Treating Seizures & Epilepsy in Dogs – VOSD Expert Vet Advice™

Taimur-Dogs of VOSD Sanctuary

What is a convulsion/seizure?

A convulsion/seizure is an occurrence when a dog’s muscles rapidly contract and relax. At this time, the dog can lose control of its body and this could be terrifying for the owner.  Frequent convulsions/seizures are usually termed as epilepsy. It is challenging to determine the underlying cause of convulsions/seizures. Typically, this is not life-threatening by itself though an aggressive attack cause the dog to hurt itself.Get Online Vet Advice for Dogs

What are the symptoms of a convulsion/seizure?

All these symptoms determine the severity of the convulsion/seizure of the dog.  

  • General convulsion/seizure (can last between 30-90 seconds)
    • Twitching of limbs, falling, giddiness (losing consciousness), salivating
    • Barking and dilated pupils
  • Tonic-Clonic convulsion/seizure (can occur just before an attack or days before; lasts about 1 minute)
    • Anxiety
    • Legs flexing and relaxing
    • Losing consciousness suddenly and then jerk (have a spasm)
  • Partial / Focal convulsion/seizure (Simple/Complex)
    • Twitching and jerking in one side of the body
    • Turning the head to one side
    • Moving only one limb OR
    • Curving the trunk of the body to one side
    • Simple Partial convulsion/seizure(can last for several minutes)
      • Dilated pupils
      • Barking at nothing
      • Growling or moaning
      • Imbalance
      • Contraction of muscles
    • Complex Partial convulsion/seizure  (can last from several minutes to hours)
      • Chomping of the jaw
      • Being aggressive
      • Running hysterically
      • Having diarrhea
      • Salivating
      • Unusually thirsty or hungry (increase in appetite)

Once the convulsion/seizure is over your dog may seem disoriented for a while.

Why do dogs get convulsions/seizures?

While there are many reasons a dog may get a convulsion/seizure, the primary cause may be due to:

  • Low blood sugar (low blood sugar is commonly found in small breed puppies )
  • Liver disease
  • Poor circulation in the brain
  • Calcium Deficiency
  • Kidney disease

How do I treat convulsions/seizures?

When a dog is seizing, it is safe to approach the dog only if the dog is domesticated. Avoid approaching the dog if you are not sure that the dog has been vaccinated or is in an area where rabies could exist. When you are with a dog having seizures:

  • Stay calm and do not panic.
  • Make a note of the Time of the convulsion/seizure and what the dog’s activities were before this.
  • For a mild convulsion/seizure (usually between 30 and 90 seconds)
    • Try and get the dogs attention to prevent things from getting worse
  • For a full convulsion/seizure (usually between 2 minutes to 4 minutes)
    • Move the dog away from anything that may harm him/her
    • Get a towel or blanket or cushions ready. Wait for a minute.  Should the convulsion/seizure continue, wrap the dog with the blanket/towel or place the cushions around the dog.
    • Once the convulsion/seizure stops unwrap the dog to prevent it from going into hyperthermia.
    • If the convulsion/seizure is over in under 4 minutes, then make the room dim and make sure there is silence. Speak calmly to the dog.
    • Keep other animals away
  • Emergency convulsion/seizure – A convulsion/seizure that extends beyond 4 minutes requires immediate Vet emergency help.  Remove any covering you have on your dog (such as a towel or blanket). Don’t forget to take your notes with you (activities of the dog before the convulsion, time and duration of the convulsion).
  • Do not put your hand next to the dog’s head unless absolutely necessary. During a severe seizure, the dog may writhe and chomp down and may hurt you. At the same time, you will need to ensure the dog does not bite off its tongue – pass a rubber slipper a leather shoe or a wooden stick between its jaws to prevent it completing the biting action

How do I prevent convulsions/seizures in my dog?

Depending on your Vet’s diagnosis after the convulsion/seizure or underlying cause(s),  medication could be prescribed or a special dietary management such as foods high in protein and fat.

Management and treatment of a convulsion/seizure

Follow your Vet’s prescription based on the diagnosis to treat the underlying condition. However, these are the common treatments for the symptoms of seizures:

  • Treating with Diazepam (common brand Calmpose): Immediate treatment in case the convulsion is severe and does not subside quickly and if another treatment is not available is using Diazepam (Calmpose) in IV form as 2mg suspension of 5mg tablet.  Diazepam is a GABA enhancer and calms nerves causing the anti-convulsant action. However, it is quickly disposed of in a dog’s body (30 minutes) so is seldom used for long-term treatment. A 2ml dose per 40kg body weight as an IM injection could be used to alleviate the seizure symptoms.
  • Treating with Phenobarbitone (common brand – Gardenal): Phenobarbitone/ Gardenal is also a GABA enhancer and is a controlled substance, though commonly used in the case of dogs. Gardenal comes in 60mg tablets that is a one-day dose for a 40kg dog in 2 divided doses.  There are some short-term and long-term side effects that may occur including lethargy, sedation, anxiety, loss of coordination, weight gain etc. Long-term use may cause liver damage.
  • Treating with Primidone (common brand Mysoline): Primidone is a human drug and a common anticonvulsant that works by decreasing nerve impulses in the nervous system, which helps to reduce seizures. It is used for long-term control of convulsions, seizures, and epilepsy in dogs including from infectious neuropathies such as viral encephalitis and distemper. Anti-convulsants cause a degree of drowsiness in the dog. The usual dose will be 500mg per day for a 40kg dog in 2 divided doses. When on Primidone do not stop or miss doses to prevent seizures from recurring.
  • Treatment with Prolepsy (proprietary brand): Prolpesy is a common tonic formulation recommended by vets for long-term support in case of seizures from an infectious or non-infectious origin. However, Prolepsy has no GABA enhancers and is made of organic minerals and synthetic vitamins to support the nervous systems and is said to relieve stress after seizures.


Why is my dog convulsing?

Dog convulsing is a result of one or many of the conditions like Low Blood sugar, Liver and Kidney diseases, Calcium deficiency and Poor blood circulation. These are a few common causes but there can be some major underlying health concerns as well. To figure out a treatment plan, see a vet for a proper diagnosis along with convulsion symptoms.

Is a dog seizure an emergency?

A dog seizure is considered an emergency if it lasts for more than a minute or two. General convulsions last for around 30 – 90 seconds. If any convulsion is beyond 3-4 minutes, immediately get a veterinarian. The seizure can be the result of any deficiency that can be treated with instant medication that calms and soothes the nerves. If your dog’s seizures are frequent, it may be epileptic.

Can a seizure in dogs kill them?

A normal seizure does not kill the dog. However, if one of the dog seizure causes is poor blood circulation to the brain, it becomes fatal. When the cells don’t get enough blood and oxygen due to poor circulation, they start dying, eventually leading to death. A cluster seizure or a series of uncontrolled seizures can also lead to death.

What does a dog seizure look like?

Dog seizure symptoms are observed as limb twitching, excessive barking, salivating, dilated pupils and muscle contraction to name a few. Complex seizures can also show an aggressive nature, hysterical running, diarrhea, unusual appetite and growling. Look out for any such symptoms and contact a vet immediately to ensure that no damage has occurred.

How can I prevent my dog from having seizures?

Dog seizure treatment includes diagnosis and medication by your dog’s vet. Dietary changes can also help control your dog’s seizures. Try and include foods that are rich in protein and fat to help with muscle spasms. Medications like Diazepam, Phenobarbitone, Primidone and Prolepsy can help counter epileptic episodes. Consult your vet for accurate dosage.

Related reading

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.