What Are the Causes of Sudden Seizures in a Dog?


A seizure can be an early warning of a serious medical malady, like a brain injury, trauma, poisoning or heatstroke. It can also be an indication of an underlying medical condition like diabetes, kidney disease or hypoglycemia. When your dog seizes, he needs your help to stay safe. When the seizure ends, call your vet and ask for directions on what to do next.

Seizure Overview

  • A seizure is a disruption of electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can last for a few seconds or for up to several minutes; there may be several small seizures one after another. Sometimes before a dog seizes, he gives indications such as restlessness, drooling, crying or trembling.

Seizure Disorders

  • Repeated seizures are a sign of seizure disorder, or epilepsy. Grand mal seizures, which effect the entire brain, are the most common. A dog may lose control of his bladder or bowels or gnash his teeth. He may appear disoriented, drop to the ground, lose consciousness and start convulsing, twitching or moving his legs in a pedaling motion.

    Focal seizures affect only the front part of the brain; symptoms are typically seen on only one side of an affected dog. Symptoms of a psychomotor seizure include sudden strange physical behavior, like tail-chasing. Seizures that have no known origin are considered idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy usually strikes young dogs -- in particular, retrievers, beagles, shepherds and collies.

Poisoning, Trauma or Tumors

  • Your dog may have a seizure if he ingests poison, such as a toxic plant or a household or yard chemical, or even if he has a bad reaction to a vaccination. If he’s poisoned, he may vomit, foam at the mouth and experience respiratory distress. Dogs with trauma due to accident or injury, particularly head injury, can seize. Other physical indicators such as pain, limping, disorientation or visible physical injury may present. Brain tumors can prompt seizures as they grow.

Other Health Issues

  • Seizures can be an indication of a variety of other health conditions. If your dog experiences seizures along with decreased water intake and urine output, he could have kidney troubles. If your dog becomes overheated, becomes severely dehydrated or suffers from anemia, seizure could be a symptom. Tell your vet about all physical or psychological symptoms your dog is experiencing in addition to the seizures so he can narrow the scope of his diagnosis.

When Your Dog Seizes

  • When your dog seizes, scoot him away from potential dangers. Keep your hands clear of his mouth -- he might accidentally bite you -- and don’t place anything in his mouth. If the seizure goes on for more than a few minutes, you dog is at risk of overheating; cool him with a fan or wet his paws. Transport him to a vet as soon as possible.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Your vet will conduct blood tests and urinalysis as well as perform a physical exam to make an accurate diagnosis. If your dog has a specific medical issue triggering the seizures, your vet will treat that; if the cause of the seizures is indeterminable, your vet may recommend treatment with anti-seizure medications, such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide.


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