Watching your dog have a seizure can be terrifying. Particularly if it’s never happened before, seeing your dog convulse can make you feel panicked, nervous, and helpless all at the same time.
Dog seizures aren’t as uncommon as you think, and they’re not always as serious as they feel. Here’s what to do during and after your dog’s seizure.
0-30 minutes in: Recognition and Observation
Seizures present a few tell-tale signs. Some seizures are caused by a traumatic event like a fall while others are caused by abnormal brain activity. There are several different kinds of dog seizures and they can all come on without warning.
You may have noticed your dog acting strangely just before the seizure began, or she may have seemed totally fine. If you see signs of a seizure – stiffness, violent shaking (localized or all over), vocalization, involuntary bowel/bladder release, salivating – try your best not to panic. There is nothing you can do to stop a seizure once it begins.
If your dog is seizing or about to seize, move her to the safest place possible. Indoors, this is probably on carpet or other stable flooring; outdoors, grass without noticeable sticks or rocks is best. Your dog’s shaking will be involuntary and could cause her body to move significantly during the event, so it’s okay to place pillows or blankets around her to prevent her from injuring herself accidentally. Contrary to popular belief, your dog will not swallow her tongue during a seizure.
Resist the urge to physically comfort your dog during her seizure. She is not in control of her bodily functions and could seriously injure or bite you. Stay nearby, but keep a safe distance and try to remember that dogs don’t feel pain while they seize. Most seizures are over in a matter of seconds.
One caveat: A seizure lasting more than five minutes is considered extremely dangerous. If your dog’s seizure lasts for several minutes or more, rush her to the nearest emergency vet as quickly and safely as possible.
30 minutes – 1 hour in: Comfort and Stay Alert
The period after a seizure is known as the “post-ictal” phase. Your dog will very likely seem drowsy and disoriented and she may suffer from dulled senses for minutes or even hours afterwards. Temporary blindness is not uncommon after a seizure, so try not to be alarmed.
During this period, comfort your dog both physically and emotionally. Stay alert for signs of another impending seizure (sometimes they happen in “clusters”) and contact your vet right away. Do not attempt to give your dog food or water as she may not have regained full use of her muscles just yet.
1 hour – 2 hours in: Get Ready for the Vet
The good news is, although seizures are quite unsettling, they’re not technically considered pet emergencies. They aren’t usually life-threatening and odds are very high that your dog will return to her normal state within just a few hours.
A seizure is indicative of some sort of abnormal brain activity, so a dog who has a seizure should always be evaluated thoroughly by an experienced veterinarian afterwards. Most vets won’t require that you bring your dog in right away, but certain situations (i.e. multiple seizures in 24 hours, injury resulting from the seizure) might necessitate seeing the vet sooner.
Do your best to observe and take notes on your dog’s behavior, including the period before and during the seizure if you can remember. Your dog’s activities and behavior, even if they seem trivial, can serve as useful clues for your vet as he tries to determine which follow up tests are necessary. If seizures become a fact of life for your dog, there are a variety of prescription medications available to help lessen their effects.