It is hard watching our beloved dogs in pain. Unfortunately, some dogs deal with the discomfort of seizures. Some dogs may experience an episode once, while other canines experience them regularly.
When we need to make the tough call of when to put down a dog with seizures, there are several considerations you should make first.
The first thing you must understand is that epilepsy is common in dogs. This neurological ailment is the most common cause of seizures in dogs. Many dogs still maintain a good quality of life with epilepsy – so this diagnosis is not an automatic reason to put your dog down!
In some cases, though, it may be necessary to euthanize a dog with epilepsy. Let’s take a closer look at the condition so you can make a more well-informed decision.
What Is a Seizure in a Dog?
A seizure occurs when there’s a sudden change in the electrical signals in your dog’s brain. During this time, the seizure will control your dog, and your companion may not even be aware of what is going on.
Different types of seizures can affect our pooches:
- Focal seizures – these only affect one part of their body or just a specific muscle group.
- Tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures – cause a loss of consciousness and have violent muscle contractions.
- Atonic seizures – make the dog go limp and can cause them to fall down.
- Petit mal seizures – these are very mild and may only last a few seconds.
- Cluster seizures – characterized by several seizures in a row.
Our canine friends can experience one or more types of seizures. Often, we may not know when they will happen – they’re unpredictable and can be scary for both you and your pet.
The symptoms of a dog having a seizure can vary depending on the type of seizure. Generalized seizures involve the entire body, while focal or partial seizures are limited to one side of the body.
Seizures and epilepsy can be inherited in dogs. Consider this fact carefully before you think about breeding your dog.
Symptoms of a Seizure in Dogs
When your dog is having a seizure, you will notice the following symptoms:
- Uncontrolled muscle movements, including thrashing and twitching
- Loss of bladder control or drooling
- Foaming at the mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness
Why Do Dogs Have Seizures?
There are numerous reasons why a dog may experience seizures. The most common causes include tumors, strokes, head injuries, epilepsy, and poisoning. In some cases, we can never conclude the cause. Some seizures are related to genetic conditions, while others may be cause to put down a dog with seizures.
How Serious Are Seizures?
Seizures can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. An event may last just a few seconds or it may continue for several minutes. Your dog may experience muscle spasms, loss of bladder control, or even loss of consciousness while he is suffering a seizure.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has a Seizure?
If your dog begins to have a seizure, you should stay calm. Avoid interfering as much as possible; busy yourself instead by tracking how long the seizure lasts. If your dog cannot control his bladder or if the seizure lasts more than five minutes, you should call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Seizures that continue for more than 5 minutes, known as Status epilepticus, can be life-threatening and require immediate treatment.
The vet may put a sick dog with seizures on a treatment plan to reduce the severity or frequency of future ones. If there is no medical reason for the episode, they may prescribe medication that reduces the risk of having a seizure again.
How Long Can a Dog Seizure Last?
Seizures can range from mild to life-threatening. If your dog is having seizures for more than 5 minutes or the seizures continue for more than 10 minutes, it will be necessary to contact your veterinarian immediately.
If your dog has epilepsy, the seizure may last for a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
What Happens After a Dog Seizure?
After a seizure has concluded, check your dog for injuries it may have sustained. If your dog is disoriented or confused, you should keep a close eye on him and take your fur baby to the doctor if necessary.
Be mindful that dogs may experience anxiety or depression after a seizure. If your dog appears to be having problems coping with the seizure, you should consult with your vet. Respect your pup’s boundaries, as a dog with anxiety may be more likely to nip or act unpredictably.
Provide your pet with plenty of water and make sure he eats soon afterward. Some dogs may be lethargic or disoriented after a seizure. In most cases, the dog will return to his normal personality within a few hours.
Why Is My Dog Not the Same After a Seizure?
Some pet owners may feel like their dog is not the same after a seizure; in fact, some dogs experience complete personality changes afterward! Watch for extreme temperament changes in your dog, as these could be signs of brain or neurological damage.
Other dogs may seem like they are in a trance-like state for a few minutes or hours after the seizure has ended. While this may be confusing and concerning for pet owners, it is usually nothing to worry about. Dogs usually return to themselves within 24 hours after a seizure.
Can a Dog Recover From a Seizure?
In some cases, dogs can recover from a seizure. However, where the seizures are caused by an underlying health problem, the dog may not fully recover. If your dog has experienced brain damage, it’s a good time to consider when to put down a dog with seizures.
Can I Prevent Seizures in My Dog?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to prevent most seizures in dogs. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of seizures.
Some key factors to avoid potential seizure triggers include poisoning from lilies, onions, and garlic; exposure to rodenticides; and intake of potentially toxic plants such as yew or azalea.
