Canine Epilepsy: 12 Important Tips if Your Dog Has a Seizure

Canine Epilepsy and Things You Can DO to Protect Your Dog’s HealthNovember is Epilepsy Awareness Month and a perfect time to discuss Canine Epilepsy.

Once upon a time, euthanasia was the suggested protocol for dogs with seizure disorders or Canine Epilepsy (Epi-dogs), but, thankfully, that is so not the case today! Now, there are many resources and healthcare routes to explore, both medical and alternative that just didn’t exist years ago. Having a trusting, solid relationship with your veterinarian is key. There are also some wonderful online support groups where members share their stories, recommendations, treatment options, and support. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone.

Your dog just had a seizure. Now what should you do?

1. Got to the Vet

The first thing to do when your dog has experienced a seizure is get him/her to the vet. It’s important to be sure there is no serious underlying health issue causing the seizure. The vet will run some tests, and depending on your dog’s diagnosis, you will discuss different courses of treatment. Or, you may be advised to wait to see if s/he has another, as it could be just a one-time occurrence.

2. Research. Research. Research

Do all the research you can on Canine Epilepsy, seizures, food and environmental triggers, medications, alternative therapies, and treatments, etc. Become your own personal expert on the disease so you can have well-informed conversations about your dog’s care with your veterinarian.

3. Network

There are some excellent Canine Epilepsy online resources, including various organizations, social media pages and groups, and listserv groups, including the Canine Epilepsy Resources Epil-K9 Email list.

4. Stay Calm

As hard as this is…it’s important for both you and your dog that you remain calm before, during, and after a seizure.

5. Think Cool

Seizure activity can drive a dog’s temperature up dangerously high. Place instant ice packs (frozen peas, frozen veggies, even loaves of frozen bread will do in a pinch) behind your dog’s neck, under the “arm pits” of his legs, back of neck, and belly. Also cool down the paw pads with cool water.

6. Give a Snack

After dogs comes out of a seizure, a little all-natural vanilla ice cream, honey, or natural maple syrup will help to raise their sugar levels back up. Follow with a protein such as little kibble, cheese stick, spoonful of cottage cheese, chicken, etc. to help stabilize those sugar levels.

7. Water Is a Must

Let your dog take some sips of water.

8. Think Safety

Your dog may experience confusion and temporary blindness post-seizure. Be sure s/he is in a safe area (no stairs, wires, etc.).

9. Give Hugs and Reassurance

Speak in soft, reassuring tones repeating your dog’s name as you pet and hold your dog close. He won’t remember his seizure, but he may come out of one shaken. A familiar voice and a little calming influence will go a long way in keeping him/her calm.

10. Secure Family Pets

It’s a good idea to keep other family pets safely secured in another room while your dog is having seizures. The other pets can get confused and may even attack the seizing dog out of fear.

11. Journal

Start a journal and note the date and time of the seizure(s), how long it lasted, how your dog acted, what your dog was doing before seizure, what the weather was like, was your dog out in the yard, was the TV on, how long the postictal stage lasted, etc. These notes are very important to help create a seizure log and discuss with your vet.

12. First Aid Kit

If you don’t already have a First Aid Kit for your Epi-dog, now is a good time to create one. Include items such as the journal, medications, natural calming aids, instant ice packs, dog ear thermometer, vet and emergency hospital contact numbers, honey or maple syrup, moist wipes for post-seizure cleanup, etc.

Seeing your dog have a seizure is a scary thing to witness. But, with some special care, and lots of love, Epi-dogs can – and do – live full, happy lives!

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dorothy wills-rafteryDorothy Wills-Raftery

Dorothy Wills-Raftery is an award-winning photojournalist and author of EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy; the FiveSibes™ Tales children’s books What’s Wrong With Gibson? Learning About K-9 Epilepsy and Getting Healthy With Harley: Learning About Health & Fitness; and Buddy, the Christmas Husky~Based On A True Holiday Miracle books (ArcticHouse Publishing), as well as the international FiveSibes blog, based on the lives of her five Siberian Huskies. Her work has also appeared in American Pet Magazine, Ruff Drafts, The Sled Dogger, and Hudson Valley Paw Print Magazine. Dorothy is the writer and host of “The Sibe Vibe” Dog Works Radio show.” Named “Best Author” in 2015 & 2016 by Hudson Valley Magazine and all four books named “Best in Print” by American Pet Magazine, Dorothy is a 5-time Dog Writers of America Association “Excellence” nominee, winning the prestigious Maxwell Medallion in 2016 for her writing. An official International Purple Day® for Epilepsy Ambassador since 2012 and a volunteer case manager for The Wally Foundation-Canine Epilepsy, Dorothy is the creator of the FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Awareness campaign inspired by her own epileptic Husky, Gibson. In addition to her Siberian Huskies, Dorothy shares her home­ with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and new grandson. You can follow Dorothy and her FiveSibes on Facebook at FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews, on Google + , Twitter, and Instagram (@FiveSibesMom).


