Epilepsy can be terrifying for the pet owner!
It’s an awful, awful thing, to see your dog convulsing. Fits can vary from very mild – maybe even so mild and transient that they can be hard to pick at all – right through to very severe, violent ones that last for many minutes. Dogs can die from a very severe epileptic fit, or be permanently handicapped/injured.
One thing to hold in your mind and that will help you relax and therefore be able to support your dog better is this: Your dog will have no memory of the fit afterwards.
This will help you because if you understand this, you’ll know that your dog isn’t suffering like you think they are. It’s not as bad as it looks for them, even though they will feel bad afterwards (more about that later).
When a dog has a severe grand mal epileptic fit, they will be flat out on their side, legs paddling or running (they may scratch and injure themselves while doing this). They will have major muscle spasms and contractions throughout their body. They will probably froth/foam.salivate at the mouth. They may defecate and urinate. They may l;ose consciousness, they may bite their tongue, they may champ their jaws.
After a fit, your dog may be dazed, walk in circles, temporarily blind, bump into things, be non-responsive, or be very thirsty and/or hungry. This can last for 24-48 hours and is usually worse after more severe fits.
A serious warning!
Some pets will bite if touched whilst they are fitting. I have had clients who have sustained serious bite wound from their pets because they handled them during a fit. Of course, this is a natural thing to want to do to help your pet, and some epileptic pets respond positively to being held or touched during a fit.
However, if this is the first time your pet has had a fit, I strongly suggest that you use several layers of blanket or towel in between your hands and your dog if you do decide to gently restrain or hold them. If your pet lashes out and snaps/bites, then it’s probably better to back off and stay calm while your dog rides the fit out. It will pass.
If the fits are very severe and continue more than 5-15 minutes, then I advise (if possible to do so safely, considering the size of your dog, the probable need to have a second human to help and so on) that you get your dog to emergency ASAP.
Be safe – you’ll need to swaddle them thickly in a blanket, and have someone to drive you and the dog to the hospital. If you can’t do it safely, please don’t as you may get severely injured trying to do so.
Longer fits like this are a medical emergency, as the dogs overheat from the terrible exertion of the muscles spasming and contracting. Thye will need hospitalisation, multiple drugs, and serious critical care facilities if they are to have a chance of surviving. This is especially so for cluster seizures.
What does a fit look like?
Words can’t hold this, so I’m sharing two youtube videos of dogs fitting – the first one is a moderately severe fit. You may find this disturbing to watch, but remember that the dog will have no memory of what’s happening after they come out of it. Even though this may be hard to watch, I can tell you that it’s better to have an idea of what it might be like if your dog ever does develop epilepsy. You’ll be better ab
Here’s the first video:
Now for this second video, you’re going to see a more severe video. And there is a lady talking who is very upset and freaking out. It might be a good idea to mute your sound before watching (I found it upsetting). As you can see (and hear, if you decide to listen) this is a very strong example of how distressing to humans a fitting dog can be.
What is epilepsy?
An epileptic fit is caused by abnormal, uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in your dog’s brain. It’s like a brain spasm, the normal electromagnetic signals go crazy for a while. Fits can be caused by brain damage and toxins, but most dogs have what is called ‘idiopathic epilepsy’. This means that there is no obvious cause.
How can you help your dog is they get epilepsy?
If your dog has mild fits, and they are relatively infrequent (2 weeks or more apart), then medicating them with prescription drugs may not be necessary.
I recommend using CBD in all dogs with fits, as it is safe and can be very effective. (If you want to book a consultation to discuss how best to use CBD for your pets, please email me at email@example.com, or book a consult with me online at this link)
However, if the fits are severe, if they are becoming more frequent, and especially if they are becoming more severe over time (developing into clusters, where you dog may fit again and again over an extended time), then the heavy duty pharmaceutical drugs may be needed to save your dog’s life.
You will need to have valiuum (and gloves) at hand to administer valium per rectum if you have a dog with severe epilepsy and/or clusters.
Please be aware that any dog that has fits that are increasing in severity and frequency has a poor prognosis, even when you throw multiple pharmaceutical drugs at them. It can be a progressive, terrible disease.
Other things you can do are to get your dog onto a complete raw or home cooked diet, and to remove all toxic chemicals from the home. Also keep any stress and/or overheating to an absolute minimum, as these can trigger fits.
If you have any questions, please ask in comments.
Warmest regards, Dr Edward