Older dogs experience seizures for a variety of reasons. The most recognised cause of seizures in dogs is epilepsy. A dog can develop epilepsy at any age, but when an older dog suddenly gets seizures it can indicate something serious.
According to Doctors Foster and Smith of Pet Education.com, seizures are the uncoordinated firing of the neurons most often found in the cerebrum, the largest portion of the brain.
Seizures may start with small, sudden twitches or spasms on one side or on the whole body. During a severe episode, the spasms may become violent. A dog many salivate and even urinate or defecate while seizing. Its eyes will dilate and be unresponsive; the dog may also become unconscious.
There are several known causes for seizures in older dogs. According to the College of Veterinary Medicine of North Carolina University, seizures in dogs 5 years or older may be a sign of brain tumours. Other possible causes include head trauma, ingesting something toxic, heart worm disease and late-onset epilepsy.
There are three types of seizures: facial, or partial, seizures, petit mal and grand mal seizures. Partial seizures only affect one part of the body, often the face. Petit mal seizures are less severe than grand mal seizures, and the dog often stays conscious throughout. Grand mal seizures are the most severe and the most recognised type. The worst type of seizure is one where a dog will experience several grand mal seizures in a row without being able to recover in-between.
There are three phases of seizures in dogs. Pre-seizure phase usually happens several minutes prior to the actual seizure. Your dog may seem restless, be unusually affectionate, or whine. The actual seizure is called ictus and will last approximately five minutes. Post-ictal phase is the final phase and when recovery can begin.
The best way to treat seizures in an older dog is to find the cause. Regular visits to your veterinarian are a must to help keep a record of your dog's seizures. The vet can also determine the best course of action. Depending on the cause, he may also be able to prescribe medicine to keep the seizures to a minimum.
Stay calm. Keep your hands away from your dog's mouth, as it may accidentally bite down. If possible, move your dog to the floor and away from any heavy objects. Petting its back and hips can calm your dog during a seizure; just make sure to stay away from its legs and claws. Watch your dog closely and contact your veterinarian if the seizure lasts more than three minutes.
After a seizure your dog should rest in order to build its energy levels back up. This is a natural reaction to a seizure and shouldn't cause alarm. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes in behaviour or personality changes in your dog following a seizure, as this may indicate brain damage.