In this video segment, Dr Sam Meisler, discusses dog seizures and their causes. He also reviews how he works them up diagnostically and the rationale for each test.
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Seizures in Dogs
When a dog has a seizure for the first time it can be a frightening experience for both the dog and the owner. A seizure in dogs sometimes starts out with a particular part of the body starting to have repetitive motions. This may be in the form of a leg jerking or eye twitching for example. Most dog seizures then progress to the full generalized version where the whole body shakes or convulses. During your seizuring dog does not swallow it is a myth and not necessary. Some dogs will even lose control of their bowels and bladder. In the period after the seizure, your dog may appear disoriented and some even vomit.
Dog seizures can be caused by several conditions, the most common of which is dog epilepsy. Dog epilepsy simply means that your dog has a focus in the brain that periodically fires off the neurons nearby in an abnormal fashion. This progresses to a complete uncoordinated excitation of neurons in the brain causing a generalized seizure. Dog epilepsy may be inherited (shows up when your dog is 2-3 years of age) or acquired (can show up at any age). Other conditions within the brain that can cause seizures in dogs include brain tumors, infectious agents or inflammatory conditions. There are even diseases external to the brain like kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease or electrolyte imbalances that can lower the seizure threshold and cause a dog without a problem in the brain to have a seizure.
Diagnostically, when I am presented with a dog with a seizure, after my physical examination, I perform basic blood work to rule out external causes of seizures. If the blood work is normal then the next step is to rule out a brain tumor or other brain condition; a cat scan or MRI is the best tool to do this. A cerebrospinal tap and analysis is also indicated in some dogs to test for infectious or inflammatory conditions. Dog epilepsy is most often determined by not finding anything abnormal in any of our testing.
- Sam Meisler DVM
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