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Could My Dog Be Having Seizures?

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  • Could My Dog Be Having Seizures?

    Background info: Riley is a 2 yo Husky/German Shepherd cross. A little overweight (we're working on it), but very active. He's been eating, drinking and playing normally.

    About 5-6 months ago, he had some kind of episode where he was standing up with his legs sprawled out and wobbling like he couldn't keep his balance. He tried to take a step and almost fell down. This only lasted for maybe a minute or so and then he was ok. He walked off and seemed fine. Needless to say, I was pretty freaked and ready to rush him to the vet, but since he seemed to go back to normal I just kept an eye on him and he was fine after that.

    Fast forward to this morning.. I just got home from work (graveyard shift) and my dad was standing over my dog when I got home saying that he had a seizure. When I asked what happened, he said that he heard a loud thump, so he assumed Riley fell down. When he turned around to look at him, he was trying to get up but was unable (probably because he was on the linoleum in the kitchen). My dad went over to him to keep him from trying to get up so he wouldn't be struggling and he said that some parts of Riley were really stiff (like his neck), but other parts seemed kind of limp/weak (like his legs). After a minute or two, he was better and was able to get back up. By the time I got home he seemed ok, but his back legs were shaking. This stopped after a few minutes.

    Obviously I will be calling the vet in the morning and I assume they may want to run some tests or something. But I was just wondering if anyone may know what is happening to my dog? Does this sound like a seizure, or something else all together? I'm really worried about him.. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • #2
    German Shepherds are prone to epilepsy and/or seizure disorder. You can find out a lot by Googling it. My Shepherd had a huge seizure a few years ago, although she has not had any more seizures to my knowledge. After it happened I spent some time researching it and was surprised to learn how common it is in Shepherds. Good luck to you and your dog.


    • #3
      Could very well be seizures. I had a labrador that had them. She would just be laying there and then start shaking and her neck and face and paws were "tight". We always made sure to sit with her and tell her it was ok. They never found out what was wrong with her. The seizures would come and go. They stopped for a while , she was diagnosed as a diabetic. Then the day I had her put down she had another seizure. At 15 years old she was going through kidney failure. Darn dog lived through seizure, cushings and 7 years as a diabetic.

      Good Luck!!
      Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

      Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.


      • #4
        A classic seizure is when they are on their side paddling, chewing and salivating. However, seizures can take all sorts of forms, and your dog may well be having seizures. Rigidity, gum chewing, appearing to snap at flies are all seizure behaviors I've seen over the years. One Jack Russell would just lean backwards, like a horse about to go over.

        First thing to do is full bloodwork to rule out other causes, such as a metabolic imbalance. Your vet might also want to rule out other potential neurological diseases, like distemper, or cardiac conditions, like syncope (although syncopal dogs are generally completely flaccid, not rigid like your was).

        Typical age of onset for canine idiopathic epilepsy is 2-6 years, and your dog fits right in that window. It is usually a very manageable condition with either potassium bromide or phenobarbital, although it's mandatory that you do regular blood levels to make sure you are in the therapeutic range.

        I tell all my clients with seizure dogs to keep a diary--even a piece of paper on the fridge is good. Write down the date, time of day, duration of the seizure, what happened during the seizure (what sort of behaviors the dog exhibited), and any odd behavior before or after the seizure. They can go through what's called a post-ictal period immediately after, where they might be blind, walk drunk, vocalize excessively, or just seem out of it. It can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours. Note the duration in your diary.

        It's best to leave a seizuring dog alone when in the throes of the seizure. Eliminate any external stimulation--turn off the lights, TV, radio, don't touch or talk to the dog--just wait. The theory is that any external stimulation is likely to prolong the seizure.

        Good luck!
        Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.


