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Canine Seizures and Epilepsy - Don't Panic

11.09.2018 author Jonathan

Old Wives with no fingers, apparently, because your dog could accidently bite you. Keep your hands away from your dog’s mouth. Dogs can’t swallow their tongues. The tongue swallowing thing is an Old Wives’ Tale.

Having a seizure is like running a marathon and not even knowing it. You, however, are going to have so much adrenaline rushing through your body you probably won’t be able to sleep for a week. I mean, I shut my eyes and things go blank(-ish), but if someone is going to have a seizure, I usually wake up ten seconds before the seizure even starts. Once they are coherent and are seeming pretty back to normal be sure to feed them a meal. I am at the point now where I worry I might sleep through another seizure so I don’t really sleep any more. Now, some dogs will be pretty exhausted and want to go back to sleep. Nothing fancy! Just whatever they usually eat. Other dogs will still be whacked out of their minds and stay up the rest of the night pacing in circles, vocalizing, bumping into things and walking through the water bowl 10,000 times. Intuition is an amazing thing, isn’t it?. And that teaspoon of ice cream isn’t going to do it.

The first lesson I learned that night: Keep the ER vet’s phone number on the fridge or someplace I can actually find it.

Blog https://dogquality.com/blogs/senior-dog-blog/ massaging-your-senior-dog-to-better-health.

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Canine Seizures and Epilepsy - Don't Panic

I use the bathroom. If you have a large dog, move any furniture and/or other dogs out of the way. Just simply pick up your dog and move them to a quiet place away from other dogs and noise.

And for some inhumane reason that time is usually between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. But certainly many dogs have them while awake, so it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Okay, here is how it typically goes down. Most dogs will have seizures while sleeping. Epileptic seizures tend to happen at the same time. Here’s another thing…epileptic dogs tend to have their seizures sometime around a full moon.

They will lose their bladder and sometimes their bowel. I usually place my dogs on a bathmat or towel during the seizure. They will be plenty warm. Seizures cause the body temp to rise, so don’t wrap or cover your dog with a blanket.

Or five hours. The bottom line is you can’t trust your sense of time in this situation. If a seizure (the convulsing part of it) lasts more than five minutes you’ll need to get your dog to the vet. Days. Years. It is excruciating. Once your dogs is in a “safe” place, take a deep breath, gather your wits, and try to time the seizure. These are called “status” seizures and they definiy fit in the category of emergency. I can guarantee you that what in reality is only 30 seconds will feel like five minutes. Now, it isn’t imperative that you get a timing on it, but it is helpful if you feel like it has been going on for “too long.” You will have an actual confirmation.

Number two, you can’t be squeamish. Two things about this “secret.” Number one, you’ll need to have a pretty good relationship with your vet.

Malnutrition (we see this in stray dogs coming from shelters) Liver Disease Kidney Disease Overheating Extreme stress.

You could stop the seizures at home…and for those of us who live an hour from the nearest emergency vet, it will save your sanity as well. It is known as “The Valium Protocol” and it could save your bank account and your mind. Driving with a seizing dog in the dark during a blizzard for over an hour is about as relaxing as being audited by the IRS while simultaneously having a root canal with no anesthetic.

Head injuries (acute and chronic) Low blood pressure High blood pressure Electrolyte imbalance Hypothyroidism Anemia.

You just have to ride it out. Seizures are terrifying. I mean, honestly, there are things a lot worse than a seizure, but there are very few things where you have less control. You’ve probably heard the phrases “Life imitating art” and “Art imitating life.” Well, if you’ve never seen a seizure in person, I’m sure you’ve seen something closely resembling it in a horror movie. Let’s face it.

