Caring for an Epileptic Dog

Caring for an epileptic dog is very challenging. Your dog may have only one seizure, or more than one; your dog's condition may be manageable, debilitating or life-threatening. In fact, no two dogs will experience canine epilepsy exactly alike, so work closely with your vet to keep your particular pet as comfortable and safe as possible.

Characteristics of Canine Epilepsy

Fortunately, most seizures are mild and can only last a few seconds. Serious seizures lasts longer, sometimes for over five minutes. Seizures that last longer than 10 minutes, or recur, warrant immediate medical attention. Here are the categories of canine epileptic seizures:

  • Petit mal seizures, involving partial loss of muscle control, signaled by staring and staggering
  • Grand mal seizures, involving comprehensive loss of muscle control, signaled by severe coordination problems and loss of consciousness
  • "Status Epilepticus," involving multiple seizures occurring continuously, with no regaining of consciousness
  • "Cluster seizures," occurring over a period of 24 hours

Stages of Canine Epileptic Seizures

It is important for owners of dogs with canine epilepsy to know the four stages of a seizure:

  • The Prodome. Symptoms include mood and behavioral changes hours or days before onset.
  • The Aura, signaling an impending seizure. Symptoms include nervousness, whining, trembling, salivating, wandering and hiding.
  • The Ictus, or actual seizure. Symptoms include thrashing of limbs, teeth-gnashing, falling to the ground, temporary loss of consciousness, excessive drooling, uncontrollable urination and defecation.
  • The Post Ictus, aftermath of a seizure. Symptoms include temporary deafness, blindness and voracious eating and drinking.

Give Medications to an Epileptic Dog Correctly

Many epileptic dogs take anti-seizure drugs. Always follow the dosage schedule prescribed by your vet. Here are some tips for managing your dog's medication regimen:

  • Always carry your dog's seizure medication with you.
  • To administer pills, first give your dog a couple of sips of water. Place pills far back in your dog's mouth, then invite your dog to drink more water. Inexpensive "pill guns" work well, too.
  • Enclose pills in a piece of cheese or canned dog food made into a ball.
  • Soak a piece of bread with the correct dosage of liquid medication and feed it to your dog.
  • Store pills in medication dispensers sorted by days.

Keep Your Dog Comfortable

Seeing your dog having a seizure can be frightening. Try to stay calm so you can administer these and other palliative measures:

  • Dim the lights and keep your dog in a quiet place, as your dog will be sensitive to light and noise.
  • Keep towels and diapers on hand to keep your dog clean if bladder and bowel control are lost.
  • Cool your dog down by turning on a fan or mopping the body with a cool, moistened wash cloth.
  • Say your dog's name softly and soothingly if your dog seems comforted by this; some dogs will not be.

Keep Your Dog Safe

Take these measures to keep your dog safe:

  • Develop a crisis plan before a seizure occurs-i.e., decide how you will transport your dog if necessary. Ask your vet how to use a plastic sled or blanket as a stretcher.
  • During a seizure, do not let your dog go near the stairs or the street.
  • Keep your dog away from glass windows and doors.
  • Remove sharp objects from the room.
  • Empty a room for your dog to be in during a seizure, especially suitable for dogs that lunge or circle.
  • Leave your dog in the empty room, or in a crate, while you are away from home.
  • Isolate a dog having a seizure from other dogs, to prevent triggering the pack instinct to attack a sick or injured dog.

Care for the Caregiver

Take care of your own mental and physical well-being, so you can better take care of your dog's. In addition, don't face the challenges of caring for a dog with epilepsy alone. Ask your vet for the names of support groups, whose members can provide encouragement and advice in caring for an epileptic dog.