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60 Responses to Canine Epilepsy: 12 Important Tips if Your Dog Has a Seizure

  1. Jana Rade says:

    Did you read that ice pack on a particular spot on the back might avert seizures or make them less severe? I thought that was interesting; had one friend say they use it and it works well.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi Jana…I always find cool helps…Gibson, who is also a wooly Siberian Husky and gets warm very easily with all his fur, sleeps on a cooler bed as a regular bed as I try to keep him cool. And in warm weather, I have him wear a cooler collar to hopefully ward off seizures, as overheating can certainly be a trigger for seizures. Some folks do find cool/ice packs help decrease a seizure, while others do not. Ocular pressure and hugging are two other things folks have tried, some with success. Epilepsy is such an unpredictable “monster,” …but if something works, that’s wonderful. I’m all about the cool!

  2. Great tips for pet owners dealing with epilepsy in their dogs – thanks for sharing.

  3. I did not know you were supposed to give them a snack after or keep them cool after. Good to know. I think I’d probably just freak out and drive straight to the vet….

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Oh, Tenacious Little Terrier – been there, and did just that – freaked out and rushed to vet when Gibson had his first seizure! It’s so scary…but I’m happy to share my tips learned along the way of our journey with Canine Epilepsy to hopefully help others.

  4. Carleen says:

    Great tips. I had a lab with epilepsy. Fortunately she only had a seizure one every couple of months or so.

  5. This is such a great post! I’m so glad that there are treatments available these days for our pets who do suffer with epilepsy. I’m lucky in that my current pets have not had any issues but I have had a lot of clients with epilepsy over the years and I’ve had to support a few dogs through seizures when they were in my care. It’s always super scary but I am really glad there are options other than euthanasia.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi Lauren…thank you! It is so true, it’s a very scary thing to witness a dog having a seizure and I’m so happy that today there are so many options to explore and that dogs, like my Gibson, can and do live happy full lives, even with Canine Epilepsy.

  6. What an informative article Dorothy, thanks so much for this!

  7. I’d like to know what the symptoms of a seizure are for a dog – is it about the same as a human?

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      The symptoms of a seizure can vary depending on the type of seizures. The dog can become agitated, listless, even clingy before they go into a seizure. Some folks can tell their dog is going to have one because of this behavior, which is during what is known as the “pre-ictal” stage. Then the dog will start entering the “ictal” stage or actual seizure, and they begin to tremble, eyes glaze over, they appear blind and out of touch with their surroundings, unresponsive, then the tremors get worse, if they are not already lying down, they will drop down, jaws clack, legs paddle, foaming at the mouth, eyes still glassy, and then they go stiff into a very scary stillness – they even appear to not be breathing. And typically will evacuate a very distinctive smelling anal fluid. Afterwards, the “post-ictal” stage, they can still be disoriented and have temporary blindness, be very lethargic…some will bounce back a little quicker, others may take even a day or two to fully bounce back. While it feels like an eternity, the typical seizure lasts about two minutes. This can vary also depending on if it’s a grand mal, cluster, focal, etc.

  8. Leatha A.R. Pierce says:

    My dog is older and has seizures, but the neurologist does not think they are from epilepsy. Will the ice packs, honey, cheese, etc. also work for him? Where on the back do you place the ice pack?

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi Leatha. It’s very true that not all dogs with seizures are diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy. What does your vet feel the reason is for the seizures? The ice packs help with getting the body temp down after a seizure, and the ice cream, honey, cheese, etc. helps bring the sugar levels back up and help stabilize them. I would think it would still be beneficial as these are symptoms of a seizure. I recommend discussing it with your vet as he/she knows your dogs health and seizure activity, just to be sure this won’t affect any underlying cause and that he/she does not have any allergies for the ice cream, honey, etc. For Gibson, I placed the gel ice packs at the base of his neck and mid-back, and also between his legs, and along the belly. When he had his first seizure, I didn’t have any ice packs and used bags of frozen peas and even a frozen loaf of bread!

  9. Dogvills says:

    This is an important information. I haven’t experienced this, but these are really good to know.

  10. Seizures can be so scary! So glad that this is manageable now though and that animals with epilepsy aren’t just euthanized. A friend of mine has a dog with epilepsy – she was just recently diagnosed. I will send this article to her. Thanks for the great tips!