It seems like this little detail would go without saying. (Hint: make sure to REMOVE THE NEEDLE before putting the syringe in your dog’s butt. You can use a catheter…or if you have a small dog, just get yourself some Vaseline and use the syringe. But for the sake of your dog, I’m saying it anyway). Your dog starts to have a seizure. You don’t want to be working from memory on this one. Dogs metabolize it differently than humans do. If it doesn’t you can usually give up to three doses…your vet will let you know the maximum amount you can give. Make sure to have the single dosage and the maximum dosage on the bottle. You measure out what will appear to be a whopping dosage of the liquid Valium and you give it to your dog rectally. Here’s how “The Valium Protocol” works. I know, I know. That’s right…rectally. Some people follow this up with oral valium over the next day…again, your vet will guide you in this. And, yes, you will be giving your dog a pretty large dose of Valium. This should stop the seizure.

I would not be so lucky. Ever. The second lesson I learned that night: Sometimes, seizures are “Much Ado About Nothing.” Since my first experience with seizures, I’ve heard about dogs that have one or two seizures, then never have one again.

But, again, don’t despair! There are usually options. But call anyway, at least for your own piece of mind. So, unfortunay, this may just be the beginning of a long road ahead. And if you have an elderly dog, a seizure is usually indicative of something else going on. Well, regardless of the type of seizure, you should probably call your vet to see what they have to say. Just to warn you, like I mentioned with my first seizure experience with Peabody, they probably aren’t going to see this as the life-threatening emergency that you see it as.

But if your dog is having “status” seizures (the aforementioned “over five minutes” variety) it could kill your dog because their body temperature gets too high and they may incur brain damage. This is usually the first time you will witness your dog having a seizure and, unfortunay, the last. But, this is pretty rare…so don’t despair. I have also had dogs die during, or immediay after, a seizure. But these were very old dogs with other serious health issues. The seizure didn’t kill them, the underlying cause did. If your dog is having cluster seizures, which I will discuss later, it could turn into status…so get yourself (and your dog!) to the vet. This is especially true of dogs with brain tumors, cancer and liver or kidney failure. Seizures usually won’t kill your dog. Sometimes seizures are signaling the end of the dog’s life. Now, I don’t know if this will set your mind at ease, or make things worse for you…but I feel I owe you the truth.

Survival of the fittest…and if you are having a seizure, you aren’t the fittest. A seizure is not likely to kill your dog, but another dog is. We use a playpen for our “seizure dogs.” This is a safe place to have a seizure if we aren’t around. So if your dog has had a seizure and especially if they suffer from epilepsy, you must separate the dogs when you aren’t around. Any other dogs around will try to eliminate this dog from the pack. It is soft, secure, and, in selfish consideration of us, it is easy to clean. Back in the olden days, in the wild, seizures were BAD. A total death sentence.

Yep. Are you ready for the “secret?” It’s simple. That’s the magic. Liquid Valium.

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People tend to freak out because dogs vocalize during seizures making it seem like they are in severe pain or crying for help. You have two dogs (or three, or four…or twelve). They are the best of friends, bosom buddies, and soul-mates. I’ve seen even the most docile, arthritic, half-blind, toothless, “lose-a-race-to-a-snail” dogs suddenly come alive and jump in on the action when another dog is having a seizure. They eat, drink, play, snuggle and sleep together. The dog has no idea any of this is going on. They show love, tolerance and affection to each other on a daily basis. The truth is, this is the electrical activity in the brain making the dog vocalize. The good news is that it is much worse for you than your dog. What is true, though, is that a seizure is very frightening. I have seen this many, many times. The bad news is it is much worse for you than your dog. However, one of the dogs has a seizure and…BAM! The other dog will try to kill it. Now, one thing that DOES cause pain during a seizure is other dogs. And it’s also true that there is good news…and there is bad news. Seizures do not cause pain to the dog (unless they were to fall off something or hit something during the seizure).

I kid you not. I sat there…stunned. Mostly because it felt like a hundred years elapsed and I aged at least a thousand! When I finally found the number and called the vet, the tech who was answering the phone wasn’t impressed. She actually yawned as she poliy told me goodbye. She told me if he has another one tonight I could bring him in, but otherwise just give my regular vet a call in the morning. Not being able to find the number was one of the worst minutes of my life, EVER.

and I woke up to my bed shaking. I was confused and when I threw back the covers I saw Pea in the midst of a grand mal seizure. I thought he was going to die. Pea was a healthy four year old dachshund. I ran through my house in a complete panic trying to find the ER vet’s phone number. The first seizure I saw was in my dog Peabody. It was violent and horrifying. It was about 1:00 a.m. I was sure he had stopped breathing. Something was vaguely running through the back of my mind that I should try to keep him from swallowing his tongue.

