Sunday, March 7, 2010
By Ruthie Bently
I began doing research into seizures after I knew Skye was coming to live with me. I looked into homeopathy, acupuncture, Reiki and other alternative therapies. I even contacted an animal communicator so I could ‘speak’ to Skye. I did everything I could think of to prepare for living with a “seizure” dog. I thought I was equipped to handle it if Skye had a seizure. But when it happened, even though her seizure was minor (compared to what I expected), it was still an emotional event because I felt powerless to help her.
As I explained in my article on canine epilepsy, when the electrical synapses of a brain misfire, it causes erratic un-coordinated nerve transmissions to the body’s muscles, which results in a seizure. A dog can have a seizure without having epilepsy though, and there are many things in our environment that can cause a seizure. While we understand the mechanics of a seizure, the brain is a complex organism which we do not fully understand. No matter how much information you read on the subject, remember every dog is different and so are their seizures. There are four kinds of seizures (petite mal, grand mal, status epilepticus, clusters) and their severity ranges from mild to life threatening. Seizures are categorized as either partial or generalized. The impulses of a partial seizure begin in a specific area of the brain, while the generalized seizure takes place all over at once.
The symptoms of a seizure are varied and many depending on the seizure. Some seizures begin with a loss of consciousness and all the dog’s muscles contracting. Your dog may begin drooling excessively. A dog’s facial muscles may begin twitching or they may begin vocalizing. There may be opening and closing of the jaws and a dog may look like they are running in place. During certain seizures some dogs are even conscious and aware of their surroundings. After the seizure, a dog may lie still for a short period. They will eventually get up but may show signs of post seizure behavior. These can include bumping into things, being disoriented, temporary blindness or loss of focus, and running or pacing around the house. They can be confused, may not recognize their owner and may even be afraid of them.
When your dog experiences a seizure, electrical and chemical changes occur in their brain; these result in behavioral changes in your dog. These are only temporary conditions and will go away with time. Every seizure affects a dog’s behavior and the more severe the seizure is, the more behavioral changes you will notice. Some are slight and go away quickly and some may take longer to recede. You need to have understanding and patience to help your dog get through this bewildering time. Stay calm while your dog is having the seizure, and don’t get in their way. Try to keep the area around them as clear as possible, so they don’t bump into something and injure themselves. Keep your hands away from their face and body; you may be injured due to their involuntary movements. After the seizure talk to your dog in a comforting voice and try to keep them calm.
If your dog has never had a seizure before, take them to the vet for an overall checkup. Having a blood panel done may be suggested. Contact your breeder to see if any littermates had or developed seizures issues. If your dog came from a shelter, ask if they noticed anything or can tell you about your dog’s background, as some breeds are predisposed to having seizure problems. Check out your home and your dog’s living environment (don’t rule out any changes you may have made) to find a reason for the seizure if the vet doesn’t have an answer. We use many products today, some of which can be seizure triggers for a dog. There are several good sources for seizure triggers on the internet; look them up and compare them to your situation.
It’s always a good idea to keep a medical journal for your dog, and can be especially helpful if your dog has seizures. You can record any seizures your dog has, the duration, symptoms and post recovery. Daily medications, including time of day and dosages given to your dog should be entered. You can also record vaccination records, preparations used for flea and tick removal, and details of all vet visits. If your dog has another seizure or continues to have seizures, you’ll have the information at your fingertips for the next time.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently