Seizures and Convulsions in Dogs

Status Epilepticus in Dogs

Status epilepticus, or epilepsy, is a neurological condition that results in recurrent seizures in dogs.

Symptoms and Types

There are several different types of seizures or epilepsy that can affect dogs.

  • Epilepsy is used to describe recurrent or reoccurring seizures that originate from the brain

  • Idiopathic epilepsy describes a form of epilepsy that does not result in brain lesions or damage to the brain
  • Symptomatic epilepsy is used to describe primary epilepsy resulting in structural lesions or damage to the brain’s structure
  • Probably symptomatic epilepsy is used to describe suspected symptomatic epilepsy, where a patient has reoccurring seizures, but where no lesions or brain damage is apparent
  • Cluster seizure describes any situation where an animal has more than one seizure in consecutive 24-hour periods
  • Status epilepticus involves constant seizures, or activity involving brief periods where there is inactivity, but not complete relief from seizure activity.

The more seizures a dog has, the more likely there is to be damage among the neurons in the brain, and the more likely the animal is to seize again. Researchers generally classify all seizures as focal seizures, generalized seizures, and focal seizures with secondary generalization.
A focal seizure will affect only a small part of the brain. Generalized seizures tend to affect both sides of the brain.
Signs of an impending seizure may include a period of warning, where a patient will experience what is called an aura. During this time a dog may appear worried, stressed, or frightened. It may experience visual disturbances or seek help from its owner. The dog may experience contractions in its limbs or in its muscles, and may have difficulty controlling urination and bowel movements.
The dog may also experience an altered mental status before progressing to a seizure, as well as develop other neurological symptoms.


Many different factors, including the pattern of seizures, can influence the development of future seizures. For example, how old a dog is when it first develops a seizure may determine the likelihood that it will develop future seizures, reoccurring seizures, and the frequency and outcome of those seizures.


Physical symptoms may include tachycardia, muscle contractions, difficulty with breathing, low blood pressure, weak pulse, fainting, swelling in the brain, and obvious seizures. Some dogs will exhibit mental behaviors that are out of the ordinary, including symptoms of obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Some will demonstrate shaking and twitching. Others may tremble. Still others may die.
Laboratory and biochemical tests may reveal the following:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • A fatty liver
  • An infectious disease in the blood
  • Viral or fungal diseases
  • Systemic diseases


In some cases certain medical procedures, including surgery to remove tumors that may contribute to seizures, may be needed. Drugs may help reduce the frequency of seizures for some animals. Some corticosteroid medications, anti-epileptic, and anti-convulsant medications may also help to reduce the frequency of seizures. The type of medications given will depend on the type of epilepsy the animal has, as well as other underlying health conditions the animal has.
For example, steroids are not recommended for animals with infectious diseases, as they can have an adverse effect.

Living and Management

Early treatment and proper care are vital to a dog’s general health and wellness. Younger dogs are more at risk for severe forms of certain types of epilepsy, including primary and idiopathic epilepsy. Make sure you take your dog to the veterinarian early if you suspect it may be at risk for this, or any other type of disease. Together, you and your veterinarian can determine the best possible course of action for your dog.
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