My husband wanted me to add “When the Denver Broncos lost Super Bowls 12, 21, 22, 24 and 48.” But that’s just not true.

For you, this means only one thing. A kennel also works well. Usually the dog will be blind after the seizure. It means, “Thank God the seizure is over!!” However, for your dog, this can mean a few different things. Nothing is off limits as far as the trouble they can get in to. They will get stuck behind the toilet, under the bed and in places you haven’t even thought possible. They may fall down the stairs, whack their head on the coffee table, tumble from a balcony, jump into the lion exhibit at the zoo, or drown in the toilet. By “unstable,” think of it like having to care for a very drunken friend. During this time it is best to place your dog in a play pen or put a fence around them. Okay, when the seizure is over your dog will likely go into what is called the “post-ictal” phase. You wouldn’t leave them alone. They are also very unstable. Their sight will return, so DON’T PANIC! Dogs usually start to stagger around and may run into walls, furniture, imaginary walls and imaginary furniture, etc. Don’t leave your dog unattended at this point unless they are safely contained. Really.

In my experience (and this seems like a perfect place to add my usual disclaimer that I am NOT a vet, and this is all just my personal experience) most seizures in senior dogs are caused by the following: Diabetes Low blood sugar High blood sugar Brain tumors Brain cancer.

In a status seizure your dog never comes around. Cluster seizures mean you are in for a few long days. And beginning. So…now what?. It will stay in the state where they are convulsing and shaking and they won’t stop. Earlier, I mentioned something called cluster seizures. But there is a definitive beginning and end. They can have another immediay or in an hour or two. Cluster seizures are when the dog recovers from one seizure just to have another. Even though they can turn into status seizures, they must not be mistaken for status seizures. Just like the name implies, cluster seizures are seizures that come in clusters.

Now, if your dog is having regular seizures, or your dog suffers from cluster or status seizures, you may want to save yourself from putting that second mortgage on your house and learn the “secret” to stopping them while at home instead of making the trek to the emergency vet.

I don’t know why. In a situation where I can’t really do anything, at least I’m doing SOMETHING! I usually like to sing “You Are My Sunshine,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” or “Psycho Killer.” Don’t ask me why the eclectic variety of song choice. I couldn’t l you. I guess I like to think it helps somehow. Or, if it doesn’t help them, it sure can help me. Along the lines of not falling into the depths of despair, I usually sing to my dogs during a seizure.

Just because your dog had a seizure doesn’t mean your dog has epilepsy. Especially if your dog is older. Epilepsy is an illness where seizures are the symptom of that illness. So if your dog is old and has its first seizure, it isn’t epilepsy. Now let me clear up a few things about seizures. A seizure can be caused by so many things…and chances are most of the time you’ll never find out what caused your dog’s seizure. Idiopathic epilepsy has an early onset, usually around 2-4 years of age.

If you are freaking out you are not doing your dog any favors and you’ll probably just run the risk of screwing things up. STAY CALM. Believe me, I know. DON’T PANIC. This is by far the most difficult thing you will need to accomplish when dealing with a seizure.

I’ve had dogs who don’t fully come out of the post-ictal phase for a few days. But then there are some dogs that don’t come around. Okay, at this point, some dogs are coming around. They still seem blind and will pace. For hours. Don’t worry…this is just the nature of the beast. It happens. They regain their sight and their balance.

And, in my case, lots and lots of seizures. And I needed the preparation because old dogs can have seizures. My life had just changed forever. Little did I know, the universe was preparing me for running a senior dog sanctuary. The third lesson I learned that night: In my house, with my dogs, it will always be “Much Ado About Something.” It turns out my sweet little Peabody had epilepsy…and I learned more about epilepsy than I ever imagined possible.

