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How to care for a dog with epilepsy

What to look out for and what to do.

Having a dog with epilepsy can seem daunting, especially if they’ve recently been diagnosed. Here’s some helpful information on caring for a dog with epilepsy, including what to do if they have a seizure. 
 

What is epilepsy?

It’s a disease that causes multiple seizures over a long period of time. There are lots of causes of epilepsy, but all of them result from abnormal brain activity. 

Remember, not every fit is caused by epilepsy - seizures can be caused by liver disease, brain tumours or heart disease. 

If your dog has a seizure, it’s important to rule out these causes before deciding they have epilepsy. 
 

What does a seizure look like?

Most dogs know they’re about to have a seizure. Over time, owners will come to recognise these signs. Sometimes your dog will seek attention, or become restless. They might even just sit in a corner and stare into space. 

During a seizure, your dog will lose consciousness and won’t be aware of their surroundings. They will normally stiffen, fall onto their side and paddle their limbs. Sometimes they’ll lose bladder or bowel control. 

Seizures usually last between one and three minutes, although it can seem a lot longer. Once the seizure is over, your dog should be back to normal after half an hour. 
 
 

What should I do if my dog has a seizure? 

Remain calm - that’s the most important thing. 

You need to make sure your dog can’t harm himself. Move any furniture away from him, and block stairways. Turn off the lights, and reduce noise – stimulation can make seizures worse. 

Time the seizure so you get a feel for how long they usually last. Then you’ll know if your dog’s seizures are getting worse. 
 

Keep a diary

It’s well worth keeping a diary of your dog’s seizures. Make a note of the date they occurred and how long they lasted for. Then you’ll notice if they start to get worse, and you may even be able to spot a pattern, so you can estimate when they might happen. 
 

When should I call the vet?

If your dog’s never had a seizure before and suddenly has one, you’ll need to get them checked by the vet. It’s best to wait until the seizure is over, and your dog is back to normal. 

Your vet will normally run a blood test and rule out any underlying disease that may have caused the seizure. They’ll also give your dog a full health check. 
 

If your dog has multiple seizures within a few minutes of each other, or the fit lasts for longer than a few minutes, then you should call your vet immediately. 

 

Is epilepsy treatable?

Yes, there are a few different treatments. However, your vet won’t start these unless your dog has long seizures, or lots of seizures over the space of two weeks. 

If your dog only has a seizure every few months, they don’t need treatment unless the time between seizures gets shorter. 

Once your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, they’re unlikely to stop having seizures completely. However, with regular check-ups to make sure there are no damaging side effects, there’s no reason your dog can’t live a long and happy life. 

Got a question about your dog’s epilepsy? Speak to our resident vet.