You should also make sure your dog does not suffer a head injury or stroke. Stroke may happen in a dog when they have a blood clot or bleeding in the brain.
How Many Seizures Can a Dog Have Before It Dies?
There is no specific rule for how many seizures a dog can have before it dies. However, the severity of the seizure and the size of your pet will determine whether or not death can be prevented.
Most dogs that continue having seizures for more than 5 minutes are at risk of dying from them, due to the lack of oxygen reaching their brain. Body temperature can rise quickly. When seizures last that long – especially in aging pets – it can cause problems with their brain.
Some dogs only live through one seizure and never experience another one again.
What If My Dog Had 3 Seizures in One Day?
If your dog has three seizures in one day, they likely have epilepsy. Most dogs that have three seizures in one day will not survive more than a week unless it receives medication.
While every situation is different, and some dogs do experience long-term seizure-free lives after multiple seizures, it is important to remember that each seizure puts your dog at risk for brain damage or death.
Should I Euthanize My Dog With Seizures?
If your dog has been suffering from seizures, you may be wondering if it is time to put them down. This difficult and personal decision is based on your specific dog and its quality of life.
There are many factors to consider when making this decision. Think about how often the seizures occur, how long they last, and whether or not the dog seems to be in pain or discomfort. If your dog has multiple seizures a day, it is hard for it to live a normal life.
In some cases, dogs that have had a seizure may not seem like themselves afterward. If your dog remains confused or not as responsive as they once were, this could be a sign that they are suffering from brain damage and would benefit from euthanasia.
Euthanasia is a difficult and emotionally stressful decision for any pet owner, with numerous factors to consider. The age of seizure onset, the frequency of seizures, the ability to maintain control of seizures, and the duration of each individual seizure are talking points to bring to your veterinarian.
How Long Should I Wait to Euthanize My Dog?
This is a question that should be answered on a case-by-case basis, as every dog’s situation is unique. If your veterinarian feels that the quality of life for your pet has diminished and continuing to live would be more painful than putting them down, then euthanasia may be necessary.
If your dog only experiences one seizure and is otherwise healthy, then you don’t need to consider putting it down. However, if your dog is having multiple seizures and does not respond well to treatment, then euthanasia may be the best decision for both you and your pet.
When to Put Down an Old Dog Suddenly Having Seizures
If your dog is not responding to treatment, it may be time to say goodbye.
Seizures may suddenly happen in older dogs due to their age and declining health.
Consider what your dog’s quality of life is like at the moment. Does your pet no longer want to eat or drink? Has it lost a significant amount of weight?
Does your canine now have trouble walking after dealing with so many seizures? If the answer is yes, it may be time to think about when to put down a dog with seizures.
What Is the Process Like for Dog Euthanasia?
The euthanasia process for dogs is typically very peaceful and painless.
Your veterinarian will give your dog a sedative to help him relax and then will inject a lethal dose of barbiturates into his vein. Your dog will not feel any pain, but instead will simply fall asleep. His heart will slow until it eventually stops beating, and he will die peacefully in his sleep. The entire process usually takes less than five minutes.
Conclusion: When To Put Down a Dog With Seizures
There are many factors to consider when deciding when to put down a dog with seizures. If your pet has multiple seizures and is not responding well to treatment, then euthanasia may be the best decision for both of you.
You should always consult with your veterinarian to get their professional opinion on what is best for your furry friend. Remember that each situation is different, and you should make the decision that is right for you and your pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should you put a dog down because of seizures?
AVMA explains that when an animal is plagued by a disease that produces insurmountable suffering,” it can be argued that continuing to live is worse for the animal than death or that the animal no longer has an interest in living.” Scientists have described welfare as having three components: that the animal functions well, feels, and can perform behaviors that are innate or species-specific adaptations.
Suppose your companion animal no longer continues to live a good life, and the suffering and inferior quality of life far outweigh the benefits of living because of extensive pain and suffering. In that case, your veterinarian will help you make a humane decision.
Do I have to put my dog down if he has seizures?
You should always visit your vet following a seizure. Your vet needs to make a diagnosis if your dog has epilepsy, a brain tumor, head injury, or other neurological conditions. Although there are excellent treatments for seizures today, if your dog is prone to frequent episodes of cluster seizures, they are less likely to achieve remission with any treatment. AVMA adds, “A balance between quality of life and therapeutic success is often key for an owner’s commitment to their pet’s therapy.”
How many seizures can a dog have before it dies?
A seizure that lasts longer than a few minutes can result in death. Anticonvulsant drugs are used to control seizures, even those caused by epilepsy. Treatment is needed to prevent overheating, disruption of the body’s circulation, and brain damage. During a seizure, your vet will administer anticonvulsants intravenously, but these are usually given orally for long-term maintenance.