        • #5
          My seven year old Wire Fox Terrier has seizures... at first they were a long time in between and very frightening, as he would get stiff and stop breathing. He had three of these, where I had to give him mouth-to-snout in order to keep him breathing. After the first one, I immediately took him to an emergi-care center, but without extensive testing, they could not see anything at all wrong with him. These were very far apart, like almost a year.
          I took him to his vet, but x-rays showed nothing, so they wanted to send him for an MRI- - - not. Then this past spring he started to have them more frequently and differently. His are mostly quiet ones, he knows before hand that they are coming on and comes to me to hold him. Sometimes he checks out mentally, other times he is aware. He had a very severe episode in July that lasted almost 2 1/2 hours, waxing and waning, until he was almost in total rigor. Scared me to death. Scared him, too. There are meds that these dogs can take, but I opted to try acupuncture and eastern herbs instead. He has had four acupuncture treatments to date. He has not had a serious seizure since the beginning of July, although he has had two minor attacks, with imbalance and tremors, but he has been fully aware during each of these. There is a lot of information online regarding seizures, some of it is quite frightening. If they continue to get worse or more frequent, I will put him on meds to control them. Good luck.
          "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."


          • #6
            Please have your dog evaluated by a rehab vet or one who knows chiropractic and acupuncture. There's a new rehab vet organization - www.aarv.com - where you can find a rehab vet in your area.

            Many of the patients seen by the rehab vet I work have been able to eliminate or significantly reduce their meds by getting chiro and acupuncture without further seizures.

            Good luck.
            Laurie Higgins
            "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."


            • #7
              What kind of seizures your dog is having will depend on what parts of the brain they are affecting.

              My dog has those that make her walk funny, sticking one leg out stiffly and is spaced out for a few minutes.
              She started having several a day at two years of age and on phenobarbital has been seizure free for a year now.
              The last two months we cut the dose in half, then to once a day and after a few more weeks, if she is still seizure free, we will try without medication.

              A friend has a golden that had also light ones and she never went on medication, as hers were from hypoglycemia and feeding her several times a day keeps the seizures at bay.
              If she misses a meal, she starts to have one again. She is nine now.

              Many dogs get over them, some don't and need to be on medication for a while or forever.

              You don't want to let a dog keep having seizures, because those events seem to make tracks in the brain that make them more apt to repeat.


              • #8
                Years ago, I had a lab that had some seizures (?), my vet suggested giving her a little sugar everyday. So everyday I would have a bowl of cereal, leave a little milk in the bottom of the bowl and add a teaspoon of sugar and give it to my lab. She never had another seizure, not sure if it was the sugar or she just didn't have any more. Good luck, I hope you figure it out


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you all very much for the information and advice. You've given me a lot to think about. I will definitely be calling the vet tomorrow, and I guess we'll see how it goes from there.


                  • #10
                    Yes. My "Annie" (now gone) had epilepsy in its worst form -- grand mal "cluster seizures" that appeared when she was 7 years old out of the blue. Of course they had to eliminate brain tumor or poisoning of some sort.

                    With this "worst" form, she lived until she was 13 when all reports say dogs with the type only live 2 years beyond the onset. Yours sounds much less severe, nevertheless must be treated, as a single seizure can be deadly if they are not managed with medication.

                    Typically, phenobarbutol controls the seizures problems and in severe cases the addition of potassium bromide. They can live a normal and happy life once they learn to tolerate the meds.

                    If your dog does have epilepsy, it's a good to ask them to give you a single-dose Valium set up to be administered by rectal catheter should a seizure last more than 5 minutes.

                    Annie lived a very happy life we me on the farm -- and all the "goings on" -- with diligent medication management. Good luck with your pup.
                    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                    • #11
                      It sounds like it could be seizures.

                      Ginger (my aussie shep) has idopathic/primary epilepsy. Started having "S" (seziures) at 2 years old. No tests found any cause.

                      We tried TCM, homeopthaty, acupunture, chiro... but we had to start on potassium bromide.... then added phenobarbital.

                      She's 10 this year and doing pretty well. Still has seizures every month, but that is all she can give me, so I am ok with it.

                      Check out http://www.canine-epilepsy.com/

                      I'm a member of the e-mail support group! It's a great group with all kinds of dogs and people trying to cope with the S-monster. Lots of support.


                      • #12
                        One of my Labs had seizure-like events which were finally diagnosed as a thyroid malfunction similar to a whelping female's calcium problems. He is on daily hormone replacement and is doing fine.
                        "Where knowledge ends violence begins." B. Ljundquist


                        • #13
                          The first episode sounds more like vestibular syndrome, which is a condition of the inner ear that causes balance problems. There is nothing to do for this but the dogs recover on their own. The second episode sounds more like a seizure. Hope the vet figures out what is wrong and can help you.


