If you’ve ever seen a dog have a seizure, you know how scary it can be.
Seizures happen more often than you may think, and almost all dog owners are NOT prepared for it. And if you think this doesn’t apply to you … it just might one day. Especially if you give your dog monthly or yearly preventative medication.
So today, I want to talk about seizures and what to do if your dog has one. I’ll also cover 3 common treatments and how you can naturally support your dog if he DOES have a seizure.
What Causes Dog Seizures?
Seizures are the result of uncontrolled electrical activity between your dog’s brain cells. There are several different things that can cause dog seizures:
- Flea and tick preventatives
- Herbicides and pesticides
- Other pharmaceutical meds
- Liver or kidney disease
- Low or high blood sugar
- Electrolyte problems
- A head injury
- Brain tumors
It’s important to remember not all seizures are alike. They can be anything from a localized twitch to uncontrollable shaking and collapse. Sometimes a seizure can just cause your dog to stare into space. Your dog may also lose consciousness, drool, chew his tongue or foam at the mouth. It’s also possible he’ll involuntarily defecate or urinate while seizing.
They can last several minutes or be over as fast as they started. Before a seizure (the preictal phase) your dog may seem confused and stare aimlessly. He may also be restless or anxious because he can feel something coming. Afterward (the postictal phase) he may seem wobbly and disoriented.
Types Of Seizures In Dogs
Generalized seizures (also known as grand mal seizures) are the most common. This type of seizure involves both sides of the brain at once. They can last a few seconds or several minutes and cause loss of consciousness and convulsions.
Generalized seizures can be:
Tonic – Stiffening of the muscles that can last several minutes.
Clonic – Jerking caused by involuntary muscle contractions. The contractions will be rapid and seem to have a rhythm.
Myoclonic – Muscle contractions in a specific muscle or group of muscle. The contractions are much more sporadic and may look like your dog is being shocked.
Tonic-clonic – A combination of stiffening followed by jerking muscle movements
Atonic – There are no convulsions but your dog may collapse.
Focal seizures only affect part of the brain. Abnormal movement will often only happen in a single limb or one side of the body with focal seizures. Seizures can start as a focal seizure and become generalized.
It’s also important to pay attention to frequency. Sometimes your dog will experience a single seizure. Other times he’ll experience several seizures within a short time (2 or more seizures in 24 hours). This is a cluster seizure.
If your dog is having a cluster seizure, you need to watch your dog’s body temperature. That’s because these types of seizures can cause the temperature to rise. And that can lead to hyperthermia (abnormally high blood temperature). I’ll talk more about this when we talk about what to do if your dog has a seizure.
Your dog may also suffer from a serious condition called status epilepticus. This is when seizures last more than 5 minutes or your dog has seizures very close together.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder that’s characterized by chronic or recurrent seizures. You may also come across the term idiopathic epilepsy if your dog has seizures. This is epilepsy without a known cause. Some breeds have a predisposition to idiopathic epilepsy including:
- Australian Shepherds
- Belgian Tervurens
- Border Collies
- German Shepherds
- Labrador Retrievers
What To Do If Your Dog Has A Seizure
Even though seizures may appear violent, your dog isn’t experiencing any pain. But the periods before, during and after can cause confusion, fear or anxiety.
More frequent, severe seizures can also lead to brain damage. So you should know what to do if your dog has a seizure.
- Try to remain calm. Getting anxious or stressed out won’t help your dog. Make sure you clear the area around him so that he doesn’t hurt himself.
- Avoid touching his head and don’t put your hand in his mouth. Unlike humans, dogs can’t choke on their tongues, so there’s no reason to put your hand (or anything else) near his mouth. This is the safest way to avoid a bite!
- Track how long the seizure lasts because a seizure can cause your dog to overheat. If it continues for more than 2 minutes, turn on the ceiling fan or place a portable fan near him to cool him down. Soak a cloth in cold water and hold it to his paws.
- Talk softly to him to help reassure him and make him feel safe.
If this is the first time your dog has had a seizure, you’ll want to reach out to your holistic vet to talk about diagnosis and management. A journal can also be helpful if the seizures begin occurring regularly. It can help you and your holistic vet narrow down the cause … especially if it’s from something external, such as diet or a trigger in his environment.
But if your dog has had them before and you’re already working on managing them … then your focus is probably on whether you have chosen the right solution. So next I want to talk about the 3 most common seizure management options and some natural alternatives.
A Review of 4 Seizure Management Options
1. Conventional Seizure Medications For Dogs
First, let’s review the prescription medications that your vet will commonly reach for. They may even be ones that your dog is taking now.
This is a newer anti-seizure medication for dogs, introduced over the last few years. But humans have used it for seizure management for many years.
It’s the one your vet will most likely reach for if your dog is newly diagnosed. Or if he has taken phenobarbital (I’ll cover this soon) for a long time. It’s a safer long-term option than some older medications but it still has its pros and cons … so let’s review those.
The benefit of this drug is that it’s processed by the kidneys and not the liver. Making it a safer option for liver disease patients. Another plus is that it can be used with other anti-seizure meds … helping to lower the doses needed of each.
Keppra does have disadvantages though. The one that affects pet parents most is its need to be given 3 times a day … tricky depending on how busy your schedule is. But there are now some longer-acting versions available … so check with your vet.
I mentioned earlier that it’s better for the liver … but because the kidneys filter this medication out of the body you do have to be careful. If your dog has a kidney disease, you will want to make dose adjustments.
Although your dog won’t require a lot of frequent recheck blood work with this drug … you will need to keep a good seizure journal. This is because your dog can build up a tolerance over time … meaning the dose that works for him right now may not always be enough.
