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Fighting Fits in Your Pets

04 September 2015

AUSTRALIA - Seizures and convulsions can be quite common in companion animals but also distressing for pet owners. Dr Georgina Child provides an overview of the different types of seizures found in pets at an ASAVA conference.

“More than one in one hundred people have a seizure disorder and the incidence of seizures in dogs is just as high,” Dr Child said.

“There are various types of seizures which present in lots of different ways, which in some cases make them hard to diagnose.”

According to Dr Child the seizures (or convulsions) seen in dogs include:

  • Generalised seizures. These are characterised by loss of consciousness, rigid muscles, involuntary paddling movements, salivation and urination. These seizures are usually brief and followed by a period where dogs seem anxious, seek their owners or are highly excited.

  • Partial seizures. These vary in nature depending on the area of the brain affected. The affected dog normally remains conscious but displays changes to movement in the limbs, strange behaviour and gastrointestinal signs. They may look startled or appear to not be all there. These types of seizures last longer than generalised seizures and may be followed by a period of exhaustion, restlessness or constant pacing. Aggression may also been seen and can last from minutes to days. Partial seizures can be difficult to diagnose.

  • Symptomatic seizures. These usually occur as a result of a structural brain abnormality or injury. Seizures may not be seen for weeks, months or even years after a brain injury.

  • Idiopathic (or primary) epilepsy is a seizure disorder where no underlying cause can be established and is the most common seizure disorder in dogs. In most dogs this form of epilepsy is likely to be genetically determined. Epilepsy has been shown to be inherited in several breeds including beagles, Belgian Shepherds, dachshunds, and is more common in some breeds including Collie and Border collie dogs.

“When a vet is presented with a pet that has a history of a seizure it’s important to perform a thorough neurological examination to rule out any other neurological abnormalities as, if present, these are more likely to indicate a cause other than epilepsy such as toxicity or brain tumour.

“Seizures are generally not life threatening however associated accidents may result in death such as falling into a swimming pool and drowning.

“But continuous and repeated seizures without recovery between them is a medical emergency and can be life threatening.

“Treating epilepsy is a long term commitment. Pet owners must be able to give this medication. Treatment may fail for a variety of reasons, resistance to epileptic drugs may develop and managing refractory epilepsy is difficult for owners and veterinarians.

“While medication will reduce the incidence of seizures in most animals with epilepsy, treatment is unlikely to eliminate seizures completely and balancing medication with owner expectations and a good quality of life for epileptic dogs can be a challenge but a worthwhile one."

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