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Seizures in Dogs | Effects of Seizures

Most seizures are brief, and with proper treatment, the pet can lead a normal life. None-the-less, seizures are serious are serious business and even short seizures can cause brain damage. That damage tends to be cumulative over time. If the seizures are short, the main effect is an increased chance of another seizure in the future. Thus, there is a tendency for epilepsy to get worse over time, especially if left untreated.

If a seizure goes on for more than 30 minutes, the pet is liable to suffer serious permanent brain damage. This can be manifested as a change in personality, or loss of memory for things such as house breaking. Occasionally the pet may be left in a coma from the seizures. The seizure also creates a tremendous amount of stress on the heart and other organs. The body temperature may get very high from all the muscle activity and the animal may not breathe adequately. Sometimes the stress is too much and the pet may have a heart attack and die. Fortunately, this is rare.

Absence (petit mal) Seizures

The other type of generalized seizures in people is the absence or petit mal seizure, Petit mal seizures differ from other seizures in several important aspects. First there is little movement during a petit mal seizure. As the name “absence” implies, the dog simply loses contact with the world during the seizure. They stare blankly and may blink but do little else. Absence seizures are also different in that they probably represent a storm of excitation within the brain. This creates a unique EEG pattern. This means that very different drugs are used to treat petit mal seizures. We’re not sure if petit mal seizures really occur in pets. Most of the seizures that are called petit mal seizures in pets are actually focal seizures.

Focal Seizures

In focal or partial seizures, the electrical storm begins in an isolated area of the brain. If we are recording an EEG at the beginning of such a seizures, we can see the storm starting in one part of the brain. A focal seizure may stay localized, or it may spread and affect the whole brain causing a classic, generalized, tonic-clonic seizure. In some cases, the aura preceding a generalized seizure may actually be a focal seizure. The fact that the seizure starts in a local area suggests that localized damage has occurred. As a result, when we see focal seizures, we are more worried about diseases which will cause local damage, such as a brain tumor or infection. Focal seizures are further divided into
two subtypes (simple or complex) depending on where the storm originated and how it affects the pet.

Simple Focal Seizures

Simple focal seizures (also sometimes called minor motor or focal motor seizures) originate in the area of the brain that controls movement. A localized storm in this area results in movement of the area of the body controlled by that part of the brain. Most commonly, the face is affected resulting in twitching or blinking. This is usually limited to one side of the face. If the seizure spreads a bit, other parts of the body on that side will be affected. For example, the front limb may then begin to twitch and buckle. During a simple focal seizure, the pet is usually alert and aware. They may attempt to seek out their owner, confused about what is happening. The seizure may stop there or it may generalize. If it generalizes, the pet loses consciousness and has a classic grand mal seizure.

Complex Focal Seizures

Complex focal seizures originate in the areas of the brain that control emotions and behavior (the temporal lobes) and are sometimes called psychometer seizures. When a seizure begins in one of these areas, the animal’s consciousness is altered and they may behave bizarrely. They may run uncontrollably, engage in senseless, repetitive behavior, or rarely, fly into a rage. Other times, we see bodily functions affected and the pet may have diarrhea or vomit. Following a typical generalized seizure, usual behavior (post-ictal behavior) is common and may go on for hours. Complex focal seizures, like other types of seizures, are very brief.

Most often, an animal behaving aggressively or acting strangely has a behavioral problem or some other reason for the change in behavior. If, however, these changes occur as discrete episodes, and the pet also has a generalized seizure, we can be sure that this is a complex focal seizure and treat it accordingly. People with complex focal seizures may experience hallucinations. Some dogs have episodes of “fly snapping” where they appear to be biting at imaginary flies around their head. Some of these may be complex focal seizures although we cannot tell for sure.

Source: Seizures: What You Need to Know; Hurricane Animal Hospital

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2 Comments

  1. My 5 year old boxer girl Bella was diagnosed about three years ago with focal seizures but I have not found anything on the internet like the symptoms she is having. Hers affects her throat and she gulps excessively, coughs and gags and gets very agitated and scared. Some can last a few minutes but a lot of them go on in 20-30 minute intervals all night long . Even Valium can’t calm her down. Sometimes she’ll go three months with no issues then she’ll have a couple weeks where she’ll have these episodes almost every night. Over the last week and a half she’s had six really bad nights and it seems the seizures are changing for the worse. During these episodes she is always very agitated and scared but a couple nights ago she was in the middle of one of these episodes and she went rigid and was shaking so bad it was like she was left in the freezing cold for a long time. We are seeing a neurologist tomorrow and hopefully having an MRI so we can finally know what is really going on. She is on phenobarbital and also gabapentin for grinding her teeth which has also gotten worse in the last couple of weeks. Does anyone else have a dog whose seizures present this way. She could eat a whole bag of dog food , all the grass in the backyard and my softer trees while having an episode as well

  2. I have a 3-4 yr old terrier poodle mix that I rescued. He is VERY sweet and minds well – great company but has seizures. He is on phenobarbital and zonisamide twice daily. I always try to give it 12 hrs apart. He has grand mal seizures….legs running rapidly then go stiff, shaking salivating, choking sounds, blue tongue, urinating, defecating, vocalization etc. Most of them come when he is dead asleep, but if he is awake, they start with a stare and slow turn of the head, then he falls over into the seizure motions. He does go for a while now, without having them, but then once he starts…they come frequently for the next 5 to 7 days. I have noticed that he is prone to them after someone unfamiliar to him visits me, if we travel in the car for a day, if I take him somewhere where there are others dogs, I go to bed late….seems he is pretty delicate and also does not tolerate the heat well. The meds are VERY expensive and he is on the biggest dose of phenobarbital that his little body can tolerate. We do blood work to check him out on a regular basis so its not cheep to support him.

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