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Signs Your Pet Is Having a Seizure

By February 15, 2024Pet Emergency
Pet is having a seizure lethargic dog laying on its side

Seizures can be common among humans — and dogs, too. Wondering if your pet is having a seizure? There are signs, but it may help to know if your pet has a predisposition for seizure activity. While it is still possible for pets to have a one-time, unanticipated seizure, there are also some things that owners can do to assist their pets and decrease the risk of injury during the episode. 

If you have a pet, you should familiarize yourself with these signs and symptoms of a seizure: 

Seizures and Pets  

Seizures can occur when there is an excess of activity, stimulation, and excitement among neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain. When the neurotransmitters become imbalanced, neuron activity increases, which may result in a seizure. So, what causes this firing of neurons that leads to a seizure?  

  • Exposure to toxins, like chemicals or solvents. Diagnosing a reactive seizure caused by a toxin requires bloodwork and a veterinary exam.  
  • Tumors, medical conditions, and infections can cause seizures, too. These are called ‘symptomatic seizures’ and they come from a malfunction in the brain. 

Challenges can come from diagnosing seizures. While it is possible that one of the previous factors is contributing to your pet’s seizures, the list of causes is not inclusive. Many seizures are one-time occurrences that leave no lasting effects. It always makes the most sense to take your pet to a trusted veterinary provider for a full exam, labs, and diagnostic assessment to identify the cause of the seizure, as well as any underlying issues that could be present. 

Stages of a Seizure 

When a pet is having a seizure, there are typically three stages or phases that they go through. The moments prior to the seizure is known as the aura phase and many pets may hide or seem anxious during this period of time.  

The aura phase is followed by the ictus stage as the seizure starts, lasting minutes. After a seizure, your pet may seem disoriented and lethargic — some may be excessively hungry — during this postictal stage.  

Symptoms that May Show Your Pet Is Having a Seizure 

But what happens during the seizure itself, during the ictus stage? The symptoms vary from pet to pet, but common signs include falling over to the side, muscle contractions, spasms, jerking movements, and often unconsciousness. Other symptoms may include urination, loss of bowels, and excessive drooling or salivation.   

Watching a beloved pet experience a seizure can be difficult, but there are things that owners can and should do to help. For instance, make sure that your pet is safe from falling during the episode, and remove any objects that could cause injury to them during seizure activity. Contrary to popular belief, you should not attempt to hold down your dog’s tongue during a seizure as you may likely get injured and bitten. The best thing that you can do is to be calm and collected and try to capture a video during the seizure to assist your vet in diagnostics. Keep an eye on your pet following the seizure and treat gingerly until they have fully recovered from the episode. Follow up with your veterinarian right away.

Seek Emergency Care for Your Pet

A seizure could be a one-time thing for your dog, or it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Always contact your veterinarian following a seizure for continuity of care and possible treatment options. Seizures are not necessarily a veterinary emergency unless your pet has had two or more in a 24-hour period or if the seizure itself lasts for five minutes or more. In Columbia, South Carolina, visit a state-of-the-art Emergency Vet and Surgery center, CVETS. Call or visit to learn more.