst you may feel the need to intervene, you should avoid direct contact with your dog until the seizure has passed. In their epileptic state, they may pose a risk to you and themselves. Owners have reported animals snapping at them during a seizure (out of character behaviour due to a loss of conciousness).

Do not leave your dog, stay with them and observe them until the seizure is over. This is to ensure they safely recover and do not enter status epilepticus (see above).

Treating Canine Epilepsy

An isolated seizure may not be cause for concern, however, treatment will likely be considered when seizures become regular e.g. after second seizure or if seizures occur monthly or more frequently.

In some cases it may be possible to treat an underlying medical condition that is the cause of canine seizures, but in epileptic dogs there is, unfortunately, no cure. Treatment of canine epilepsy involves controlling the seizures by reducing their severity and/or frequency. Some dogs may respond to treatment extremely well and stay seizure free for extended periods of time.

Many owners and vets recommend keeping a ‘seizure journal‘, noting the times, environmental conditions, possible triggers, duration etc. of their dog’s seizures. This can prove extremely useful in controlling your dog’s seizures when combined with effective therapy. There are even apps to help with this process.

The majority of human epilepsy drugs are toxic or ineffective in dogs and other companion animals, leaving us with two primary options for the treatment of the disorder:

  1. Phenobarbital – A mild sedative and hypnotic, used as an anticonvulsant to prevent seizures
  2. Potassium bromide – An anticonvulsant, (restricted use in cats)

In some cases, these treatments may be combined, especially where seizures are severe or they aren’t as effective individually.

Dogs being treated with these medications should undergo regular blood tests, 2-4 times a year to ensure the correct therapeutic dose is being given. This will allow the vet to determine if the dog is receiving too high or too low a dose. High concentrations of anti-epileptic in the blood can pose a toxicity risk, whilst low concentrations may be ineffective in controlling the seizures.

Also see our article about Pexion®, which includes a large discussion of treatments and experiences from other pet owners >>

Side effects

When dogs begin treatment (or when the dosage is increased) for epilepsy, side effects may be worse until the body becomes accustomed to the treatment.

Side effects common to both treatments:

  • Increased thirst and appetite
  • Mild sedation (reduced alertness)
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Instability (especially in the hind legs)

Phenobarbital specific side effects (rare, but considered worse than the seizures it is trying to control):

  • May cause liver toxicity (hepatotoxicity)
  • Blood abnormalities e.g. Low red/white blood cell count and low platelet count

Dogs undergoing treatment that includes phenobarbital are advised to have blood tests twice a year, to monitor liver health.

Effectiveness of Treatment

For treatment of canine epilepsy to be effective, it is important to maintain a therapeutic concentration of the medication in the blood stream (i.e. ensure the correct concentration of medication in the blood). It is important that you, as the owner, maintains a strict treatment regime as missing a dose of your dog’s medication can negatively affect treatment.

It is also worth noting that once treatment begins, a form of ‘dependency’ develops, stopping treatment can lead to the onset of a seizure.

Dogs that respond well to treatment may be able to have their dosage reduced (reducing the severity of the side effects) – although this will require gradual reduction in dosage over a period of time.

Some owners claim to have had success using an elimination diet – GARD, which you can check out here.

Living with Epileptic Dogs

If you are the owner of an epileptic dog and would like to share some advice with other owners, please leave your comments below. It can be hard initially to keep up with the additional responsibilities of owning an epileptic dog (such as medication and maintaining a seizure journal), but with your help, your dog can live a happy and normal life.

If you are worried about canine epilepsy, you should speak to your veterinarian, who will be able to talk through the options you have and offer more advice on treatment, responsibilities and care.

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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  1. Very informative post. Our dog is epileptic, he’s a rescued Groenendael [Belgian Shepherd] and quite nervous of people, probably abused as a puppy. We think the trigger of his fits is nervous tension; he had one soon after his companion, Freya, died, and once before it was linked to him being ‘bad’ [running off and getting lost for half an hour while out walking] and being told off.
    We have also found that he can be helped to not go fully into a seizure by holding him and talking reasureingly, so I don’t agree with the advice not to touch or hold. I can tell as his eyes become unfocussed if he ‘goes away’ and we have preveted this a couple of times. If he has a full blown fit, he is always sick after recovering, and has to rush out to the garden. Naturally we have consulted our vet, and have phenobarb suppositories for first aid, as the fits haven’t been that regular, so he’s not on regular medication yet; hopefully he won’t need to be.

    • my dog is on 100mg of phenomav 100mg of epibrom twice a day and has had 2 fits in 12 hrs. I agree i seem to calm it and make it shorter by massaging him and talking to him while hes fitting. Our vet has told me theres no more we can do. Im at my whits end, do u know if stress will bring it on?

  2. The comment published was submitted by my partner. I would like to correct and expand on what he says. Kai was definitely abused, at 8 months when we got him he was almost feral, terrified, filthy, too scared to eat. All his seizures apart from one have been the result of observable stress, the first occurring after a house move 19 months ago when he was two and a half. He has gone anything up to 4 months between seizures. We do manage it with reassurance and vet prescribed diazepam suppositories – he does not have phenobarbitone and I don’t want him to unless absuolutely necessary. With this management he doesn’t tend go into the earlier full-blown tonic-clonic but stays in tonic contraction for a minute or two and then ‘comes back’ to us.

