Epileptic Symptoms: Dog Seizure Behavior Explained

Epilepsy is only one cause of dog seizure symptoms, which include convulsions, salivation (foaming at the mouth), spinal stiffness and loss of consciousness.

Characteristics of an Epileptic Seizure

An epileptic seizure in dogs is a spontaneous, spreading discharge of neurons in the brain. Partial epileptic seizures can last a number of seconds; generalized seizures can last a number of minutes. Partial seizures can turn into generalized seizures. Epileptic seizures occur in three phases: pre-ictal, ictal and post-ictal. "Ictal"means "attack."

Causes of Seizures

Epileptic seizures, or "primary seizures," have no known stimulus; the tendency to have them is genetic. Other types of seizures, or "secondary seizures," have such triggers as brain tumors, Lyme Disease, distemper, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, hypoglycemia, "garbage disease," hormonal imbalances, renal failure, among other conditions. Dogs that have seizures may or may not have epilepsy.

Pre-Ictal Phase Symptoms

Your dog will experience these symptoms right before a seizure:

  • Unresponsiveness, catatonic expression
  • Trembling
  • Whining
  • Biting and snapping
  • Gnawing of limbs
  • Restlessness
  • Pacing and running in circles

Ictal Phase Symptoms

Your dog will experience these symptoms during a seizure:

  • Convulsions, with thrashing of limbs
  • Excessive salivating
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Temporary paralysis
  • Collapse to the ground
  • Gnashing of teeth
  • Stretched neck
  • Head thrust backward

Post-Ictal Phase Symptoms

Your dog will experience these symptoms right after a seizure:

  • Loss of hearing or vision
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Running into walls and doors
  • Excessive salivating
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst

Diagnosis and Treatment

To arrive at a diagnosis of true epilepsy, your vet must go through the process of elimination, ruling out all causes of secondary seizures; no test exists for epilepsy. Treatment for epileptic seizures includes a variety of anti-seizure medications and surgery in extreme cases.