There a few pharmaceutical companies that manufacture this product so you may know it by a few names. If your dog has had seizures for a few years this is likely a medication you have heard of. But it’s no longer a go-to medication for seizures as there are many disadvantages and risks to your dog.
Phenobarbital is processed by your dog’s liver and long-term use can lead to permanent liver damage …. so you need to get your dog regular blood work to have time to intervene. Your dog will also need regular bloodwork for blood monitoring and to ensure that he has appropriate blood levels … as this is a Controlled Substance IV due to high addiction rates.
By now you have likely made the connection that this drug is not a good choice if your dog has any signs of liver damage or disease ….
But it doesn’t stop there. If your dog has any other health issues, like thyroid disease or Cushing’s disease … this drug is not a great choice. That’s because it interacts with a number of medications and can even change some blood test results … making it tricky for your vet to track all his health issues.
In patients with poor liver function or liver failure, phenobarbital may not be the best choice in seizure control. The use of phenobarbital will interfere with thyroid function testing as well as with adrenal function testing. Monitoring hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease in patients taking phenobarbital is extremely difficult as test results will be difficult to interpret.Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP
… Are there any pros that make you feel comfortable about adding it to your dog’s prevention plan?
Potassium bromide is an “old school” anti-seizure medication but there are good reasons why it’s still prescribed. It’s one of the most reliable anti-seizure medications for many years.
A major benefit of potassium bromide is that you can use it alone or with other medications. It’s often used to lower the dose of Phenobarbital.
And it’s equally as effective either way!
It helps control seizures in a unique way … it competes with chloride ions for access to brain tissues. By increasing the level of bromide in your dog’s brain the chloride level drops. This inhibits electrical activity, which makes it difficult for a seizure to start.
There are a few downsides if your dog is on any diuretic medications …. as it will flush the bromide out of his body faster… running the risk of a seizure. If your dog is currently on potassium bromide you also need to be mindful that you don’t stop it abruptly … as it does not stay in the body long and may cause him to have a seizure.
If you miss a dose, just give it as soon as you can. Don’t double it up though … just resume his normal dosing.
2. CBD Oil For Dog Seizures
You may be wondering why CBD oil is in its own category. The truth is it can’t be placed in just one box … and I’ll explain why.
Research is constantly finding new ways in which CBD oil can impact diseases … and seizure management is a big one. This is because seizures have a profound effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD oil uses a process called external modulation to reduce (and in some cases remove) this impact on the ECS.
As an added bonus, CBD may also have the ability to affect receptors that can calm the neurons that fire during a seizure. But these studies are far from confirmed as there’s still a large amount to research.
Even though scientists need to dig deeper into the details of how CBD provides control of seizures … the FDA approved a CBD product for human use for two severe forms of seizures in 2018.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age or older. This is the first FDA approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana. It’s also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome.2018 FDA News Release
But there’s even more reason to reach for CBD oil for seizure in dogs … It’s going to help support his whole body for better health. It can reduce chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease and prevent and kill cancer cells … two known causes of seizures.
3. MCT Oil
The brain metabolizes sugars in carbohydrates to produce energy. But when someone suffers from epilepsy and seizures, this process is interrupted. The brain doesn’t get the energy it needs to function properly. And without the right amount of fuel, your neurons can’t communicate with one another.
But in the early 1900s, researchers discovered there was an alternative source of energy. When the body does not get enough carbohydrates, it goes into a state of ketosis. This forces the body to burn fat to create energy in the form of ketones.
One of the easiest ways to get the body to enter ketosis is with a ketogenic (keto) diet. They’re high in fat and low in carbs. When children with epilepsy eat a keto diet, it can reduce seizure frequency.
The problem is, keto diets aren’t an ideal solution for dogs as it may be missing key nutrients your dog needs. But understanding the importance of ketosis in seizure patients has led to an alternative solution … medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).
The main purpose of the keto diet is to produce ketones for energy. When MCTs metabolize, they also produce ketones. And researchers believe this is a more effective long-term solution for dogs. It would have a direct effect on controlling seizures and you can balance it with the proteins your dog needs to stay healthy.
In fact, researchers at the Royal Veterinary College recently studied MCTs in seizure management. They worked with 21 dogs with idiopathic epilepsy on AEDs. They wanted to test whether MCT oil would reduce the frequency of seizures.
The results of the study were promising:
71% had seizures less often
48% saw a reduction in fseizure requency of 50% of more
14% no longer experienced seizures
This is great news! And further proof that the body can help heal itself through a properly managed diet.
4. Homeopathic Remedies For Dog Seizures
Homeopathic remedies are very effective at reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. A study done in 2007 tested Belladonna 200C, in 10 dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Dogs who had Belladonna for 2-7 months showed no episodes during the 2-7 months of follow-up.
Dogs who also had head shaking syndrome took 3 to 4 drops of Cocculus 6C weekly for 3 months. Seizure episodes reduced to 2 or 3 during the first 2 weeks and occasional in the following two weeks.
In both cases, seizure activity returned after stopping treatment … but the dogs had seizure control again when they went back on treatment.
So we know that remedies can play a huge role in seizure management for your dog … but which remedies should you reach for?
How To Choose A Remedy For Seizure Control In Dogs
Remember that seizures and epilepsy are the result of chronic, long-standing disease. You will need to consult with your homeopathic vet before starting any remedies. He’ll be able to choose the correct remedy for your dog’s personality, emotions, and symptoms.
Unlike conventional medicines, homeopathy won’t contribute to your dog’s toxin buildup … giving him the very best chance of saying goodbye to seizures forever. So let’s review which remedies your vet may choose.
Dog seizures can be stressful. But with these natural options, you can help reduce the long-term effects your dog experience. And you’ll feel relieved knowing your dog is safe and healthy.