  3. Please read Dogtor J . This is his website:
    He is the best vet I ever read on this matter and his knowledge is helping not only pets but people and children as well.

  4. The problem I have with websites like DogtorJ is the conflation of human and canine health issues. Seems the author discovered he had gluten intolerance, and all his view stem from this. Seemlessly moving from human wheat intolerance, a minority condition, to claiming that not only do dogs also suffer from this, without any proof being submitted to peer review, but that diet is responsible for everything; a typical unscientific claim, especially when he claims it causes hip displasure, a condition that is well-known to have been brought about by breeders of certain breeds such as German Shepherds aiming to extend the length of the breed’s back. This, over time, is what has caused a body shape rather different from the original German Shepherd build [and from the wolf] with a long back and resultant hip displasure risk. German Shepherd puppies are marked according to the amount of hip problems they potentially have, and some breeders have eradicated it with intelligent breeding.

    I am therefore inclined to consider DogtorJ as part of the crank world, where all manner of food items are considered dangerous, despite being eaten by most people without any ill effects, and people obsess about perfectly common foodstuffs, which doubtless makes them feel special.

    Whether dogs should be fed a human diet is another issue, but the dog is an omnivore, and equipped by evolution to extract nutrition from virtually anything, animal or vegetable. Best for dogs is a raw meat diet plus vegetables and fruit, rice, pasta etc. Having fed several dogs on pasta all of which were perfectly healthy and lives good long lives, I think the good doctor is a trifle obsessive.


    • I agree Peter Simmons

  5. I do not agree with not holding or touching my dog during a seizure. I work from home, so I am always with Shadow (4 year old Dalmatian) and if/when he fits, I am THERE and I hold him quietly. On some ocassions I whisper to him and he tries looking at me and his tail waggs. So sometimes I feel he KNOWS I am there, but he cannot snap out of it. When we turn off the lights he screams and howls, so we always leave things asthey are during a seizure.

    The thing is, all dogs are different and we all have different approaches. There is NO right or wrong way in handling this. It is what we feel we need to do during it all. My Shaadow does not like people. He is a nervous dog. We have had him from 4 weeks on (I was told he was8 weeks when I bought him). So he started off with having food intolerances. Beef, pork, lamb, duck, wheat, gluten, lactose, rice (grains), carrots, spinach, potatoes, parsnips…. and yes, I do agree, dogs should NOT have pasta. I am not a vet, but I have done extensive research (I am a researcher)on diets/feeds. Pellets drain the bones (and do other things) and I do not feed processed food, neither do I feed GM foods, so Shadow has organic veg and fruits and he has raw meat. Chicken carcasses and wings. Venison and fish and of course raw eggs including the shell.

    Ps. Shadow is on PEXION now, a new drug instead of Pheno since Tuesday.

    Good Luck everyone 😉

  6. Interesting post Viola, sounds like Shadow is much loved and cared for. Our Kai is also nervous [stress and tension seem to be linked to epilepsy], and 4 years old, he’s now on regular phenobarbitone, twice daily, and hasn’t fitted since going on it. Vet took a blood sample yesterday to check it’s the right amount.
    Since you’re a researcher, and also mention Shadow has fish, I wonder if you’ve ever come across anything about oily fish and dogs? Seeing the growth of ‘oily fish marketing’ for humans has extended to dogs, and searching on oily fish for dogs gets thousands of results, most selling, I’m concerned this may be a case of people assuming benefits across species.
    Oily fish for humans is said to aid brain function, joints and provide vitamin D, and I have seen it advertised thus for dogs too. But one vet I mentioned it to [from New Zealand] reacted strongly to it, saying we should NEVER give dogs [or cats] oily fish, that far from being good for them is very bad as it causes joint problems, and one cat she had treated which had been fed an oily fish diet, had a fused spine and had to be put to sleep. Dogs make vitamin D [as do we] from exposure to sunlight, and need just twenty minutes a week to make all they need [found out independently]. We need somewhat more, but not that much. I think the benefits of oily fish may be more related to the abundance of fish oils and commercial interests. It looks like a very big industry.
    Since wolves and other wild canids are not sea mammals, it seems counterintuitive that canines would need oily fish, mostly deep sea species. An occasional lucky salmon find would be the extent of their fish diet naturally. So I avoid oily fish and fish oil supplements.
    I still maintain pasta is good for dogs, having fed several on a pasta-based diet, with meat, all their long lives and none suffered any ill effects. Plenty of energy from carbohydrates!

  7. Hi there Peter

    I personally think that dogs (although domesticated) have a ‘wild’ digestion, so they should have wild, RAW foods. So to me that would include fish… I don’t feed it that often. And if I make sure it is not farmed. I know, I know, Iknow, it’s only for a dog, but it’s MY dog and I feed him the best and MOST natural foods that are suitable for his digestive tract. It is funny, but if you put raw meat or fish on a plate and my home cooking, Shadow will go for my home cooking. 😉 He really is extraordinary and very, very human like. He is very expressive. Very vocal. He communicates with me all of the time with noises and also body language. I love it 😉

    PS. As far as the pasta goes, I agree to disagree. It’s a totally un-natural food for dogs. Besides, Shadow is already far to energetic.