  11. Lisa says:

    Nice job Dorothy. Well written, concise and informative!

  12. Maureen says:

    Great advice and very informative. This list format makes it really succinct and helpful.

  13. MattieDog says:

    Very good info – I totally learned lot from reading your post and I want to thank you for sharing this info!

  14. Rachel Hopple says:

    These are excellent suggestions for a newbie dealing with epilepsy. Our dog would lose control of his urine, so we always had towels within reach anywhere in the house. And after the seizure, it helped us to take him for a short walk…made the post ictal with him alittle shorter.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Thank you, Rachel! Willis is your Epi baby, right? I remember Willis’ story in my book, EPIc Dog Tales. I remember all too well being a newbie myself almost 7 years ago now…and hope this will help remove some of the fear for others going through it. All the tips we can get and share are so helpful, as you know!

  15. Suzanne Dean says:

    These are great tips, I love the way you have listed it all. Perfect post for pet parents that suddenly realize their dog may have a problem. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Suzanne Taylor says:

    Great tips! Once we found out about ice packs we used them every time and found that the clusters of 6 or 7 fits reduced dramatically down to just one. We had a gel pack in the freezer ready, it was in a material case so we could put directly onto our dogs neck/upper back area. You do have to hold in place which can be quite difficult at times but it is so worth the effort.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Thanks, Suzanne! I really do find the ice/cool packs so helpful. I’m glad they helped your furbaby. I also use a cooler bed for Gib to sleep each night as a preventative. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  17. Great tips. We have a mini-poodle in our extended family that suffers from seizures. He has it under control now, but still always scary to think about. The ice pack is a good idea – will definitely pass along the

  18. How very scary. Thank you for the tips.

  19. Kama says:

    I have a student who has a dog with seizures. Do to proper medication he has been seizure-free for a long time!

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi Kama! I’m so glad to hear he has been seizure free. Gibson is managed by medications as well, and when I hear this good news, I’m so thrilled! May he continue to be seizure free!

  20. There was a wonderful (and epileptic) hound dog at my local SPCA for many many months (until last week, when he finally found his – hopefully – perfect match). He was adopted and returned a couple times during his stay. I know having a dog seize has got to be terrifying for people, but as you state, and as my local shelter maintained this entire time, it IS manageable. And the animals are otherwise perfectly delightful. Thank you for posting these tips!

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi, Elizabeth! You sound like you have a wonderful local shelter! I hope he has his loving forever family now! And if they ever would like to connect or have any questions about seizures and Canine Epilepsy, please feel free to give them my info!

  21. Mary Haight says:

    Excellent information Dorothy. I had an English Springer Spaniel who had seizures near the end of his life…so scary for all of us. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Beth says:

    Thank you for sharing these very important tips!

  23. Robin says:

    Excellent advice! Seizures can be so scary to see as a pet owner (they are scary in humans too). It is so important to stay calm and follow your veterinarian’s advice. Many times all you can do is make sure they don’t get hurt and comfort them as they come out of it.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi, Robin. Thank you! It’s so true, trying to stay calm during a scary seizure is not easy, but so important to do. We are very lucky to have an amazing vet team on stand-by…having a good relationship with one’s vet is so key.

  24. These are also great tips! I bet it is difficult for dog owners to stay calm during a seizure, but it is definitely important for keeping the dog’s stress level down.

  25. Carol Bryant says:

    I had a cocker who had one idiopathic seizure in her life and I thank Dog never again. I love this post and tips.

  26. Thank you Dorothy for this excellent and needed information on canine epilepsy.

    On your new Web site, will you host similar resources for dog lovers? I like to send my readers to experts I trust, and after reading this I know you care about dogs, are a most thoughtful dog parent and a writer who writes to help people understand what to do to help their dogs.

    I, also, am making a new Web site, an author site. So far I plan to keep my WordPress blog, Dog Leader Mysteries.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi Deborah! Thank you! I’m happy to hear you find my information helpful. I’ve been on a long journey with Canine Epilepsy, and hope to reach other people to let them know dogs can and do live full lives with it in the hopes folks won’t feel alone, and not be afraid to welcome a dog with Canine Epilepsy into their home, but be informed on the needs and ways to be prepared. Yes, on my new site I will have an entire section on Siberian Husky breed, Canine Epilepsy, rescue, and other healthcare information, as well as maintaining my FiveSibes blog. It will be linked to my publishing site (www.ArcticHousePublishing.com) as well so readers and visitors will know which books are mine and which resources as a pet parent and journalist I use and recommend. I look forward to “seeing” you there! I’ll be sharing on my FiveSibes Facebook page and blog when the new site is up and ready! In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to your new site, and will be sure to come visit your blog!

