Your furriest companion probably doesn't require much beyond the basics—food, water, affection, and regular walks—but if he's epileptic, he needs your calm, loving support, too. Epileptic seizures in pets are scary and heartbreaking to witness. One minute your pet is fine; the next he's on the ground trembling violently. Fortunately most episodes don't last long (typically a few minutes or less).  A seizure is an uncontrollable, burst of neurologic activity in the brain and sadly, there's nothing you can do to stop an episode. What you can do is educate yourself about the problem and help your buddy get through it.

What Is Pet Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is generally the name for seizures that have no other identifiable cause, explains Danielle Chapman DVM, MRCVS, a celebrity veterinarian who practices in the United States and the United Kingdom. She says that epilepsy affects up to 3 percent of dogs. In rare cases, cats can also experience seizures, but the cause is usually something other than epilepsy.

A Genetic Link

In animals that have epilepsy, it's often caused by genetics. Certain breeds can be especially prone to the problem, including beagles, Dachshunds, Keeshonden, German Shepherds, and Belgian Tervurens, among others, says Chapman. (Other breeds can also be affected.) Most animals with epilepsy are born with the condition and will have their first seizure early in life—usually between 1 and 5 years of age. When animals develop seizures at an older age however, it could be due to another medical condition, such as a brain tumor, stroke, or low blood sugar. A variety of blood tests can help to pinpoint the exact cause.

What You Can Do

If your pet experiences a seizure, either from epilepsy or as the result of some other health issue, it's important to stay calm. Here's how to help your pet through the episode:

  • Monitor your animal during the seizure to try to help keep her safe.
  • If your pet is on the couch or bed, stay nearby to keep her from falling off.
  • Block any sharp edges of furniture or stairs to prevent your pet from becoming injured.
  • Keep the animal away from water.
  • Remove other pets from the area, since some animals may become aggressive after a seizure.
  • Keep your fingers away from your pet's mouth to avoid being bitten.
  • Record the time the seizure begins and ends.
  • If your pet has one seizure that is less than three minutes and then seems to recover completely, contact your veterinarian's office for further instructions.
  • If the seizure lasts more than three minutes, cool the pet with cool (not cold) water on the ears and feet, and seek veterinary attention immediately.
  • When two or more seizures occur in a 24-hour period, get veterinary attention as soon as possible.
  • Do NOT attempt to try to end the seizure.

Treating Pet Epilepsy

The good news is that most pets with epilepsy can lead relatively normal lives. Chapman recommends talking to your veterinarian about the various options that are available to control seizure frequency. There are several different medications on the market that can help limit the number of seizures, depending on your pet's specific circumstances and needs. Just be aware that your pet may need to undergo a periodic blood test to make sure that the organs are functioning properly while taking seizure meds. Once treatment begins, it's essential not to miss any doses of seizure medication. In addition, talk to your vet about your pet's diet, since ensuring adequate nutrition can also be helpful in managing pet epilepsy.

Danielle Chapman, DVM, MRCVS, reviewed this article.



Canine Epilepsy Resources. 22 May 2013.

Veterinary Information Network (VIN) Nd Web 20 May 2013.