    …. and did I tell you that I grind organic pumpkin seeds, orgaic sunflower seeds, organic flax seeds (and the views on these vary also) – I add all these daily to his home cooking.

  8. I have had my Chihuahua for over 5 years. He has been tested (what ever test he had) The cause of his seizures are still unknown. I do give him Phenobarbital from time to time. Not on a daily basis, as I still have not gotten a confirmed diagnosis from a vet as to why he has seizures. I also give him honey. That seems to help. Honey is a natural sugar for Dogs. I also keep a journal on when he has seizures, how long each one lasts, etc. I have found that the honey works very well.

  9. I also do not agree that when my Chihuahua is in seizure not to hold him. He actually tries to get to me when it is going on. I hold him until he is back. This may not be the case for all breeds, but I no for mine, He is the one who comes to me

  10. We have a 14 yr old border collie cross with spaniel who started having fits in April for no reason all tests were done but no underlying illness was found we find soaking a bath towel with cold water and throwing it over him stops it quicker also a very small amount of ice cream on his tongue with a spoon not fingers we have stayed with Byron now for 5 months sleeping downstairs as he always has his fits when asleep we are just going on Pelion today so am hoping it reduces his fits

  11. I have and 11 year old Italian Spinone, who has been epileptic for over 4 years now. She would fit several times a day until give Phenobarb. 90mg twice daily, that worked for about a year or more, then she started having occasional fits, she was then put on Libromide nearly 2 years ago,since then she has been fit free. She has always been hyperactive and hypersensitive, having to have special food, and kept stress free.
    I have read in our local paper today of another Italian Spinone who had to be put down due to Epilepsy which was unresponsive to treatment, sadly he was a much loved and needed Assistance dog. I have a heard of several other Spinone developing epilepsy in later years and think perhaps they should be put on the list of dogs at risk from developing this condition.

  12. Our pug is 11years old and has been having seizures for at least five years at first it would only happen late nights 2-3am and now he has them more frequently and all times of the day now. We’ve noticed that he seems to be having problems with his ears about a day before his seizure is there anything you could do to help

  13. I have a 7 year old male cocker spaniel. Last January he started to have seizures, in March I decided to start feeding him a raw diet. It has been 9 months since his last seizure. This may not be for everyone but I know now that my dog has allergies to dry dog food.

  14. We have a 7 year old English Springer Spaniel who had her first seizure almost 2 years ago. Due to the frequency of her fits, we have been increasing her epiphen tablets to 120mg twice per day and she now has a fit about every 3-4 weeks. Her fits are often during the night and she is now dirtying the floor again during her fits. We tried using Libromide but she suffered terribly with chronic diarrhoea and she was ataxic all the time. She was struggling to walk and kept bumping into things. She is back on epiphen but her fits are becoming more frequent again. I don’t know what to do next….

    • Did u try changing her food? That’s what I did with my cocker spaniel. I now feed him raw dog food. Since I changed his food fr kibble to raw 9 months ago he has not had a seizure.

      • Hi Ray,
        Can I ask what raw foods you feed please? My Boston Terrier started fitting two months ago and I want to try natural methods to treat him. Raw food suggests the Barf Diet so I wanted to check exactly what you feed as you as you have had such success. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
        Many thanks,


        • Hi Markene,

          I don’t know what country you live in. I’m in Canada and I get my food from K-9 Choice Foods. The raw food I feed my dogs is a complete meal. That includes meat, ground up bone, organ meat, and veggies. I will never feed kibble again to any dog I have. Hope this info helps you.

        • Hi Marlene,
          I hit the k button instead of the l button. Sorry

          • Thanks for your reply Ray, much appreciated. Unfortunately I can’t get it in the UK although I have tried to source it. Glad it worked for you though.

  15. My 7-year-old Dalmatian developed seizures late last year. His packmates initially were concerned because the first seizure occurred when no one was around. They bit his legs, probably trying to make him get up. But a recent seizure was bad. The maid panicked when she saw the packmates surround him and again, biting him. She thought they were attacking the convulsing dog in an attempt to kill him so she tried to separate the dogs while screaming for help. The ensuing anarchy resulted in injuries to the downed dog.
    Dogs react/reflect their human’s attitude and if the person present is emotional and hysterical the dogs will think something is wrong. They will go for the kill to “protect” that human. Fortunately at that dog’s seizure a few days ago I was present. I am the owner. It’s upsetting to witness a seizure but I stayed calm. When the other dogs saw it they approached but I commanded them to stay away. They did.

