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How to Stop Dog Seizures: Our Vet Discusses Causes & Treatments

Written by: Dr. Marti Dudley DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

How to Stop Dog Seizures: Our Vet Discusses Causes & Treatments

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Dr. Marti Dudley Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Marti Dudley

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Witnessing your beloved companion experience a seizure can be devastating. Knowing your options for how you can help prevent seizures provides a sense of empowerment. There are currently several antiseizure medications on the market, along with diets and herb supplements that can be beneficial to dogs who experience seizures.

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What Is a Seizure?

A seizure is an uncontrolled firing of neurons within the brain that leads to repetitive body movements. These movements can be localized or generalized, meaning the whole body is involved.

sick dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: EugeneEdge, Shutterstock

Determining Underlying Causes of Seizures

The treatment of seizures can vary depending on the underlying cause. Treatment for seizures needs to be geared towards the underlying cause, as not all dogs who experience seizures will specifically need antiseizure medications. Examples of conditions that may cause seizures include low blood sugar, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases. If your dog has experienced a seizure, it will be important to have them appropriately worked up. Your regular veterinarian may refer you to a neurologist for more advanced diagnostics.

Possible diagnostic tests include bloodwork, MRI, CT, and spinal tap. This is not all-encompassing, and recommendations will vary based on the patient’s history, age, clinical signs, and breed. If an underlying cause for recurrent seizures cannot be determined, your pet may have epilepsy.

Treatment Options

Anti-seizure Medications

It is recommended that dogs start seizure medication if they have a diagnosed brain tumor, have experienced several seizures in 24 hours, have had two or more seizures in a 6-month period, or have a long recovery period following a seizure.

There are numerous options available for seizure control. All the varieties are oral in nature and are typically given two to three times daily, depending on the individual drug. Common seizure medications include phenobarbital, zonisamide, levetiracetam, and potassium bromide.

Some seizure medications can be used individually, whereas others work best in combination with other drugs. Some dogs battling seizures require multiple seizure medications at a time in order to achieve adequate seizure control. Adequate seizure control is achieved when a patient can experience 6 weeks between seizure episodes.

Some medications may be better suited for certain dogs. For example, certain antiseizure medications may be difficult to dose in very small dogs, or some medications should be avoided if there is a history of liver concerns, like phenobarbital. Routine blood work will be recommended, especially in the beginning when first starting antiseizure medicine.

Family factors will need to be taken into consideration, including dosing schedule, medication cost, and necessary follow-ups. You will need to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best treatment options for your personal companion.

Owner giving medicine in a pill to his dog
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

Secondary Support

Although not meant to replace seizure medication, there are veterinary diets available that can lessen seizure occurrences. An example of such a diet is Purina Pro Plan NeuroCare. This specific neuro diet has medium-chain fatty acids that help to reduce seizure activity. A study conducted by Purina and the Royal Veterinary College looked at a group of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy that were being treated with anti-seizure medications. The research showed an improvement in over 70% of the dogs that were fed a diet supplemented with medium-chain fatty acids.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has proven benefits for seizure patients as well. Acupuncture and specific Chinese herbs have been used to lower seizure activity. In some mild seizure conditions, TCVM may be used exclusively to treat epileptic patients. Some veterinarians take an integrated medicine approach to seizure control and will use multiple modalities at a time to benefit their patients.

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Summary

Experiencing seizure activity in your companion can be gut-wrenching. Depending on the underlying reason for seizure activity, there are a lot of possible interventions. For some patients with an infectious cause of seizures, appropriate antibiotics or dewormers may be helpful. A vast percentage of dogs who have seizures have epilepsy. Epileptic patients have several antiseizure medications and treatments available to help minimize recurrence. Your veterinarian will be a great source of knowledge as you navigate the care of your pet.


Featured Image Credit: Kittima05, Shutterstock

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