No pet parent should rush to think that euthanasia is the only alternative. For example, 60% to 70% of dogs taking medication will achieve reasonable seizure control. That said, there are senior dogs and dogs with other health conditions where euthanasia may be the only humane solution. You should always work closely with your veterinarian to ensure your dog gets the necessary care.
Are seizures painful for dogs?
Tufts explains that although seizures are awful to watch, and your dog may be confused or panicked after a seizure, seizures are not painful.
Tufts adds that you should move furniture and other objects away from your dog while he’s having a seizure but not move or pick up your dog. Your dog should have a full diagnostic workup with a veterinary neurologist.
You should also try to take a video to show your vet an episode of your dog experiencing a seizure. Working closely with your veterinarian is key in planning medication choices and changes over time to ensure that your dog gets the appropriate treatment throughout his life.
Do seizures cause brain damage in dogs?
A study published in AVMA explains that dogs with head trauma may develop seizures at a greater rate than dogs in the general canine patient population. The study also adds that seizures can occur mainly in the immediate to early posttraumatic period; clinicians should remain vigilant about developing posttraumatic seizures and treat patients accordingly.
Tufts Now adds that dogs typically have seizures while sleeping at night, so veterinarians rarely observe a patient mid-seizure. Thus the need for pet parents to video or explain in detail what the seizure looked like.
VCA Animal Hospital explains that affected dogs may appear completely normal between seizures and that a single seizure is rarely dangerous to a dog. AVMA adds, “However, if the dog has multiple seizures within a short period (cluster seizures), or if a seizure continues for longer than a few minutes, the body temperature begins to rise. If hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) develops secondary to a seizure, another set of problems needs to be addressed.
Do brain tumors cause seizures in dogs?
Brain tumors are sometimes found in younger animals but primarily in mature pets. In dogs, the brain is the most common site for primary tumors of the nervous system than the spinal cord. Brain tumors can be often found in these brachycephalic breeds that include the following:
- Boston Terrier
- English Bulldogs
- Boston Terriers
The above breeds have the highest rates of brain tumors and other dog breeds with flat faces and short noses.
Brain tumors can cause seizures in dogs, and the two conditions are likely linked. If your dog has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, it is essential to work closely with your veterinarian.
How long can an old dog live with a brain tumor?
A study of 86 dogs with brain tumors was undertaken. The study was published in PubMed and explained that “The median survival time for the 86 dogs was 1.0 month (range: 1 day-42.4 mo.). Median survival times of dogs receiving: 1) no therapy or only symptomatic therapy, 2) surgery (+/- 125I), or 3) cobalt-60 radiation (+/- hyperthermia, +/- surgery) were 0.2, 0.9, and 4.9 months, respectively.” Survival time depends on the type of tumor.
A North Carolina State study says that cancer affecting the brain is not uncommon in cats and dogs and that ” A brain tumor should be suspected whenever there is a new onset of neurological signs in an animal older than five years. It is essential to understand that brain tumors are tumors of the soft tissues of the brain, and they cannot be seen on skull radiographs.
Can dogs have memory loss after a seizure?
Many factors influence how long a dog with a brain tumor can live and whether your dog will have memory loss after a seizure. For example, the type of tumor, its location, and how aggressive it is will all affect the prognosis.
A 2018 study published in Plos One says that evidence of comorbidity between epilepsy and dementia is mounting.
Other considerations include the dog’s age, overall health, and whether or not the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment options, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can also affect the lifespan of a dog with a brain tumor. In general, most dogs with brain tumors live for only a few months after diagnosis.
Some may live for a year or more with treatment, but most will not survive longer than six months. However, brain tumors are unfortunately very common in dogs and often lead to a tragic end.
However, with advances in veterinary medicine, some dogs can now enjoy a good quality of life for months or even years after diagnosis.
If you have a dog with a brain tumor, talk to your veterinarian about all your options and make the most of your time together. North Carolina State University adds that there is also a concern for brain tumors to arise in young dogs of certain breeds, such as the Boxer or the Boston terrier.
A developing brain tumor has severe implications, and many owners feel helpless when such a diagnosis is made for their pet. N.C. State says that radiation therapy does prolong lifespan in most cases.
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Dr. Sabrina Kong graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in England in 2016 and has been working at a small animal clinic in Northern California since then. She grew up in the Bay Area and got her bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She also became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through a program at the University of Tennessee.
When she isn’t in the clinic taking care of her four-legged patients, she enjoys traveling and trying new foods with her friends and her three-legged dog, Apollo. She adopted Apollo from her clinic when he was a puppy with numerous health issues. Dr. Kong truly cares about taking care of animals.