  16. My dear collie of 12 who is a nervous dog and badly treated for the first few weeks of his life before we rescued him has had fits over the last 3 years on a six monthly basis,gradually getting more frequent to 3 months and now monthly. The last one in January being a cluster of about 3 fits together. Quite distressing and upsetting as we were out for a walk. Im sorry but I do not restrain him but hold him and speak to him. Once he ran off to a busy A road. I thought he might get killed. This one took a long time to recover and eventually got him to the vets. He does eat grass and go off our route slightly before he goes into the fit. Being well cared for by the vets now, on phenobarbital and has an cream to insert should he go into an episode. Had 3 tests and check ups since. Hopefully this is the road to better times for him. Love him to bits

  17. We have a 5yr old rescue who is a sheppard/lab/brindle mix. She was dumped as a very young puppy in the woods and a friend found her and we kept her. From that time, we didn’t realize why she was falling over like she was drunk, but then we realized she was having seizures. We had her tested for lymes because every inch of her was covered in ticks when we got her (guessing about 6 weeks). By the time she was almost a year we discovered she had epiliepsy, and the vet started her on pheno. She’s now about 5 and a half, and her seizures are very seldom. But my new concern is her showing signs of hip displasia (sp?) or muscle weakness in her back legs. She loves to play hard but later on that night she can’t get up or walk. If you throw a ball at her, she goes to get it but her back legs fail and she just falls. I’d expect this from a 10 yr old full bred sheppard, which we always had growing up and they all ended up with it, but a 5 yr. old mutt surprises me. I now put Hartz doggie aspirin in her food and she is strictly on Blue Buffalo and Fresh Pet foods. I read about the causes and seems head trauma could be one and I’ve always suspected she was thrown from a moving car as she was found in a remote wooded area. Has anyone just stopped the pheno altogether? Im not sure which is worse, not being able to walk and run as an active dog, or the seizures that she has had under control for so long that never lasted more than 5 minutes. Not really sure what to do?

  18. I have an almost 10 year old Golden Retriever, Barley from very good breeding & a beautiful temperament. He had his first fit in Nov. 2013 from a deep sleep & completely ‘out of the blue’. He was immediately blood tested with no negative results. I moved house & thought it was just a ‘one off’ that the vets predicted but he fitted again quite badly at 4am.on Xmas morning! There was blood & froth & his after reaction was much worse than previously as I was living among a lot lot of ‘house moving’ boxes. He continued to have a fit approx. 7-10 days apart. Mostly not too big.
    He was brain scanned in January but nothing was really found & it has been put down to idiopathic epilepsy. Phenobabatone made him too dopey so he he is now on a regular dose of two different medications. 750mg. Levitiracetam every 8 hours & 400mg. Pexion every 12 hours. I now have purchased a multiple timer so he is always medicated at the same times. He just completed a 4 week period with no fits at all until last night when another one occurred. He only appears to fit if he is in a very relaxed sleep. I often wake him up in the night & give him some water with a small quantity of milk to encourage him to drink. I feel this has been helping him, but not me!
    Having had him sleeping in the bedroom for many years I found I was not having much sleep so encouraged him to sleep in his bed in the lounge recently.
    He had a bang on the head in my car at approx. 3 years old and was MRI scanned & diagnosed some time later as having suffered a cranial bleed. He lost the peripheral vision in one eye. The recent scans were compared but no definite connection was made!
    I find it difficult to see him like this as every day he is running on the beach as fit as a fiddle! The only reaction he has to medication is producing a lot of saliva when he runs or even walks which he did not have previously .Being disabled myself & about to have a shoulder replacement very soon I am praying I can cope if he fits while I have the use of only one arm for a while.
    Has anyone ever considered a collar for anti barking? It is a consideration only as I believe this sends a signal to the brain but if this woke him from noisy deep sleeps I wonder if it could be beneficial. I also wondered about a magnetic collar but I really can’t see that making any difference. I have woken him up myself from being on the edge of a fit & he has not fitted but I cannot stay awake all night!
    Any comments would re appreciated please.

    • I related to your Post regarding deep sleep. My male 2-1/2 year old GSD began to have grand mal seizures in October, then again January, two in February and one on March 16. The time between each seizure was getting closer and closer, with the last one on March 16, 2015. All of his seizures occur between 2 – 4:30 am. He is in an unusually deep sleep state right before they occur. After reading your Post, we decided to wake him at 2am (i set my alarm) and at 4am (my husband wakes up at this hour to prepare for work). On several occasions it was very difficult to arouse him (out of the blue, indeed). He lets out a little whimper, but finally wakes up. No seizures so far — since March 16. Another nightly ritual is I bring some ice packs up in a insulated carrier. I keep it right by my nightstand, as I have just recently read, that applying ice at the base of the neck, right between the shoulder blades will either cut a seizure short or significant reduce its duration, with little or no post-ichtal behavior.

  19. I have a 2 weeks old Golden Retriever, last one from the litter. All of them died – our vet couldn’t give us a decent reason why. So this last one I named Lucky. Lucky’s doing well for her first two weeks. She’s always the healthiest among the litter.

    Then it happened; Just early this morning, around 3AM, I picked her up for her feeding. She’s been bottle fed for a week now as per our vet’s advised. Right after I picked her up, she stiffened and bubbles started coming out from her mouth. I was afraid and I do not know what to do. We don’t have VET open on our place at that hour so I just hold her up in my chest and started patting her back and whispering to her. After a minute she calmed down but too tired I guess since she isn’t moving much at all. I really thought at first that this is just her vomiting due to being over fed. So I put her back to her bed and waited until 5AM before I fed her again.

