A seizure is a sudden uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain. They are classified as either:
* complete (loss of consciousness with convulsions); or
* partial (anything from "zoning out", localised limb twitching or even "fly snapping" behaviour).
They are a relatively common occurrence in dogs (and to a lesser degree in cats), and can be very frightening. Here are some guidelines to help you respond appropriately:
DO consider your own safety first, DO NOT get injured yourself!
DO protect them from injuring themselves: If possible place a pillow under their head, move furniture that they may bump into, ensure that they are not going to fall from a height or into water.
DO minimise external stimuli: Turn off lights, the radio, the television, do not scream and shout.
DO remove other pets from the area: Other pets may act aggressively towards the fitting animal, and in turn the the fitting animal may act aggressively as they come out of the fit.
DO record details of the seizure: How long it lasts, the date it occurred, what happened before, during and after the seizure.
DO monitor your pet - after the seizure as well as during. They are likely to suffer a 'post-ictal' phase of confusion or disorientation and may need extra reassurance or assistance during this period. Be ready to commence CPR should they lose consciousness or stop breathing .
DO contact your vet if the seizure lasts longer than a couple of minutes.
DO cool your pet down after the seizure has occurred - hyperthermia following seizures is common.
DO NOT try to restrain your pet.
DO NOT try to stop them "swallowing their tongue". This does not occur and trying to pull the tongue out will likely just result in you getting bitten and the pet chewing on its own tongue.
If your pet is a diabetic receiving insulin injections they may be seizuring because of low blood sugar levels. In this situation you can try to apply some sugar, glucose powder or honey to their gums (again, don’t get bitten!) before heading off to the vet.
The most common cause of seizures is idiopathic epilepsy (seizures without any identifiable underlying cause). However, there are many other causes such as head trauma, toxins, metabolic disease, heat stroke, inflammatory or infectious disease or structural changes to the brain. If your pet has a seizure, we recommend that you make an appointment with your vet so that they can investigate further and try to figure out why the seizure occurred, as well as whether treatment is indicated.