Seizures are caused by altered electrical activity in the brain,
usually in one of the cerebral hemispheres. They may be caused by
epilepsy, as well as by a number of other diseases of the internal
organs or the nervous system. Epilepsy generally describes a
condition in which an animal has recurrent seizures without evidence
of other metabolic or neural diseases. Grand mal seizures, or
generalized seizures, involve most or all of the body. The seizure
may start with head-twitching and will spread throughout the body.
Grand mal seizures cause impaired state of mind, erratic movements
of the limbs, and other signs. They may last up to two minutes.
These seizures are often preceded by a period of aura, in which pets
may vocalize, act restless or seek attention. Following a grand mal
seizure, pets often have difficulty walking, or may act dull or
sleepy for up to 24 hours. Focal seizures are those that only
involve a portion of the body, such as the head or a single limb.
These are more commonly associated with a specific dysfunctional
area of the brain. These types of seizures may also be characterized
by odd behavior such as tail chasing, biting at the air, repetitive
swallowing or floor licking.
Depending on the type and cause of the seizure, clinical signs can
range from very mild to extremely disturbing. Seizures may include
some or all of the following clinical signs: unfocused behavior,
twitching of the face or limbs, biting movements, salivation,
vomiting, urination, defecation, vocalization, collapse and limb
A careful history is necessary to help your veterinarian determine
the cause of seizure activity. In order to rule out the possibility
of liver or kidney failure, as well as low blood sugar or potential
toxicity, your veterinarian will most likely obtain and send a blood
sample for laboratory testing. A complete neurologic test will be
performed to determine whether the problem rests in the brain or
spinal cord. Depending on the findings of these tests, your
veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests to pursue the
cause, including x-rays, computerized tomography or an
Dogs with single isolated episodes and normal diagnostic results may
go untreated after the first seizure episode. However, your
veterinarian will advise you to monitor your pet very carefully.
Dogs diagnosed with underlying diseases will be treated
appropriately. In dogs with presumptive epilepsy, long term
treatment usually involves oral medications such as phenobarbital.
Blood levels of phenobarbital will be monitored regularly to ensure
the levels are adequate to control the seizures. Oftentimes, the
seizures will only be reduced in frequency and severity. In very
severe cases, other medications may be added to your petís treatment