    Her appetite was good but 1 hour after feeding, another attack came. I still thought that this is vomiting because I’ve never seen seizure before. So I did what I did before, hold her in my chest, gently patting her back and whispering things until she calmed down. Then another came two hours after that, and one more at around 9AM.

    I rushed her to the Vet and while I’m on my way, I started browsing the web about this and confirmed that this is seizure, not just a normal vomiting. I told the vet what happened, how many times it happened and how long each one took. The vet checked her temperature, breathing and advised us to avoid overfeeding and to ensure that her bed is not too hot.

    That was really helpful 🙁 and yes – I’m being sarcastic about it. So when I get back at home, I put her to her bed and guess what, not 1 hour after that, she had another one. 5 seizures in 12 hours. Now I am extremely worried so I started checking the web and looking for other vets in town which brought me here.

    This has been the most stressful 12 hours of my life. 🙁 I hate seeing her like that..

    • Hi Michael,
      This must be really stressful for you. I know watching my spaniel having a fit is very distressing. If you are not happy with your vet’s advice – go to another vet. I changed my vet after Millie started having fits and I trust the advice of the vet I now see. He is patient and understanding and is great with Millie – calms me down as well!

      Good Luck, I really hope your puppy gets the help it needs.


  20. Our collie cross lab is coming up to 3 years old. He had his first seizure back in August 2012. We took him to the vets and they did some tests and found his enzymes in his liver were raised. After a re test these enzymes had returned to normal. His fits started to become more regular and kept a diary. The fits seem to be related to anxiety. They can happen at any point through put the day even when he is out walking. If he feels threatened by another dog he will tend to have a seizure then and there.
    After having 3 seizures in 1 day he was rushed to the vets and stayed over night where he had diazepam to control the seizures. The vet suggested it was time to start him on meds so prescribed pexion 400mg twice daily
    At no point was there any discussion about all treatment options and what was available. He has been on this for 4 days now and is slowly adjusting to these meds. He was a bit wobbly on his feet at first and has been drinking a lot more
    I have done some research online and there seems to be a lot of negative reviews about pexion. Does anyone have any experience with this?
    And would people recommend paying to have an MRI just to rule out tumours etc?

    At a lost end really of what would be best for our dog

    • Hi Emily. I have a rescue border collie who had cluster seizures 18 in 3 days. I took him to vet hospital where he was seen by a neurologist after having a MRI scan, blood tests + a spinal fluid + 3 days in hospital we were informed all tests + scan clear (£3000) it was idiopathic epilepsy. He was put on 500mg pexion twice daily,he was totally spaced out for a week then gradually returned to his normal self, however 14 days later the seizures have returned although not lasting more than seconds (not minutes like his previous bout. I’m taking him to vet today to discuss other options.

  21. I have a springer spaniel called Brodie who is nearly 10, I took him the groomers this morning for his regular 12 week hair cut which he hates! Whilst walking up the drive he started salivating like he had something stuck in his throat and then proceeded into a seizure, this is the first one he has ever had and the first I have ever seen, never been so scared! When he started to come round he flipped and ran straight past the ladies from the groomers and bit straight onto my arm which is a right mess but very out of character for Brodie. I have taken him the vets who have done blood tests but everything looks normal so am hoping it is a one off stress induced incident. Horrible for both Brodie and me and think a home groom is now the way forward.

  22. Hi we have a 10yr old springer spaniel he started to have fits about a year ago always in the night but a good time apart, the worst he fell down the stairs(we found out after, when going into a fit he would get up and go round in circles not very clever when near the top step) he is now on tablets, Pexion, he is now still having fits they are virtually to the minute a month apart unfortunately they are clusters, hes had upto 10 in a 36hr period 2 to 3 hrs appart but they then stop for a month and then comeback. The last ones being last night/this morning 15/6/14. they don’t seem as deep and yes his best form of help appears to be holding him and reassuring him its ok. When he is fitting his temperature is elevated and when comes out of it he is tired. I don’t understand why he has fits at the month interval but as long as he comes back to us and is not suffering other than the fits we wont stop trying.
    The vet thinks it is something more sinister(tummor possibly) but has said the treatment would not be any different and he,s not insured for exhaustive tests.

