Convulsions, fits, and seizures are more frequent in canines. Feline seizures are less common and mostly limited to complex partial seizures that mainly amount to behavioral change. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs and is mostly hereditary. Feline epilepsy, on the other hand, does not involve a genetic factor and causes are often found elsewhere.
Canine epilepsy is idiopathic in nature. However, metabolic diseases and diseases associated with the brain can be an issue for both canines and felines. Epilepsy that occurs due to an underlying disease is known as secondary epilepsy. The symptoms of epilepsy in dogs are best explained by a description of the different stages of an epileptic seizure:
Prodroma is an early symptom that a disease is developing or that an attack is about to occur. This may precede a seizure by an hour or sometimes days. In humans, this period is brings about mood changes, and headaches. It is not known whether animals experience similar symptoms. The only proof of this can be discovered through unusual behaviors they might exhibit and that can often be imperceptible to owners.
Aura is a sensation that precedes the onset of certain disorders such as a migraine attack or epilepticseizure in humans. In dogs this may manifest as restlessness, nervousness, whining, hiding, wandering and hiding behind objects. Again, this pre-ictus stage may be difficult for owners to notice unless they are very observant and in proximity to the dog when it occurs.
The actual seizure is the most noticeable if it occurs in the presence of the owner. During a seizure a number of symptoms may occur depending upon the type of the attack. Generally, there is increase in the tone of all groups of muscles. Partial seizures mostly affect one side of the body, usually the opposite of the side of the brain where electric impulses have been disturbed. Symptoms during this stage may range from behavioral changes like aggression, tail chasing and bending sideways in partial seizures to total loss of consciousness in grand mal seizures. The dog may loose control over his legs or experience involuntary urination and defecation. Other symptoms to look for include salivation, frothing, vocalization, hysterical running and paddling (walking without moving). During mild seizures the dog may be conscious but still unaware of the surroundings.
As most canine seizures occur during the night or very early in the morning, the post seizure symptoms may be the only symptoms that owners see. The post seizure symptoms can last for days and characterized by restlessness, confusion, disorientation or temporary loss of vision. If a trained dog is not responding to affection or refusing to obey commands, it should be a signal for owners to investigate and seek professional help.
Epilepsy is mainly a neurological disease whether idiopathic or due to an underlying disease. A disturbance in nerve signals is the main cause behind the abnormal behaviors that dogs display during or after an episode of epileptic seizure. The preferred treatment method is the use of anticonvulsants to calm the animal down while the underlying disease, (if diagnosed), is treated.