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How Long Do Dog Seizures Last? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

golden retriever dog lying on the grass and looking at its owner stroking its side

How Long Do Dog Seizures Last? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

Learn more »

One minute everything seems fine, and the next your dog falls to their side and begins convulsing. Seizures happen when there is a surge of uncontrolled electrical activity within the brain and it is terrifying for any dog lover to witness.

Though time seems to stand still during the seizure, seizures often last from a few seconds up to 2 minutes, though some may last longer. Regardless of the length, a dog having seizures needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

Since there is a lot to learn about this subject, we will talk more in depth about the types, causes, and risk factors of seizures in dogs, what you can do if your dog has one, and what kind of treatments are available.

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Types of Seizures

Many don’t realize that there are different types of seizures that can affect dogs, and it’s important to get the proper diagnosis to get the best treatment plan. By definition, seizures are sudden, uncontrolled body movements and changes in behavior that happens when normal brain function is temporarily interrupted and abnormal electrical activity occurs in the brain.

During a seizure, the dog often falls to the floor and begins convulsing and thrashing uncontrollably. Any dog that is experiencing seizures will need to be seen by a veterinarian regardless of which type of seizure they are having.

Generalized Seizure or Grand Mal Seizure

sick dog
Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

Generalized or Grand Mal seizures are the most common type of seizures in dogs. These seizures affect all parts of the brain and result in the dog losing consciousness and convulsing for a few seconds to a few minutes.

Focal or Partial Seizures

Focal or partial seizures occur in only one area of the dog’s brain, and result in certain parts of the body experiencing convulsing. This type of seizure often lasts only a few seconds but may sometimes turn into a generalized seizure.

Psychomotor Seizure

A psychomotor seizure refers to shorter bursts of abnormal behavior (rather than muscle convulsions) and last up to several minutes. With this type of seizure, the dog may suddenly attack its own tail or an invisible object. These seizures are much more difficult to detect since they could be confused with random behaviors, but the dog will continue to perform the same behavior during each episode.

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What Causes Dogs to Have Seizures?

sick dog
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shutterstock

Though with idiopathic seizures the cause remains unknown, there are many different health problems that can lead to seizures in dogs. Some of the causes will more commonly occur during certain stages of a dog’s life. The underlying causes of seizures can include:

  • Infection or inflammation of the brain
  • Head trauma
  • Hypoglycemia(low blood sugar)
  • Liver disease
  • Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels)
  • Kidney failure
  • Hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels)
  • Lead toxicity
  • Organophosphate toxicity
  • Antifreeze poisoning
  • Hydrocephalus (buildup of fluids in brain cavities)
  • Heatstroke
  • Brain cancer
  • Genetic disorders

Are Certain Breeds More Prone to Seizures?

There are certain dog breeds that are more likely to experience seizures than others. While the underlying cause for the development of primary, or idiopathic epilepsy are not fully understood, genetics are involved.

While any dog, regardless of breed can experience seizures, the following breeds are considered to have a higher risk for developing idiopathic epilepsy:

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How Can I Tell the Difference Between Seizures, Shivering, and Tremors?

sick dog
Image Credit: ykaiavu, Pixabay

There are circumstances when what looks to be a seizure is something completely unrelated. Muscle tremors or shivering also result in uncontrolled muscle movements and can be mistaken for a seizure, so how do you tell the difference?

Observe Their Behavior

Checking on your dog’s behavior if you are suspicious, they may be having a seizure may help you differentiate between a seizure and either muscle tremors or shivering. Prior to the onset of the seizure a dog may begin shaking, salivating, appear restless, begin vocalizing, lose their appetite, or begin chewing or scratching themselves.

During the seizure, they often lose consciousness, but that’s not always the case. If your dog is acting normal otherwise and seems to understand what’s going on around them, it could be a case of shivers or muscle tremors.

Check Your Surroundings

If you can’t tell whether your dog is shivering or having a seizure, observe your environment to see if the temperature or stress could be an underlying factor. Dogs will shiver when they are too cold, especially short-coated breeds during the wintertime, and when they become anxious and stressed. They can also shiver when they feel pain, so check them over to see if they are showing any other signs or pain or have an obvious injury.

Take a Video for Your Veterinarian

Since certain types of seizures can be difficult to detect or differentiate between other causes, you should take video of the questionable event and present it to your veterinarian as soon as possible. This, along with your dog’s health status and necessary diagnostics can help them come to a conclusion.

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What Do I Do If My Dog Has a Seizure?

sick dog lying
Image By: MDV Edwards, Shutterstock

If your beloved dog is having a seizure, try your best not to panic. Easier said than done, but remember most seizures do not last very long and often don’t result in long-term damage. During and immediately following the seizure, do your best to keep composed and follow the following tips:

During the Seizure
  • Remove any in the dog’s immediate surroundings that could pose a risk of injury.
  • If they are in an unsafe area, carefully move them to a safe location.
  • Don’t put anything in their mouth (they will not swallow their tongues).
After the Seizure
  • Keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they are recovering.
  • Remain calm and provide them reassurance and comfort by loving on them and talking to them softly.
  • Record when the seizure occurred, how long it lasted, and any physical observations you noticed to help your veterinarian understand what happened.

There are cases in which seizures can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening, so it’s important that you contact your veterinarian immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • Seizures cluster together, not giving enough time for recovery in between.
  • Your dog has more than two seizures in a 24-hour period.
  • The seizure occurred as the result of recent head trauma.

How Do Veterinarians Find the Root Cause of Seizures?

Dogs that have had a seizure for the first time should always be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will need to perform a thorough health exam and run the appropriate diagnostic testing to check for any underlying health conditions that could have caused the seizure.

The most common diagnostic tests that are conducted to find the underlying cause of seizures include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Serum biochemistry
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal test
  • Serum bile acid testing (to check for liver disease or portosystemic shunt)
  • Testing for infectious diseases
  • Testing for toxins (if your pet has or is likely to have eaten something toxic)
  • Electrocardiogram
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • Testing to confirm Addison’s disease.
  • Collection and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • MRI
  • CT Scan

What Are the Treatments for Dogs with Seizures?

owner giving medicine tablet to his sick dog
Image By: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

The treatment for dogs experiencing seizures can vary depending on the underlying cause, or if the seizures are determined to be idiopathic. Regardless, seizures must be treated because if left untreated, will often get worse and potentially lead to permanent neurological damage or even death.

Thankfully, with the appropriate treatment and care, many dogs who have seizures go on to live long, healthy lives. Veterinarians will first aim to treat any of the underlying health conditions that may be associated with the seizures.

There are many medications that can help reduce both the severity and frequency of seizures with phenobarbital and potassium bromide being the two most commonly used treatments. There are also certain lifestyle changes and alternative therapies that can be utilized. This is something your veterinarian will go over once a proper diagnosis has been established.

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Conclusion

Seizures in dogs are a horrifying thing for any owner to experience, but they often only last for a few seconds up to a couple of minutes. If your dog has experienced a seizure for the first time, you need to reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog is known for having seizures and is under veterinary care, follow your vet’s guidance and never hesitate to reach out to them if you have any concerns over the length of the seizure.

See also: 


Featured Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

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