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A dog can still lead a normal life even if they are suffering from epilepsy. However, the seizures could be fatal in some cases.
A seizure that lasts for one or two minutes will not harm your dog. But any seizure that lasts for too long (five minutes or more) could result in death.
Having more than one seizure in a day, which is referred to as cluster seizures, could also be fatal.
Medics warn that dogs with cluster seizures or seizures that last more than five minutes have a 25% more mortality rate than those that don’t.
In addition to duration and frequency, the probability of a seizure resulting in the death of a dog is also largely dependent on what caused it.
If the seizure is a result of a brain tumor, head trauma, toxins, organ malfunction, or some other serious health issue, the chances of the seizure resulting in death are quite high.
If the dog is suffering from idiopathic epilepsy, the probability of death from seizures is significantly lower.
Also, studies have shown that some breeds are more susceptible to seizures than others.
We can therefore infer that the breeds that are more susceptible to seizures are also more likely to die from seizures.
Dogs with the highest prevalence of seizures are Pugs, Border Terriers, Boxers, Border Collies, Basset Hounds, Springer Spaniels, Shetland Sheepdogs, St. Bernards, Poodles, Keeshonds, Vizslas, Labrador retrievers, Irish Setters, Golden retrievers, Dachshunds, Belgian Tervurens, and Beagles.
Management and Treatment of Cluster Seizures
A dog that has seizures once in a blue moon will most likely lead a normal life without any need for an emergency visit to the vet.
The problem is when the seizures become too common. If you hear your vet use terms like cluster seizures, flurry seizures, or serial seizures, then your dog is in bad shape and the treatment will most likely be costly.
Treatment of cluster seizures is usually a three-pronged process.
The first step is treating the seizures to try to prevent or reduce the occurrence of follow-up seizures in the short term.
The second step of treatment is aimed at improving the ability to control the seizures for the long term.
The third step entails administering medications that are aimed at reducing any follow-on seizures.
According to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, you can manage dog seizures at home but you should consult a vet and start a regular treatment in the event of any of the following conditions.
- When your dog has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes or if your dog has more than 2 seizures in one day.
- If your dog has a history of brain ailments or if he has a mass or lesion.
- If your dog experiences unusual, severe, and prolonged post-seizure moments
- If your dog gets more than two seizures in less than 6 months.
Related Post: How to Tell If a Dog Is Having a Seizure While Sleeping
There is no one-treatment-fits-all. Your vet will examine the dog and recommend the best treatment to go with.
The seizures may not be controlled immediately after the treatment commences. It could take weeks or months for you to see any noticeable difference.
It is important to observe and record every seizure during this initial treatment phase because an adjustment on the medication might be needed depending on the therapeutic blood levels and the seizure activity.
Besides, the medication will not eliminate the seizures—it will only control and reduce them to manageable levels.
With the right treatment, most of the dogs will recover and get to a place where they can be controlled or managed at home even when the seizures come back.
Cluster seizures can be caused by organ malfunctions, head trauma, or brain tumors. But for the most part, they are a result of a condition referred to as status epilepticus. This condition is characterized by prolonged seizures that can prove fatal if not treated.
Intravenous anticonvulsants should be administered not only to stop the seizures but also to prevent irreversible brain damage.
If it’s the first time your dog is experiencing a prolonged seizure, the vet will examine him by taking the history to establish the cause.
One of the things the vet will check for is if the dog has any exposure to hallucinogenic and poisonous substances that are known to cause seizures.
Any head trauma history will also be considered. The vet will then do a physical exam that may include an electrocardiogram as well as an examination of urine and blood samples. The idea is to rule out any liver, heart, or kidney disorders.
If the vet performs all these tests and establishes that the dog wasn’t exposed to any poisonous substances, additional diagnostics might be prescribed.
However, this will only be required if the dog has frequent seizures because a dog that has one or fewer seizures per month is not considered to be in danger.
Spinal fluid analysis may however be recommended for those that have more frequent episodes.
More specialized tests like CT scans may also be done depending on the availability of equipment and specialists.
All these tests are done to get to the root cause before the medication starts. It is important to get it right from the get-go because anticonvulsant medications have to be given for life.
Discontinuing anticonvulsant medications will most likely lead to a relapse and increase the chances of death.
Even a normal dog that is placed on anticonvulsant medication and then withdrawn also stands the same risk.
What to Do When Your Dog Has A Seizure
This cannot be overemphasized – take your dog to the vet immediately your dog has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes or if he has more than 3 seizures in under 24 hours.
Here are some other important safety precautions that will help you manage seizures in your dog without causing more problems for your furry friend.
- Check to make sure your dog is in a safe place. It might not be practical to move your dog during a seizure but you can try to make where they are safer. For instance, if they are on the couch, throw some pillows on the floor near him just in case he falls over.
- Don’t attempt to pull his tongue. There is a common misconception that a dog can swallow his tongue during a seizure and some people think it’s a great idea to pull their tongue. But this is just a misconception and you shouldn’t put your hand in a dog’s mouth when he is convulsing. The dog can accidentally bite you because he is unconscious and isn’t aware of what you are doing.
- Check your dog’s collar to ensure it doesn’t get stuck in something. During those jerking movements during a seizure, your dog could easily stick his collar on something which could result in a serious and potentially fatal accident.
- Monitor the dog after the seizure. It is common for your dog to get disoriented after a seizure. For this reason, you may want to watch him keenly to ensure he doesn’t get injured. You can calmly pet him to help him regain normalcy before he starts walking and playing again.
To sum it up, it is true that your dog can die from a seizure but that can only happen in two scenarios; if your dog has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes or if your dog has more than 2 seizures in one day.
That said, it is not necessarily a death sentence. If you get to a vet right away, the dog can be treated and get to live.
Seizures that last more than 5 minutes are fatal because they can result in brain damage and extremely high body temperatures.
This is why you should arrange an emergency vet visit as soon as your dog starts seizing to avoid any rude shocks down the road.
Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.