Non-Epileptic Seizures in Dogs

Despite the fact that epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs, they can experience non-epileptic seizures as well. Many factors can contribute to and cause seizures, and there are several things to be aware of if your dog is experiencing this disability. Epilepsy is caused by a chronic neurological disorder, but brain tumors, head trauma, kidney failure, toxic poisoning, heartworm disease, calcium deficiencies and low-quality diet can all contribute to non-epileptic seizures in dogs.

Three Phases of Seizures in Dogs

The difference between seizures caused by epilepsy, and non-epileptic seizures is only the underlying cause. Seizures in dogs typically have three phases. Learning to spot the warning signs when they first become apparent may help you to keep your dog safe during these fits, and may give signals as to what may be the cause.

  • Pre-Ictal Phase - This phase may last a few seconds to a few hours. This is the phase prior to full-blown seizure. Dogs will become unresponsive and may ignore your commands. Restlessness and twitching of the limbs may lead to trembling and uncontrollable whining. The dog may begin to snap and bite at the air, at its legs or at nearby objects or people.
  • Ictal Phase - This phase describes the onset of the actual seizure. Most non-epileptic seizures in dogs last less than five minutes, however a prolonged seizure is possible. The dog may experience violent thrashing of the limbs, temporary paralysis, or both during the course of this phase. The head or neck may be stretched out, accompanied by gnashing of the teeth or uncontrollable salivation. The control of bowels and bladder may also be impossible.
  • Post-Ictal Phase - Once the seizure is over, the dog's behavior may still be abnormal for up to several hours. Temporary blindness may occur, as well as confusion and disorientation. Dogs may still experience excessive salivation accompanied by an intense increase in hunger or thirst.

Treatment of Non-Epileptic Seizures in Dogs

Seizures that last longer than 5 minutes can be life-threatening to dogs. As time goes on, if dogs continue to experience recurring non-epileptic seizures, irreversible brain damage could occur. It's very important to take measures to prevent this from happening. A change in diet can make significant improvements. Low-quality foods riddled with chemicals, coloring agents and dyes can contribute to the development of chronic seizures. Limit exposure to toxins by feeding natural foods, securing chemical cleaners and poisons, and reducing the use of certain metals like lead, mercury or aluminum.

Dogs experiencing seizures should be monitored closely. An anticonvulsant drug may be prescribed for a period of 1 to 2 weeks. If no further seizures are experienced, the medication will be slowly discontinued. Ongoing treatment with these drugs will be determined by the next onset of seizure. If dogs experience seizures for longer than 5 minutes at a time, or more often than once per month, medication may need to be administered daily. It's not recommended to discontinue anticonvulsant drugs suddenly as this could prompt seizure, even in otherwise healthy dogs.