Canine Epilepsy & Ataxia Symptoms

Updated November 21, 2016

Epilepsy is a condition in which the patient suffers from reoccurring seizures. Unfortunately, dogs too, suffer from epilepsy. These seizures can last for just a few moments to several hours. Canine epilepsy is not a curable disease and treatment is aimed at decreasing the severity, length and frequency of the seizures. Some medications―specifically anti-seizure medications―can cause ataxia, which is a whole new plethora of symptoms in addition to epilepsy.

Partial Seizures

Seizures of any type are the main symptom of canine epilepsy. In a partial seizure, only one side or portion of the body is affected. For most dogs, partial seizures are usually due to a brain lesion.

Grand Mal Seizures

A grand mal seizure is a type of generalised seizure that occurs in canine epilepsy and affects the entire canine body. Dogs who are experiencing a grand mal seizure will fall onto their side and suffer from convulsions. These convulsions may give the dog the appearance of paddling or swimming. During a grand mal seizure, the dog may also suffer from hyper salivation and loss of control over bowel movements―often resulting in defecation and urination during the seizure.

Petit Mal Seizures

Petit mal seizures are also a type of generalised seizure, meaning it affects the entire canine body. In a petit mal seizure, the affected dog will simply collapse and lose consciousness. However, unlike a grand mal seizure, there are no muscle spasms or convulsions during a petit mal seizure.


Dogs suffering from ataxia may frequently lose their balance, especially after sudden movements such as turning their head or changing direction when running.


A drunken-like gait is a symptom of canine ataxia. Dogs who are suffering from ataxia will have difficulty walking and may cross their feet or stumble, even when walking in a straight line.


Nystagmus is a condition in which the eyes twitch, either side to side, up and down or in a circular motion.

Lack of Coordination

Canine ataxia can also cause a lack of coordination that can result in the affected dog falling, tripping, collapsing or falling over.


Muscle weakness, especially in the hind legs, is also common in dogs suffering from ataxia. During the introduction of anti-seizure medications, many dogs suffer from temporary weakness or a total loss of control of the hind legs. Weakness can be mild to severe and can prevent the dog from everyday activities such as running, jumping or walking. If the weakness is due to a seizure, the owner can expect strength to return within a few days to a few weeks following an epileptic fit.

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