                          • #14
                            Epilepsy would be my first thought

                            My sister had a lab/newfy cross (huge dog) several years ago that started having seizures and would actually ove furniture around while seizing due to his size. Took him to the vet and they tested for everything that could cause seizures and once everything esle was ruled out they started treating for epilepsy. Once they got his Phenobarbitol levels to where they were right it just about eliminated the seizures. He went from having a bad seizure at least once or twice a week to having one or two smaller one's a year.


                            • #15
                              Gracie, our 8yo GS has epilepsy too. She is the most beautiful, sweetest soul I have ever met. Seizures almost always happen at 5-5:30 am when we are about to get up & she gets her meds (phenobarb). As others have posted, if it is seizures they can be controlled with meds. She has a normal life - loves the farm and the seizures are just a reminder of how fragile life can be. It makes us more mindful of the time we spend with her, as the meds will eventually take their toll on her organs. She has had them for five years now, but she is her name - Grace.

                              Our other GS, Zelda died of osteosarcomia at the age of 5, after loosing her front leg. She taught me what courage, dignity and undying love is all about. Best of luck with your pup and don't loose hope.
                              "A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good, just because it's accepted by a majority." Rick Warren


                              • #16
                                We lost our rottie to seizures.
                                She started one morning while we were doing chores and we rushed her to the vet.
                                At the vets, in her crate, she kept having them, some as long as 10 minutes and one every two or three hours.
                                The vet called us several times until he called that he thought they had stopped.
                                She came home very drugged and was on phenobarbital, heavy doses, for the next month, without any more seizures.
                                The vet then checked her blood parameters and said we needed to cut back, it was affecting her organs.
                                We were down to half as much and she seemed stable at that, when one morning she had a massive seizure and died before we could get her in the car.

                                The vet didn't do a necropsy, but he guessed that she may have had some kind of brain tumor causing the seizures.
                                We will never know.

                                We never had a dog before or since with epilepsy, until this little dog I have now, 25+ years later and I am sure scared, as we are tapering her medication and in a few weeks stopping it altogether, as per the vet neurologist our vet, that is an orthopedic surgeon specialist, consulted.
                                At least her seizures are not like our rottie, those monster ones, but very light, where she doesn't quite loses conscience, just gets stiff and can't move.

                                Your dog probably has garden variety epilepsy, as my little dog has and will be fine with the right treatment program.
                                As the OP was describing the first attack, it did sound a little like vestibular problems and I am sure the vet will check for that also, just in case.
                                You may mention it as you describe the symptoms in the first episode.


                                • #17
                                  As others have mentioned (and you already plan to do), first thing is to get the dog to the vet.

                                  If your dog did indeed have a seizure, it's important to try to figure out why.

                                  Epilepsy is certainly one possible cause for seizures...but other things like infection, food allergy, shunt, poisoning, certain parasites like baylisascaris (a type of roundworm), tumors, etc can also cause seizures.

                                  If the exam, blood work, fecal, etc all come out okay and your veterinarian thinks it could be idiopathic epilepsy then you've got some options.

                                  For starters, epilepsy treatment doesn't really aim to stop seizures altogether...just to minimize their frequency and duration. Many veterinarians will encourage you to monitor and document seizure activity. If the seizures last less than 2 min and are infrequent, your doctor may choose to simply observe and not treat. The medications used to help control seizures can be hard on other organs like the liver--so it's sometimes good to wait until you really NEED the medication.

                                  My dog (a lab) began having focal seizures one morning. They increased in frequency and within hours, he had two petite mal seizures, then a grand mal. I monitored him and documented and hauled on in to the veterinarian. Because of the rapid onset and severity and no real indication from our tests what could be causing the problem, we ended up at a veterinary neurology clinic. He ended up being put into an induced coma because the regular medications were not stopping the seizure activity.

                                  He has been on meds now with no further seizures since...knock on wood...but it was quite an ordeal. Even though I KNEW how to handle seizures from my time at the clinic, it freaked me out when it was my own dog.

                                  Best thing to do for a dog you suspect is seizing is to remove objects that he/she could hit their head on, make note of the time, do not talk to them or pet them as that stimulation can actually cause more seizure activity, and then report to your veterinarian. Seizures lasting longer than 2 min are considered a medical emergency.
                                  A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                  Might be a reason, never an excuse...