  23. I’ve belonged to a k9epilepsy yahoo group for 6 years now, and lost my epileptic boy earlier this year.
    One of the first things we advise the newbies, as well as giving them resource sites, is to change diets away from corn-is-first-ingredient foods to something else to see if that helps.
    We advise keeping a journal to spot trends and triggers, to help figure out or learn to recognize when its about to happen.
    We suggest ice packs (or frozen vegetable packages) between neck and shoulder blade area for cooling down during a seizure, as it sometimes helps lessen intensity and duration, and a spoonful of high-fat vanilla ice cream or honey afterwards to restore energy. A seizure is like running a marathon, very high energy event for the body.
    We tend to advise against MRIs unless the owner is prepared to do brain surgery if a tumor is found. Otherwise, treatment is typically the same no matter what the reason for the seizures, so we prefer for people to spend their money on treatment, which can get expensive if the dog is refractive (does not do well on just one drug) and needs multiple medications.
    The old standard, phenobarbital, is effective in 70% of canines, which is why it has been prescribed so often. Potassium bromide had been used before that, with a little less efficacy, but the two together will, I think, bring the number of dogs under control up to 85-90%. The issue there is that phenobarb alone, and then the addition of potassium (or sodium, which is easier on the stomach) bromide will make the dog ataxic (back legs seem to not work as well, or together) for a few weeks. After that, their bodies adapt. Yes, phenobarb can affect the liver, but the number of dogs suffering from liver toxicity due to the phenobarb is very low, and we stave that off as much as possible with milk thistle products, which work to keep the liver healthy more often than one would think. Keppra (levetiracetam) and gabapentin (neurontin) are being used more frequently, both as add-ons and as first choice drugs here in the US. Pexion has not yet made it to North America, but is being used more frequently in Europe. As with all the other drugs, it works for some and not others.
    Every dog, even within breeds or litters, will react differently, even from seizure to seizure. The important thing is getting the seizures controlled, to prevent kindling (making it easier for the next seizure to happen) and any further damage to brain or other body parts. In younger dogs, its more typically idiopathic (no explanation) if not the result of a venomous bite or ingestion or physical trauma (so blood work looks perfect), but in older dogs there is usually (but not always) an underlying medical condition (which can take time to uncover). The drugged dogs will develop a new “normal”, and hopefully will go longer between seizures and have fewer of them.
    I hope this information, gleaned from six years with owners with more intense experiences than mine, can help someone.

  24. I have a LARGE 8 month old German Shepherd pup (80 lbs) that I have had since he was 6 week old. My vet is perplexed at his behavior. She has not labeled him as having “seizures”, but more of a “Tourets”-like reaction. He has sporadic snapping episodes like “Fly Catchers syndrome”. The first time the episodes lasted about 4 days. They started after his first day at doggie daycare. He came home, went straight to his kennel, would try to doze off, but immediately would jerk awake, snap, repeat for about an hour before falling asleep. The next day, no daycare, but he was very restless, and still catching flies. I took him to vet and they witnessed the snapping. He is responsive during the episodes most of the time. We took a 6 hr trip in the car (which he loves the car!), and I thought I would GO MAD with all the snapping. I diffused some essential oils which did help, but also made me drowsy as I was driving. He did somewhat better on the way home 3 days later, but when we did arrive home, he was hyper-excitable, and snapping like crazy! I have found the only way to calm him down when he is like this is to put him in darkness, no light, no stimulation. I call it sensory deprivation. After about 5-10 minutes he is calm, but the snapping continues. He has gone 2-3 wks with NO snapping, but most days he is a snapping fool.

    I’m reaching out to find out if anyone else has seen this type of reaction. I know of “Fly Catcher’s Syndrome”, but vet didn’t seem to think that is what t is???

    • Fly catching is usually a form of focal seizure. If your vet hasn’t consulted with a neurologist yet, please have it done. Also, videotape the movement to forward to the neurologist. Most vets do not have the training and experience to deal with neurological issues. If the vet won’t do a consult with a neurologist, which usually can be done much more inexpensively than you bringing the dog to the neurologist, you’ll want to find a neurologist yourself and then have them work with your vet.
      This doesn’t sound like epilepsy to me, just because it is so constant, but there are definitely neurological disorders that have fly catching as one of the symptoms/indicators.
      Good luck with resolving the issue.

  25. My dog is a two-year old GSD, had his first seizure mid-October at around 4am — about a minute long, quite severe. I took him to the vet who ran the blood/urine tests, and said it was most likely idiopathic. Just last week, he had his second seizure at 2:45 am and had a post-ichtal period of around 1/2 hour where he just couldn’t settle down. He is on high protein Taste of the Wild dry dog food, supplemented with cooked chicken. I also give him Dyno-vite powdered vitamins and coconut oil. Can anyone shed some light on when my dog should begin on drugs. What is the likelihood that the seizures will increase in duration. I don’t want ‘kindling’ to occur increasing the seizure episodes, but I also don’t want him on a life-long drug regiment if it can be avoided. Sadly to note, 32 years ago I had a Australian Shepherd/Rottweiler mix that had severe epilepsy that wasn’t responsive to drugs and he had to be put down at 2-12 years old. I had such a sick feeling when my young GSD had his first one, because I have also read that GSDs are less responsive to the drugs.

