Leading a happy life with canine epilepsy14 January 2016

Have you got a question about canine epilepsy? Here, you will find answers to the most common questions about the condition.

Q: What is a seizure?

A seizure is caused by excessive electrical activity in the brain. The outward result of this excessive electrical activity varies. It can be as mild as lip twitching on one side of the dog’s face or as severe as a dog falling to the floor and thrashing around. A seizure can last from a few seconds to minutes or hours. The longer a seizure goes on, the more serious it is and the more necessary it is to seek urgent veterinary advice.

Q: What are the signs a dog is about to have a seizure?

Seizures vary greatly between dogs and so do the signs that a dog is about to have one. You may notice some of the following:

  • Changes in your dog’s movements, such as pacing or licking their lips
  • Changes in your dog’s bodily functions, such as salivating, urinating or vomiting
  • Changes in your dog’s anxiety level, such as attention seeking, whining, excessive barking or even withdrawing and hiding

As you become more familiar with epilepsy and your dog’s seizure pattern, you will become better at recognising these sometimes subtle changes in your dog’s behaviour. This will allow you to better predict when your dog may have a seizure so that you can help them through the event itself.

Q: Why did my dog have a seizure?

If your dog has a single seizure, it does not necessarily mean your dog has epilepsy. Epilepsy simply means repeated seizures. Seizures can occur as a ‘one-off’ in any dog due to a variety of causes. When seizures occur due to excessive electrical activity in the brain and reoccur over a period of time the condition is called epilepsy. If you witness your dog having a seizure for the first time you should call your vet for advice.

Q: Can epilepsy be cured?

Epilepsy is a life-long condition that cannot be cured. However it can, in most dogs, be well managed so that you and your dog can have a long and happy life together.

Q: Can I prevent epileptic seizures?

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.

Q: Will my dog grow out of having epilepsy?

It is highly unlikely a dog will grow out of having epilepsy. Dogs with primary epilepsy typically have their first seizure between one and five years of age. Epilepsy is not a curable condition or one that goes away as dogs get older. Epilepsy can be well managed, so you should speak to your vet who can provide you with more information about what you can do to help your dog.

Q: How do other dogs react around a dog which has epilepsy?

Dogs with primary epilepsy are healthy in all other respects. Humans and other dogs would not be able to recognise a dog with primary epilepsy if it passed them in the street or played with them in the park. As a result, other dogs react normally to dogs with epilepsy. If you think your dog is about to have a seizure or is in any of the three phases of a seizure, it is advisable to move other pets and children out of the way.

Q: Can dogs with epilepsy still go out for a run and play?

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 for your dog to have an epileptic seizure when they are excited, lively or exercising. Therefore, if your dog has epilepsy there is no reason why they cannot enjoy a full and active life.

Q: Can I still worm/de-flea/vaccinate my dog?

Yes. There is no reason why your epileptic dog cannot receive its entire routine, preventative health care treatments. There are some medications that may interact with anti-epileptic medications, but these are not vaccinations, wormers or flea products. If your dog is on any anti-epileptic medication and needs any other type of treatment it is worth double checking with your vet first. If you are in any doubt, you should always contact your vet.

Q: When should I contact the vet?

Contact your vet immediately if:

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

Contact your vet for a routine appointment if:

  • Your dog is due his or her 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


If your question is not answered here, or if you would like further information, please speak to your vet, or visit the 'useful link's' page.