Dog Seizure Types

Dog seizure symptoms can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, and seizures can present in several forms, such as cluster, complex partial, grand mal, partial, petit mal, status epilepticus and tonic-clonic.  Let’s examine the symptoms of canine seizures, the different seizure types, their causes and their treatments so you’ll know what to be aware of in case your dog develops seizures.

Canine Seizure Symptoms

Seizures in your dog usually present with a common set of symptoms, regardless of their cause. Symptoms to watch for include

  • biting or snapping
  • drooling
  • lack of responsiveness
  • loss of body functions
  • restlessness
  • teeth gnashing
  • trembling

Types of Canine Seizures

Cluster seizures are a serious type of seizure. They involve multiple seizures in the course of a 24-hour period, and they can be caused by epilepsy, hydrocephalus, internal injury, organ failure or poisoning. Cluster seizures are a serious medical situation that requires urgent veterinary attention.

Complex partial seizures have a certain set of behavioral symptoms that include biting at the air, licking, running in circles or vocalizing repeatedly. Complex partial seizures can occur over the course of several minutes or several hours, and they may occur in conjunction with canine epilepsy.

Grand mal seizures are the most common type of canine seizure. They involve a set of symptoms that include violent muscle spasms, loss of body control and unconsciousness. A grand mal seizure will last about two minutes, and your dog may seem confused and restless at the conclusion of the seizure.

Partial seizures are, as their name suggests, a seizure that affects only part of a dog’s body. A dog may have a partial seizure that involves only one leg or his head. Symptoms include uncontrolled muscle spasms in the dog’s leg or in his neck muscles that cause his head to jerk erratically.

Petit mal seizures are fairly rare canine events. Symptoms are usually subtle and can include eye rolling or staring blankly. Many dog owners do not even notice the symptoms of these mild seizures because they are so difficult to detect.

Status epilepticus could be considered the exact opposite of a petit mal seizure. These severe seizures, which are medical emergencies, are a series of multiple seizures that form a continuous seizure of about 10 minutes in length.

Tonic-clonic seizures affect a dog’s entire brain. They are often seen in dogs that have epilepsy, but they can occur in dogs that do not have the disease, as well. Tonic-clonic seizures have three definite stages: the pre-ictal or aura phase that precedes the seizure, the ictal phase that is the seizure itself and the post-ictal phase that follows the seizure.

The seizure type takes its name from the dog’s behavior during and after the seizure. “Tonic” refers to the stiffness of the dog’s muscles and limbs during the seizure, and “clonic” refers to the unconscious, rhythmic movements the dog goes through after the seizure concludes.

Causes of Canine Seizures

Many potential causes for canine seizures exist, including

  • brain tumor
  • distemper
  • environmental toxins
  • head injury
  • hypoglycemia
  • kidney disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • toxoplasmosis

Treatments for Canine Seizures

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination and may conduct other tests to determine the cause of your dog’s seizures. He or she will also prescribe anti-seizure medication for your pet, which your dog may have to take for the rest of his life.