    • Robin,
      In my case, first seizure was Oct 26, we raced him to vet, everything looked good. Second seizure was early December. Back to vet, blood work still looks good, but now we have valium tablets to give him. Vets did not want to prescribe anything unless seizures came more often, or he started to cluster. Early January, just days after his 3rd birthday, he had two seizures within 24 hours and then a week later a repeat of two seizures within 24 hours. He was started on phenobarb, and for the next eight months he had one seizure a month. After that, we were lucky to be looking at one seizure every 18-24 months, on average. Yes, he was on phenobarb for the rest of his life, but it was a low dose for his size, it was barely in the therapeutic range, but it kept the seizures at bay. In later years, when we had increased the dosage because he was starting to show symptoms of seizures trying to break through, we added milk thistle to his daily regimen, and his liver enzymes never rose.
      I know of several dogs who started on phenobarb, transitioned to potassium bromide, and reduced the phenobarb to almost nothing, but for whatever reason were never able to get off it completely because the seizures would return.
      GSDs can be sensitive to heartworm and flea products, although fortunately not as much as collie breeds are, so many owners stay away from ivermectin products and use straight Frontline. Also, make sure to give a snack before bedtime, as low blood sugar during the night can be a contributing factor.
      If you can deal with a seizure every six weeks, and they are not bad ones or clusters, you may want to forgo medicating. More frequent than that, or if clustering starts, you will want to start medication to keep from kindling.
      I hope this helps.

      • Lynne, helps a lot! When Cairo had his first seizure I tried to think of anything that might of triggered it. We had kenneled him at our vet for the weekend prior, and they bathed him and put flea medicine on him. I wonder if that wasn’t the culprit. The one thing odd about Cairo, is how soundly he sleeps. Once he goes down, it takes a bit to wake him. He also is a foodie to the max. We are careful with his diet. I will keep your comments in mind as we progress through this. Thank you.

        • Find out what flea meds they used on him, and ask that they put it in his record not to use it on him again. It may or may not have been the trigger, but better to be safe than sorry.

          If you ever feel like you need more support, come join us over at the k9epileptics yahoo group.

          Best of luck keeping Cairo under control.


      • Lynne, we recently experimented with waking him from his unusually deep sleep (at 2am and at 4am). Cairo had his 6th seizure on March 16. After that the duration was 2 mos, 1 mo, 1 mo, 10 days, 22 days. So we decided to experiment with waking him (see my other blog I recently posted in response to a woman who posted that waking her dog would prevent seizures. So far, since March 16, he has not had one. Cairo goes into such a sleep state. It is sometimes difficult to wake him. Most seizures have occurred between 2am and 4:15am (with one at 11pm). He is awaken before I go to bed, when I get up to go to the bathroom and at 2am and then again at 4am. I switched him to a raw diet too. Keep your fingers crossed that this continues to work!

  26. I have a nine year old pure bred springer spaniel. He had his first seizure when he was one year old. For the past 8 years we have been treating him and managing his seizures to about once a month. We have tried different foods, supplements and we have never been able to identify any triggers. He has been on medication since day one and he is now on Phenobarbital (100mg twice a day) and Keppra (3 times a day). Besides his epilepsy he lives a happy life. It is definitely a commitment to take care of him because his medication is very time sensitive but we love him to bits. My biggest annoyance is everyone saying that raw diet will cure all seizures. I think that is a very general statement for people to make and I don’t think it is the case for everyone. I have tried a lot of different things over the past 8 years, so far nothing has cured him or reduced Chevy’s seizures.

    • Thank you, Laurie, on behalf of Chevy. I hope his seizures are still controlled, and he is still a happy boy.
      You are proof that commitment makes a life worth living, and it sounds like you’ve made the attempts to do everything possible for him. Keep thanking people who might make recommendations they’ve heard might help and simply remind them that every dog is as different as every person. Most of all, be proud of the difference you are making.

  27. My buddy as I call him is a staffy and turning 4 this year, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of epilepsy when he was 10 months old due to being inbred for money. He has other problem too like snapping his back leg ligaments also due to being inbred. He has 6 tablets a day for the rest of his life to ease his attacks and luckily he will go a few weeks seizure free and diazepam when needed. Just wondered if anyone else dog has this rare form. It’s been two occasions where he has been giving a week to come back to normal or be put down. Symptoms rarely just bad tempered and starts fights with the other dogs but not serious, barks (never barks ever unless during a fit), howls, attacks things close to him as if something is after him, twitching just turning off a light switch, runs madly around like cats do, only shakes towards the ends, never had a seizure where he has just laid down and shook. His back legs totally give up and is very simple bless him. Sorry for the essay just that he doesn’t have the typical effects of just one epilepsy even the vet can’t decide which is most suitable as he has signs of all just frustrating at times and want to know if anyone else had a pet like him

  28. Well, best laid plans. Cairo had another seizure last night. We woke him at 12:30 am and my alarm was set for 2am. He had his seizure at 1:40 am. Immediately applied the ‘ice’ treatment, which from what I could tell, didn’t really shorten the seizure or the post ichtal period. We’ll keep waking him – because it has been 1 month since his last one. And the 3 seizures prior to that were much closer together.

    • Robin,
      Don’t give up. There is almost never a quick fix. It really does take a special person to deal with an epileptic dog, and you need to know that there are people out there rooting for you because we’ve been-there-done-that and know how helpless it feels. One month between seizures is not bad, and while you’re not getting the best sleep possible, it sounds like your efforts are working. Sending prayers/white light to you all, for strength and patience and good control.

  29. my bitch is 3 and has epileptic fits roughly once a month and is on pexion 400 one and half tablets twice a day andepiphen 60mg twice a day but as i have mentioned before once she is out of fit and been up and about for 5/10 mins starts barking non stop for half an hour has any one else had this happen?

