Why is my older dog having "fits"?
My little Yorkshire Terrier, who is 3.4 lbs and is almost 13 years old, has been having fits lately. He gets very rigid and his legs go out from under him. It lasts about one minute, then he likes to be cuddled. The vet said it is because he is getting older. I would like a second opinion. Thanks.
Yarmouth, NS, Canada
It sounds like your dog is having seizures. The intensity and nature of seizures can vary dramatically between animals and between episodes. Some seizures are very minor, and consist only of a brief period of altered mental status. Others, called gran mal seizures, result in loss of consciousness, collapse, and violent convulsions. Your dog's seizures are in between these extremes.
Seizures are relatively common in both cats and dogs.
Although seizures can be terrifying for a pet owner, most seizures stop in less than two minutes. Seizures may be followed by a period of unusual behavior (in your dog's case, his extraordinary cuddliness) that can last from a few minutes to a few days.
Seizures that do not end within a few minutes are medical emergencies.
Seizures are never normal, and are not a natural part of aging. They can be caused by a large number of medical conditions, including epilepsy, metabolic problems (particularly with the liver), certain types of infections, and certain types of tumors.
Any pet who has a seizure should have a thorough neurologic examination by a veterinarian. In most cases, basic blood and urine tests are needed to assess the body's metabolic function. In some cases, if you have the resources, your vet may decide that diagnostic imaging procedures such as ultrasound, CT (also know as CAT scans) or MRI are appropriate as well.
One final note. If your pet is having a seizure, never stick your hand (or anything, for that matter) in his mouth. You have a very high chance of being accidentally bitten in these circumstances.