Q: Jolie, my 2-year-old beagle, just had a seizure. It lasted less than a minute, and then she was fine. What should I do if this happens again?
A: Rather than thinking about the next seizure, which may or may not occur, you should consult your veterinarian about this one.
Your vet will try to determine the cause in an effort to prevent further seizures. Common triggers in young dogs are toxins such as lead or the artificial sweetener xylitol, infectious diseases such as canine distemper, metabolic disturbances such as hypoglycemia or liver disease, and head trauma.
Epilepsy, which is characterized by recurrent seizures not due to any of these physical causes, generally starts at one to four years of age.
When seizures begin in an older dog, they often are rooted in a metabolic disturbance or brain tumor.
While Jolie’s seizure is fresh on your mind, start a seizure diary, where you’ll document this seizure and any further ones. Record the length and description of the convulsions as well as any abnormal behaviors before or immediately after the seizure. Note whether Jolie vocalized or experienced urinary or bowel incontinence. Include the times of Jolie’s last meal and exercise, and whether she was overly excited before the seizure.
If Jolie has another seizure, take a video from the moment her abnormal behavior or movements begin until she is normal again. Then email the video to your veterinarian.
During a seizure, protect Jolie from falling off furniture or tumbling down stairs. Keep yourself safe, too, by avoiding Jolie’s mouth. During a seizure, she is unconscious and unable to control her muscles, so she may bite down hard.
If Jolie is still convulsing after five minutes, or if she experiences two or more seizures within a 24-hour period, take her to a veterinarian immediately. Sustained seizures increase body temperature and can damage organs.
Fortunately, medications, acupuncture and dietary changes can decrease the frequency and severity of seizures.
Editor’s Note: Knowing how to stabilize your dog during an emergency can help save its life. Here are some common emergency situations and pet first aid tips.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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