Canine Seizures: 4 Common Causes For Seizures in Dogs

By on September 1, 2020

About 5.7% of the global pet dog population suffers idiopathic epilepsy, which is the commonest cause of canine seizures today. Witnessing your dog have a seizure can be a frightening experience, especially if it’s the first time. 

Canine seizures can cause your dog to collapse and move its body parts involuntarily. Sometimes, your dog will lose consciousness for a while, which makes this neurological disorder even more disturbing.

But what exactly causes dog seizures? What symptoms should you watch out for? More importantly, what should you do when your dog has chronic seizures?

These are some of the issues we discuss in this post. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is a Canine Seizure?

Also known as canine epilepsy, canine seizure refers to a heterogeneous condition characterized by recurrent and unprovoked seizures. As we hinted before, canine epilepsy is the top neurological condition in dogs today, affecting millions of dogs in the United States. 

Symptoms of Canine Seizures

A typical dog seizure occurs in three stages, each of which has distinct symptoms. Let’s look at these stages closely:

Aura Phase

This stage occurs minutes before the seizure. You may notice that your dog has altered behavior. For instance, your dog may look anxious, start whining, seek attention, or hide.

Ictus Phase

The ictus stage is the actual seizure. This stage can last anywhere between seconds and two minutes. It is characterized by collapsing, stiffening, jerking, drooling, muscle twitching, tongue chewing, chomping, and foaming. Some dogs fall to the side, make paddling motions, and even poop during the seizure.

Postictal Phase 

The postictal phase describes the moments following the actual seizure. Your dog may seem disoriented, confused, and dazed. Most dogs will stare into space for minutes or even hours.

You may also notice that your dog has transient blindness, eats voraciously, or sleeps longer than usual. Other symptoms also include drooling and hiding.

What Are the Categories of Canine Seizure Disorder?

Dog seizures can take many forms. In this section, we explore three of the commonest types of canine seizures.

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures, also known as grand mal seizures, are the most prevalent type of seizure in dogs and other small animals. During the seizure, the dog falls to the side, and its entire body freezes. The dog will also lose consciousness and may urinate or defecate.

Focal Seizures 

A focal seizure is characterized by involuntary activity in a specific part of the dog’s body. Sometimes, the dog’s consciousness becomes impaired. The dog may have a chewing gum fit. 

Psychomotor Seizures

This category of dog seizures involves abnormal behavior instead of actual convulsions. Your dog’s consciousness becomes disturbed, and the pet may have hallucinations or appear to be in an altered state.

Episodes of aggression or rage towards family members are common as the dog does not recognize its owners. Spacing out and fly-biting are other symptoms of psychomotor seizures. 

Causes of Dog Seizures

There are many canine seizure triggers, some of which depend on the age and breed of the dog. Let’s look at some of the commonest reasons your dog may be having seizures.

1. Brain Infection

Infections of the brains are the most common cause of seizures, especially for dogs less than six months old. In particular, canine distemper and parasitic infections such as Toxoplasma are to blame. 

To make the diagnosis, vets obtain and analyze cerebrospinal fluid. Using PCR technology, the vets can detect the DNA of the specific infectious agents.  

2. Genetic Epilepsy

If your dog starts having seizures between the ages of 6 months and six years, it’s very likely that the cause is genetic epilepsy. This is especially the case if your dog is purebred.

Of course, the vet will first eliminate all other possible causes of epilepsy before arriving at this conclusion. Most vets will do conduct basic blood work to rule out potential metabolic causes of epilepsy. 

Breeds that are most prone to genetic epilepsy include Schnauzers, Collies, Cocker spaniels, Basset hounds, Golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers.

3. Skull Tumors

If your dog starts to experience seizures after the age of five, the chances are that it has a tumor growing off its skull that’s pressing on its brain. The commonest type of tumor, in this case, is a meningioma. When caught early, these tumors are operable. 

4. Toxins 

Toxins are another top cause of seizures in dogs. Dogs ingest toxins by eating various household stuff. They can also inhale toxins from car exhaust or sprays.  

Other poisons that can potentially harm dog health include human medications such as antidepressants, heavy metals like lead, and household cleaners.

Treatment Choices for Dog Seizures 

The good news for pet owners whose dogs have chronic seizures is that there are treatment methods for the condition. Below are three options you may want to explore. 


Currently, there are four main types of medication that can suppress seizures in canines. These are:

  • Phenobarbital 
  • Zonisamide
  • Potassium bromide 
  • Levetiracetam 

Where one medication does not effectively control the seizures, the vet may combine two or three. Anticonvulsant medication is usually effective, easy to administer, and reasonably priced. 


There’s a therapeutic diet in the market today that helps supplement anticonvulsant medication for canines. This diet contains medium-chain fatty acids that have impressive anti-seizure effects. Dogs that haven’t achieved total seizure control using medication can do so within months using this therapeutic diet.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD has gained massive popularity due to its effectiveness in treating many health conditions in people. Today, veterinarians are also using CBD for dogs with seizures

Cannabidiol has been shown to be especially effective for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy that use CBD usually experience less frequent seizures compared to those that don’t. 

Suppress Dog Seizures for Good

No dog owner wants to see their beloved pet experience canine seizures. Knowing the root cause of your dog’s condition can help you deal with the problem appropriately.  The thing to remember is that there’s always hope for your pet, no matter how bad the seizures are.

Would you like to learn more about dog health? Please keep visiting our blog.

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