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Information on Seizures in Dogs

Seizures are uncontrolled transient discharge of electrical impulses from neurons(nerve cells). They may be an indication of underlying disease or idiopathic (no known cause). Dogs suffering from epilepsy are likely to experience seizures frequently.

Seizures in dogs occur in four stages

• Prodromal: This stage will be observed hours or days before the seizures occur. Dogs will manifest abnormal behaviour such as aggressiveness.

• Pre-ictus (Aura): Occurs just before the seizure, the dog is very restless and insecure. He may be aggressive and constantly move around.

• Ictus: This is the violent stage of seizures in dogs. There is powerful contraction of muscles due to continuous stimulation. Signs include jerking of the head, neck and limb muscles. The dog may defecate and urinate on himself since muscles of respiration are inactive, cyanosis (bluing of mucus membranes) may occur.

• Postictus: Is seen after the seizure The dog will be in a state of stupor It is normally exhausted and may be disoriented.

Seizures last a few seconds to some minutes. A prolonged seizure lasting 5minutes or more is an emergency. Seizures are named based on duration and location. Generalised seizures affect the whole body while focal seizures are those that affect specific parts of the body. If there are a number of seizures within a given period then they are known as cluster seizure.

Status epilepticus is a term referring to prolonged seizures. This is very rare but if it occurs it is an emergency situation and the dog should be rushed to the vet as fast as possible.

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Some factors precipitate seizure in dogs such as stress. This stress may be as a result of being in abnormal surrounding or experiences such as oestrus heat (female), nail clipping.

Seizures are hard to treat since they are unpredictable and most times they are just manifesting another condition. They can however be controlled using medication.

Drugs used to control seizure in dogs are anticonvulsants these include

- Diazepam at a dose of 2- 10 mg for a 5kg dog

- Sodium phenobarbital at a dose of 3- 15mg/kg body weight

The drugs above are the most commonly used. If the dog becomes addicted to the drugs then a higher dose is given to effect. In some rare cases the drugs above may be ineffective. In such cases other drugs that can be used are

- Primidone: Will be metabolized to phenobarbital in the body

- Levetiracetam(keppra): This is very expensive

In case your dog experiences a seizure, then here’s how you can handle the case as you contact the vet. It is vital that you remember that the duration of the seizure, the dog is not in control he may bite and strike his head on walls and other rough surfaces.

- Protect the dog from hitting himself by wrapping with a blanket or placing cushions on the hard surfaces If the dogs is near stairs or in a high place where he may fall move him to a more secure place

- Avoid holding the dog’s mouth as he may bite

- Time the duration of the seizure. This information will be important to the vet.

Some breeds such as German shepherds and dachshunds are at a higher risk of experiencing seizures than others

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