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Everything you need to know about old dog seizures

By Daniel Mar Journalist

Updated on the

Senior dogs tend to be affected by a large number of diseases as a result of the effect of ageing. One of the most common ones is old dog seizures. Old dog seizures can be caused by all sorts of health problems.

If your dog is affected by this disease, you need to be very careful of any future events as well as the underlying cause of it. When an old dog has a seizure, it looks very frightening and painful. The problem with seizures is not its cause (at the moment of the episode) but rather the effects that they can have on your dog.

Do not confuse old dog seizures with convulsions

According to the US National Library of Medicine, a seizure is “(…) the physical findings or changes in behaviour that occur after an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain”. In other words, a seizure is the sudden physical result of an abnormal flow of electricity inside the brain.

It is important not to mistake old dog seizures and convulsions. Many dog owners believe that these two diseases are the same thing. But to put the record straight, not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. In fact, convulsions are the result of muscles contracting and relaxing very rapidly. This is what causes the body to shake and tremble. Even though random electrical charges in the brain could also cause convulsions, not all seizures have this form of muscle reaction.

Nonetheless, it is not easy to recognize a seizure when you see one. You can easily confuse it. That is why it is vital to learn about its symptoms and the various stages of old dog seizures.

Symptoms and stages of old dog seizures

Old dog seizures usually have three stages. Most seizures in old dogs last between 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It is highly unusual to witness one that lasts longer than 5 minutes. However, you should know, the longer the seizure, the deathliest it can be for your dog. Also bear in mind that if your dog has one seizure, he can easily have another one. Whatever triggered the seizure will take a while to calm down, hence the chances to suffer another episode.

The three stages of old dog seizures

  1. Pre-Ictal Stage: dogs show changes in their behaviour and attitude. You can see them fearful, anxious or aggressive. At this point, your dog knows that something is wrong with him. In this stage, there is a moment called ‘The Aura’ phase which is the start of the seizure itself. All dogs act differently, but you can expect some crying, whining, howling, pacing and drooling. There is also a loss of coordination and balance.

  2. Ictal Stage: this is the active stage of the seizure. In this stage, your dog will show the most severe seizure symptoms. When the seizure is minor, dogs tend to pass out or seem confused. As the seizure gets stronger, dogs will show twitching, growling and plenty of jerky movements. He will look completely disoriented and unaware of himself. In the worst cases, dogs are not able to control their bodies’ movements. Symptoms of ‘grand-mal’ old dog seizures include drooling, teeth-grinding, violent spams, and loss of bladder and bowel control.

  3. Post-Ictal Stage: it is the recovery phase. Even though your dog doesn’t show symptoms of a seizure, his brain and body are still under the harmful effects of the seizure. He will be ‘wobbly’ and he can still have a lack of coordination. This stage can last for a few hours.

Causes of old dog seizures

The most common health conditions that cause old dog seizures are:

Most of these diseases can be treated but for that, you need to go to a vet. Determining the exact cause of old dog seizures requires extensive blood work among other tests. Do not hesitate to look for a vet as soon as your dog has the first episode. The key to curing your dog is how fast he is diagnosed and treated.

Things to do when your dog is having a seizure

Keep them company because your presence can calm and comfort them on some level (even though they can’t see or hear you).

Don’t put your hands near their mouths (unless you are an expert on the matter) because muscle spasms are very strong and if you get bitten, you won’t be able to pull his jaws apart.

Call your veterinarian and explain exactly what happened. Tell him every single detail!

Take the time of the seizure. If after 5 minutes it hasn’t stopped, take your dog rushing to the vet’s office.

How to treat old dog seizures?

Once your dog has been diagnosed, treatment can start. Most treatments for diseases that cause old dog seizures take time. Fortunately, in the meantime, your vet can prescribe medication that will help to keep the seizures in check. This doesn’t mean that your dog won’t have another seizure, but the following ones will be minor.

Taking care of old dogs is not an easy task. While old dog seizures are a harmful disease, there are many more illnesses that could affect them. Try to carry out regular vet check-ups to maintain your pet healthy.

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