But as far as non-epileptic seizures go, they happen whenever. And here is what you should do when they do happen.

In my experience…valium has the opposite effect on most dogs. You give that liquid Valium and you’ll swear it was actually liquid cocaine. They get agitated, high strung, hyper…it isn’t pretty. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that is reality for you. Now, I know you are thinking you just gave a whopping dose of liquid Valium to your dog…he’ll be sleeping for days! Finally, some rest! Think again. But the other reality is that the seizure is over, and that is the goal.

Sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a larger dog and there is another person available, have the other person go and grab an ice pack. If you aren’t able to get an ice pack, use a cold washcloth. Sometimes it works. But at least it’s something to try. Place the ice pack on the dog’s lower back. Or, if you have a Chihuahua or other tiny dog, you can carry it with you to the freezer and get it yourself. Sometimes this enough to bring the dog out of the seizure. Now, I’m just going to throw this out there, but here is a little trick that sometimes works.

It can be difficult initially to get the correct dosage…but it works well for some dogs. If your vet decides to medicate, Phenobarbital is the medication of choice. Another thing is that is causes ataxia. Some drugs need to be taken in combinations to provide the best effects. It works the best and is pretty inexpensive. The drawback is that it can cause liver damage, so not a great choice for seniors…but good for younger dogs provided they dog is monitored. If they are being caused by something else, like kidney disease, you will be treating the kidney disease (the problem) and not the seizures (the symptom). Seizures usually aren’t treated with medication unless your dog is having them more than once a month and they are being caused by epilepsy. So if you have a dog with disc problems or arthritis, this won’t be the med for you. Some of the “newer” drugs are Keppra, Felbamate, Gabapentin and Zonisimide. The downside is some dogs have been known to develop pancreatitis after taking this. The runner up med is Potassium Bromide. This stuff is even cheaper than phenobarbital.

The year was 2001…the night before the seizure was the last time I ever really slept. I remember the first time I witnessed a seizure in one of my dogs.

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These can consist of something as simple as a blank stare where the dog doesn’t seem to know where they are. Or we had a dog who would jump up from a sound sleep, run hysterically across the room and straight into the wall. And because we’re talking about the brain, it only goes to follow that there are a zillion different things that can be causing it…including the ambiguous “nothing at all.” And now that I’ve opened that can of worms, I will add to the mix that there are several different types of seizures. Or, if your house is like mine, it looks like MORE strange or MORE abnormal behavior. There are also psychomotor seizures. The most common seizure is the Grand Mal, aka “The Big Kahuna.” This is what we typically think of when we think of a seizure. They are much less severe and you may not even know they are seizures. This is where electrical activity only happens in one area of the brain. It can be “fly snapping” where the dog appears to be snapping at imaginary flies. It may just look like a senior moment. This type of seizure usually just looks like some sort of strange or abnormal behavior. An example of this would be manic tail chasing. A seizure is caused by unusual electrical activity in the brain. They just repeat, over and over. A good way to distinguish if it is a seizure or not is that the dog will display the same odd behavior each time. There are also seizures called focal seizures. Like in the movie “Groundhog Day.”. The collapsing, the whole body shaking and convulsing, the drooling, loss of bladder…the poor dog looking like he is being possessed by an over-caffeinated zombie Tasmanian devil.

Now, don’t get crazy and give your dog too much. They already have been through the wringer and you don’t want to give them an upset stomach. The ice cream helps them “come to,” comparable to smelling salts for humans. Hagaan Daaz is perfect because it doesn’t have a bunch of chemical crap in it. It has to be Vanilla Hagaan Daaz. However, as a reward for not freaking out, you can have as much ice cream as you’d like!. The ice cream needs to be natural. For a little dog (dachshund, pug, or Chihuahua size) give a teaspoon to a tablespoon. For a larger dog give a half a cup to a cup for the largest of dogs. HAS to. Once you have them safe get them some ice cream. And I’m not kidding. And the dog needs the sugar at this point. Your dog may have a chemical imbalance due to the seizure, and you don’t need to make it worse.

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