Today I put up a question on the Facebook page of Island Vet Clinic: "Your dog is having fits and seizures. What do you do?". Kind of, to see how much people are prepared to face such a situation and the answers told me one thing:This is an extremely stressful situation for owners who usually are so focussed on the dramatic convulsions of their pet that they do not know much how to behave...and I felt so happy that I placed that question to the public.
Well...what to do during a seizure episode? First of all stay calm and observe. Note how long it lasts and if its one long episode or several successive small ones. These are VERY IMPORTANT info for your vet to find a solution for your animal.
What not to do? Trying to stop the contractions by reaching out near the mouth and paws of the animal...you might get seriously harmed by its sharp teeth and claws flailing out of control. Shouting in panic also does not help too...In the middle of the electric storm going on in the animal's brain,there might be a state of semi-consciousness and a soothing calm voice of the owner will accelerate its recovery time.
Then be ready when he/she comes out of the seizure. During each episode of seizure nearly all the muscles (voluntary and involuntary)of your pet's body will contract and muscle contractions entails energy use...and after a seizure, most animals will lie down or wobble on their feet, not because they are dazed but because THEY ARE HYPOGLYCEMIC; i.e. they have depleted their body's energy levels and are now very low on blood sugars.Sometimes,after the initial seizure, the animal goes into another one straight away because...it is now low on blood sugars. Yes, hypoglycaemia can by itself cause seizures. Best thing to do is to give some high sugar drink to your animal...usually Glucose water works pretty well.
Muscle contractions has another effect on your animal's body...it produces and enormous amount of heat and might also cause another seizure. Wiping the animal's body with water (especially the head area) will help if your animal is overheating. Some even use alcohol for better results. Alcohol can be applied to the foot pads...where the blod vessels are nearer to the skin.
Question to ask is: "why does my dog have seizures?" Hmmm..How to explain that without boring you with some nerdy neuro-pathophysiology? Ok...Picture the brain as control centre that coordinates all the electricity that flows to all the appliances of your house. In normal circumstances, everything is controlled, and distributed in an orderly way. In a seizure situation the brain becomes a ball of electrical impulses firing in a disorderly way...as if your control centre went beserk and is now sending commands to switch on TV, heater, cooler, radio, fridge, ceiling lights, fans etc all at the same time. That is exactly what happens to your pet in a seizure.
So....to get a seizure, something must be short-circuiting your pet's brain...but what? Causes of brain "overload" can be from inside the brain itself (Intracranial) e.g. a tumour, brain abscess, blood clot,infectious brain inflammation, anything pressing on specific points on the brain or your animal has a genetic predisposition for seizures (true epileptics); OR it can be from outside of the brain but coming to the brain through blood supply (extracranial)e.g. poison or toxin, low blood sugar, blood temperatures above 40 degree C...
Now that you have a picture of this, try to imagine what is the real cause of seizure for your pet. Here is a few causes I have come across during my years as a vet:
- Poisonning...Pesticide ingestion, antiparasitic collars (some absorb a lot through skin); human medication ingestion
- Distemper ...Here the inflammation of the brain and its meninges causes the seizures. Usually when dogs reach that state, the kindest thing for you to do is to euthanise this poor soul...because there is no normal life after that, if ever they survive
- Feline Panleukopenia... this is usually accompanied by hind limb paralysis
- Breed predisposition ...Usually small breed with, sort of, compressed brains miniature Pinschers, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles etc or any animal with a lowered seizure threshold. Usually these animal will seizure after a strong emotion (frightened, overjoyed, stressed...)
- Diabetes...Usually seizures are caused by low blood sugar situations
- Heat Stroke...blood circulates throughout all organs and it is also the medium through which heat is distributed throughout the body too. An overheated blood supply, short circuits the brain and the brain goes into an electric storm.
So to the question What do you do in case of seizure?
You call your vet and note the time it started and ended; you stay calm, cool off your animal and re-energise his batteries after the seizure. Then try to think what caused the seizure.
So many times, I hear: "my dog is epileptic" True epilepsy is quite uncommon but most of the time, the animal's brain is normal but periodically or constantly "aggressed" by something from the outside. For the true epileptics,the animals must be on anti-convulsive for life but for the other ones, treatment is usually succesful...so long you pinpoint the cause.
I can be as difficult as having a battery of tests run on the animal or as easy as removing a toxic anti-ectoparasitic collar from its neck.
Hope that helped enlighten a few owners...