  27. Ann says:

    Is Phenobarbital the only medication available for seizure control? My dog, Leo, is an Anatolian-mix, and he has gained a lot of weight on it. He was around 115-120 lbs. before he started having seizures. We’re estimating that he is approx. 130 lbs. now. He seems constantly hungry and whines for more food. We’ve had to increase the Rx dosage because of breakthrough seizures. Also, any suggestions on dog food? Currently, he’s been on IAMS for Active 1-5 yr. olds, although he’s not quite as active even with a playful 1 yr. old active dog in the house. Does the food even matter? Thanks for any help.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi, Ann. There is a variety of medications that can be tried. Phenobarbital is the most common and it is what my Gibson was on. You can talk to your vet about adding another – Gibson was also on Potassium Bromide. Talk to your vet about adding a second medication like that. I also had him on Milk Thistle to help cleanse the liver as Pheno can be tough on a dog’s liver. Check with your vet for adding that (you can get it at a health food store). He can also help you with dosage as it goes by weight. Another good resource is http://www.canine-epilepsy.com. The medications gave Gibson a huge appetite, and he gained 20#s from it. It took me 2 years, but I did get the weight back off him by adding pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) and cooked pureed green beans to his food. I had Gib on Iams, but I switched to the weight control formula. All of that really helped Gibson with his appetite. I also gave him healthy dog treats (there is a great one developed in Gib’s name (Gibbie Snacks) specifically for Epi-dogs by House Woof. No preservatives, no wheat, no sugar, no salt, and no rosemary). They also donate $1/bag to The Wally Foundation for Canine Epilepsy. Sometimes certain things such as grains, rosemary, and preservatives can trigger seizures, so you may wish to reduce/eliminate those from Leo’s diet. If you wish to chat more, you can contact me at FiveSibesLiveGibStrong(AT)gmail(DOT)com.
      Hugs to Leo!

  28. Eileen says:

    hi, my 7 year old boston terrier had his first seizure in august 2016 and went on to have two more same night so they started on Keppra and he did great for four and half weeks. He then had second round of seizures and zonisamide was added and also did good for four and half weeks, now the er clinic added phenobarbital and he’s a bit wobbly but all this medicine seems to much. Any advice about trying to get him off one of the other meds so he’s not on so many. Also they are recommending neuro consult just so afraid that consult and scans will cost us a fortune,

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi Eileen. So sorry your pup is going through this. Many times when Canine Epilepsy is first diagnosed, finding the right medication can be a process of trial and error to see what works, what doesn’t. I do know of folks who have several different medications for their Epi-dog. My Gibson was on Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide. The wobblyness you see could be from the Pheno until his body adjusts as that is a side effect. Has your dog had bloodwork and tests done to rule out any underlying health issue that may have caused the seizures? Do you have a regular vet who is experienced with seizures that you can consult with? I also recommend taking a look at their food – is there wheat gluten, rosemary/rosemary oil, preservatives or colorings in the food? You may want to start there and find a food that does not contain those things as they can be triggers for seizures. If you do switch, please remember to do it gradually by mixing in a little at a time until you switch over to avoid any upset. Also check your treats as well. Rawhides have also been reported to trigger seizures in some dogs. Also environmental triggers such as candles, sprays, room fresheners, etc. It’s a good place to start eliminating possible triggers. That said, sometimes it can be genetic, or as in Gibson’s case, idiopathic, meaning no known cause. Good luck…and you can always contact me over at FiveSibes on FB.

  29. Kyle Winters says:

    I like that one of your first suggestions, after taking your pet to the vet of course, is to do as much research as possible. After all, for many people, their dog is just like any member of their family. You want to devote as much time looking for ways to help your dog as you would if it was your child who had the seizure.

    • FiveSibesMom says:

      Hi, Kyle. Thank you! I could not agree with you more! The more information we research and we have, the more informed conversations we can have with our vet, which in turn means making the very best decisions for healthcare for our dogs, who are most certainly beloved members of our family.

  30. J. Droogh says:

    I stopped feeding my dog Beneful and he never had another seizure.

  31. Pam Eaton says:

    My Chihuahua has cluster seizures. One right after another. Last month was a bad month. She had 3 in a 24 hour period. She’s 11 and my vet gave me phenobarbitrol to use, I don’t like the side effects. Being a vet tech for many previous years, I’ve watched many dogs have seizures. It’s different when it’s your dog. She also has IVDD and takes Tramadol for pain when she has a flare up.

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