There are three distinct phases of seizures. First, the pre-ictal phase is the period before the seizure and the dog appears nervous or overly anxious. Their pupils may dilate widely.
They may seek out the owner and begin to whine, shake, and salivate. Pets seem to sense they are about to have a seizure. Second, the ictal phase is the seizure itself and lasts from a few seconds to five minutes. This is the time when they experience the classical convulsions. Last, the post-ictal phase is the period immediately following the seizure and is characterized by confusion, weakness and rapid breathing.
The severity of this phase depends on the severity of the seizure. Temporary blindness and total exhaustion may follow a severe episode.
Head trauma, liver disease, kidney failure, poisoning and brain tumors are all common causes of seizures. However, epilepsy is by far the most common cause.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures in the absence of any known cause or abnormal brain lesion. The actual cause of epilepsy is unknown. It may be related to a biochemical or neurochemical abnormality. It is thought to be genetic in many breeds. It is much more common in dogs than cats.
A diagnosis of epilepsy is made by ruling out all other causes of seizures. A thorough history and physical exam by a veterinarian are essential to help diagnose the cause. Further diagnostic testing such as blood and urine tests and X-rays may be necessary. These tests rule out disorders of the liver, kidneys, heart, electrolytes and blood sugar level.
There are various anticonvulsants that may be recommended for your pet once it has been diagnosed with epilepsy. Since these medications are very potent, treatment is usually initiated only if your pet has more than one seizure a month. It is very important to keep a detailed record of all episodes to determine the frequency of seizures. Pets that have groups or "clusters" of seizures may progress to status epilepticus and should start medication.
Prolonged or extremely violent seizure episodes may also warrant medication.
Phenobarbital is one of the more common anti-seizure medications. Usually this medication must be given for the rest of the pet's life.
Most dogs do well on anti-seizure medication and are able to resume a normal lifestyle. Many pets require adjustment of their medication from time to time.
If your pet has a seizure or shows any signs of epilepsy, see your veterinarian to ensure your pet lives a long and happy life!