Causes of Dog Seizures

In England they often call them “fits” – what happens when the brain loses control of the body. In America, they are more commonly called seizures. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief summary as to some of the many causes of dog seizures.

EPILEPSY. The primary cause of dog seizures is epilepsy, but it is important to make the distinction that not all seizures are attributable to epilepsy. The most common form of epilepsy was made known to the world by a group of idiots walking through the woods one day and they all found themselves on the same path, and collectively observed a wolf in a clearing doing the hokey-pokey. They reported this unusual sighting to the forest rangers and the term “idiopathic epilepsy” was coined. Well, that’s not exactly true, but the scientific reason is a bit more boring and doesn’t make any more sense. In short, the term “idiopathic epilepsy” is a catch-all for when the experts just don’t know what is causing a dog to have seizures.

TOXINS. Unfortunately for dogs, there are all kinds of toxins in their environment, many of which can cause seizures. These toxins range from poisons to get rid of rodents or slugs to flea powders or chemicals that are actually meant for dogs to wear as collars. Antifreeze, insecticides and paint products are also known toxins which can not only induce seizures, but can kill the unwitting animal that ingests them. With early treatment and intervention, most animals have a good to fair prognosis of making a full recovery if they have a seizure as a result of an environmental poisoning.

BRAIN TUMORS. Obviously, one of the easiest things to rule out, as a cause of dog seizures, is whether there is an abnormal growth in the dog’s brain. Growths cause pressure on the brain tissue, which in turn can cause seizures and other neurological abnormalities. Fortunately, there are diagnostic tests (MRI or CAT scans) that can determine if that is the problem; however, only a very small percentage of dog seizures are caused by tumors or head injuries. In either case, anti-epileptic drugs would not be effective for dogs suffering from seizures caused by either of them.

TICK INDUCED DISEASES. The bite of the bloodsucking arachnid known as a tick can cause Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, both of which can cause dog seizures. If the tick is discovered within the first 24 hours after it has attached itself to the dog, the chance of infection is greatly reduced. There are antibiotics that can kill Lyme Disease, and most dogs respond quite well in general to antibiotics.

DISTEMPER. Distemper, in which a fever develops, then diarrhea and dehydration, can cause seizures in dogs, especially puppies, when they lose their maternal antibodies at about the age of 3 months. Only through the use of vaccinations can this debilitating disease be prevented, and once a dog has acquired it, they have a fight ahead for their very lives.