What triggers feline or canine seizures is not exactly known but the general observation is that seizures usually happen when animals are excited. This excitement may increase during play or any cue that signifies that play is about to begin. It is also not uncommon for dogs to have seizures during sleep; however, this should not be confused with barking and shaking while sleep. A dog may bark or shake in his sleep if he is dreaming. But if the dog is having a real seizure, he is not likely to be awakened.
Seizures are classified according to their severity and duration as mild, moderate, clustered and severe.
- Mild or Petit Mal
- Momentary seizure with symptoms limited to blank stares or upward eye movements.
- Moderate or Grand Mal
- This is characterized by the dog falling down, loss of consciousness and rigidity in the legs. Grand mal normally lasts for one to three minutes, followed by a period of restlessness, running around and bumping into objects.
- Status Epilepticus
- The severest type of seizure that lasts for ten minutes or more at a time or as a series of continuous seizures in a short time without regaining consciousness.
- Cluster Seizures
- Multiple seizures within a day, as serious as and difficult to distinguish from status epilepticus
Seizures are unpredictable and can occur at any time. Status epilepticus and cluster seizure can prove to be fatal. Normally the pre-seizure period, known as aura, lasts only for a few seconds and is not easily noticeable. The dog may appear restless or be excessively affectionate, whine, wander or hide or snap at the air during the pre-seizure period.
The actual seizure is known as ictus, a sudden occurrence, or recurrence of a disease. This period may last a couple of seconds to several minutes. Depending on the severity of the attack, the dog experiences involuntary urination or defecation, loss of control of the limbs, convulsions. In such a state the dog may paddle as if he is swimming, at times. The post seizure period is marked by confusion, loss of bladder control, distress and disorientation.
Seeing your dog in a seizure can be a harrowing experience for owners, especially if it is the first time. Although the dog himself does not feel any pain, he is in an agonizing state wherein he has no control over his movements. Even when conscious he is not likely to be aware of what his going around him.
It is advisable to keep a distance from the dog and approach him only from behind to gently pat his back. Do not panic and make sure to note the details of the various symptoms that appear during the seizure. This will be of great help to the veterinarian and will aid him in arriving at the type of seizure that has occurred.
Apart from feline and canine seizures, any physiological disease that disturbs the neurological impulses from the brain can also cause seizures. All types of seizures, even those you are not very sure of should be reported to a veterinarian. Left untreated, there is a great likelihood of the condition aggravating and resulting in recurrent and cluster seizures.