Leading a happy life with canine epilepsy14 January 2016


You may be surprised to learn that the most common time for a dog to have a seizure is when they are relaxed and quiet, sometimes even when they are asleep. Although a seizure can occur at any time, it is less likely that your dog will have an epileptic seizure when they are excited, lively or exercising.

Many owners are able to sense when their dog is about to have a seizure. This is typically because the first phase of an epileptic seizure is a change in your dog’s behaviour. You may notice a change in your dog’s anxiety levels, bodily functions or voluntary movements See the "Seizures" section for more information.


Whilst epilepsy is not curable, the condition can be controlled. There are medications available for long-term use which can reduce the number of seizures your dog has.

Treatment is highly individual, so it is always best to speak to your vet.


Seizures vary greatly. They can be as mild as lip twitching on one side of your dog's face, or as severe as your dog falling to the floor and thrashing around. A seizure can last from a few seconds to minutes or hours. The longer a seizure lasts, the more serious it is and the more necessary it is to seek urgent veterinary advice. See "What should I do when my dog is having a seizure?" for more information.

Although seizures can be distressing to watch, they are usually short-lived and on average last less than two minutes. Filming your dog having a seizure and recording details of the event in your dog's seizure diary can help you to know when you need to call the vet See "Practical tools".


During a seizure

During a seizure, your dog is unconscious and they are unaware of the physical movements that their body is making during this time. It is common for dogs to vocalise during a seizure as well as lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. Your dog is not in pain during a seizure.

Post-seizure recovery

Your dog may be completely fine after a seizure, but disorientation and a lack of coordination are common. Your dog may bump into things around the house or fall down the stairs if they are not able to stand properly. If possible, keep your dog away from stairs or sharp objects that they could fall on during this time See “What should I do when my dog is having a seizure?” for more information.

Repeated seizures in a short space of time

If your dog has been having a seizure for more than five minutes or if they have had multiple seizures in a day, then you should contact your vet immediately.

Physical injury during a seizure

It is very rare for a dog to injure itself during a seizure. If they do, it is likely to be a minor injury from bumping or hitting an object such as a coffee table or possibly from biting their tongue. Your dog will not swallow its tongue so NEVER put your hand in or near your dog’s mouth when they are having a seizure. If you are concerned about an injury that your dog has sustained during a seizure you should call your vet.

Seizures for more than five minutes

Seizures which go on for a long time cause the body temperature to rise. This can cause damage to the brain, and other organs such as the liver and kidneys. If your dog has been seizuring for more than five minutes or if they have had multiple seizures in a day then you should contact your vet immediately.


Contact your vet immediately if:

  • Your dog has its first seizure
  • Your dog has a seizure which goes on for more than five minutes
  • Your dog has repeated seizures in a short space of time.
  • You are at all concerned

Contact your vet for a routine appointment if:

  • Your dog is due for its regular epilepsy check-up
  • You are concerned that your dog’s seizures are getting worse or if you have any concerns about their treatment or how you can help to manage their condition