  30. My English Springer Spaniel, who has just turned 4, started to have seizures on 30/07/2015 so just last week. She had five within 18hrs, all lasting a minute or two, and the vets took her in overnight for observation. The following day she was started on Pexion 300mgs twice a day. The previous day we had taken her to the groomers, which is based at the kennels we use when we’re away, and every time we go there she always foams really badly at the mouth and makes kind of snapping noises with her jaw. I mentioned this to the vet, as she is always anxious at the groomers, but within a couple of minutes settles down and is fine. The vet couldn’t advise if the visit to the groomers had triggered the seizures but I’m inclined to think it did. She’s only been on Pexion for 5days and as yet there have been nice further seizures but her muscles twitch a lot more, her back legs appear to be a little weaker at times, and she’s more restless. I stroke her tummy when she’s twitching a lot which seems to calm her. I did stroke her during her seizures, and spoke gently to her, which I will continue to do if and when more seizures happen. Immediately after the seizure she would start to run around, would empty her bowel and bladder if she hadn’t done during the seizure, and barked like she was talking to everyone. The barking was continuous for a good while after. I am struggling with my own anxieties as I don’t know if or when another seizure will happen. I’m not sleeping well either as her legs are moving around a lot more at night and I am aware and check on her. I am hoping my anxieties will lessen with time as I don’t want her to feed off of my concern. I guess it’s all part of loving our four legged friends.

  31. My dog had a seizure last night and today his blood count shows low platelets 31 counts. I have no idea what is the case is it epilepsy. This is the first episode I have witnessed. Once before he had pooped in the house and he passed a little blood. Two drops in his stool today. He had also passed mucus and blood in the house. What could be the possible reason for this. His kidney functions are fine

  32. My little Jack Russell /rat terrier had his first seizure when he was four years old. He went into convulsions and I rushed him to the vet who gave him phenobarbital . His epileptic seizure lasted an hour. The phenobarbital brought him out of it. I then went to the health food store and explained what happened and they recommended Flora Pet Essentials for Dogs (and Cats) which is a nutritional supplement that has EFA’s, fiber, enzymes, and photonutrients. Since I’ve been giving him that, he has not had a seizure until a year later when I got distracted and didn’t give it to him daily and he had another seizure. I gave him the phenobarbital that I had from the vet which brought him out of it. That one lasted about an hour also. I got back on track giving him his pet essentials daily and he hasn’t had another episode in two years. I am now researching the Internet to see if local honey will do the same thing in addition to help with his allergies that make him chew his feet raw and need a monthly steroid shot to avoid that.

  33. Hi there — I left a couple of comments on here last year and just found my way back here. Shadow (my gorgeous IBS and epi Dalmation 7 yrs old and epi for 3 yrs now) is still on Pexion as well as Pheno. He seizes for about 5-6 minutes at every seizure and they happen every 4 weeks now. So nothing so far has ‘made’ the gaps in between longer. I am going to introduce KEPPRA (Levetiracetam the generic version). I have investigated most epi drugs and the one I cant stand the most is Pheno. So hopefully weaning off and starting the Levetiracetam will make a difference.

    I still swear that the gut / seizure is related, no matter what the vets say. I can see a connection. And I have also ‘studied’ a lot about the absorption of food / drink / tabs etc. If the gut is bad ie IBS /IBD, then the drugs (and goodness in food) won’t be absorbed. So something needs to be added to the gut (same in humans). No, in Shadow’s case it’s not digestive enzymes as he will get diarrhea from them (and I use Solgar without fillers and chemical). So my search continues as I am a believer that for every drug there is an alternative!

  34. Hello

    I have a 16-month-old Brindle box who started having seizures just after his first birthday. Initially, he just had one and then since then they have become a lot more frequent & also in clusters. A few times he has been taken to the emergency vets as they weren’t much of a break in between each fit. We have had MRI’s, bloods etc tested but all came back normal. The vets believe he has idiopathic epilepsy, which we are now medicating with Phenobarbital. We are still playing around with the dosage as he has had fits whilst on this medication albeit, less severe then they were before. I guess I just wanted to find out from others whether or not there are any triggers or patterns that people have noticed with their dog that they could share. My vets are adamant that there are no triggers but I’m not sure if I believe that 100% Plus our dog, Baxter, has always suffered with a sensitive tummy so i wonder if there is anything that we are doing wrong in terms of his diet. He is currently on Low Fat perscription ID. We dont really give him a lot of treats which arent specifically for dogs, other than Chicken & ham to add to his biscuit.
    One thing is for sure, we love him so much and would do anything to minimise these attacks so any thoughts or words of advice would be much appreciated.



  35. I don’t know if anyone can help with this. I have a 15 year old terrier mix. She has never shown signs of aggression. She is waking up at night barking and biting. She jumps right up out of her sleep. I was told that this is probably signs of a focal seizure. Last night it happened at least 5 times. It is so loud, it wakes us all up. The vet thinks that she could have a brain tumor, causing the issues.
    Has anyone here ever experienced this?

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