As our furry companions grow older, it's not uncommon for them to face various health challenges. One such concern that can cause distress for both the dog and its owner is seizures. Seizures in older dogs can be a worrying experience, but understanding the causes, symptoms, and how to manage them can help provide the best possible care for your aging canine friend.

Seizures in Dog

As dogs age, their bodies undergo various changes, just like humans. Seizures, which are sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, can occur in older dogs due to a variety of reasons. While it's distressing to witness your beloved companion experiencing a seizure, being well-informed about the condition can empower you to provide the care they need.

What are Seizures?

Seizures are neurological events that can manifest in a range of ways. They can involve convulsions, muscle twitching, excessive salivation, and loss of consciousness. Seizures can be classified into primary and secondary seizures. Primary seizures are idiopathic, meaning their cause is unknown, while secondary seizures are triggered by an underlying health issue.

Causes of Seizures in Older Dogs

Seizures in older dogs can stem from various factors, some of which might surprise you. Understanding the potential causes can aid in better management and prevention. Here's a stepwise breakdown of the factors that can contribute to seizures in aging canines:

  • Metabolic Imbalances: As dogs age, their metabolism can change. Issues like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney dysfunction can trigger seizures.
  • Brain Tumors: The risk of brain tumors increases with age. These abnormal growths can disrupt brain activity and lead to seizures.
  • Liver Disease: Liver disorders, including hepatic encephalopathy, can result in toxin buildup in the brain, potentially causing seizures.
  • Toxic Substances: Older dogs might inadvertently ingest toxic substances that affect their neurological functions, leading to seizures. These can include certain plants, medications, or chemicals.
  • Infections: Infections affecting the brain or nervous system, such as encephalitis, can trigger seizures in older dogs.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some breeds have a genetic predisposition to seizures. Age can exacerbate these tendencies.
  • Trauma: Previous head injuries or trauma sustained earlier in life can contribute to the development of seizures as the dog ages.
  • Cognitive Dysfunction: Similar to dementia in humans, older dogs can experience cognitive dysfunction, which might lead to seizures as brain functions decline.
  • Stroke: Older dogs are at a higher risk of strokes, which can disrupt blood flow to the brain and trigger seizures.
  • Medication Interactions: Dogs on long-term medications for other health conditions might experience interactions that lead to seizures.

Remember, identifying the specific cause of seizures is crucial for proper management. Consulting a veterinarian is the first step toward providing the necessary care.

Recognizing Seizure Symptoms

Spotting seizure symptoms in older dogs requires careful observation. The signs can vary, but here's what to look out for:

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  • Sudden Muscle Jerking: Uncontrolled muscle movements, twitching, or jerking can indicate a seizure.
  • Altered Consciousness: Dogs might become disoriented, unresponsive, or appear dazed during a seizure.
  • Excessive Drooling: Seizures can trigger excessive salivation or frothing at the mouth.
  • Loss of Bodily Control: Dogs might urinate or defecate involuntarily during a seizure.
  • Repetitive Movements: Pacing, circling, or running in circles without reason can be indicative of a seizure.
  • Unusual Vocalizations: Whining, howling, or barking excessively during a seizure can occur.
  • Changes in Behavior: Drastic shifts in behavior before or after a seizure, such as sudden aggression or confusion, can be signs.

Diagnosis and Veterinary Consultation

If you suspect your older dog is experiencing seizures, seeking professional guidance is essential. Here's the process of diagnosis and what to expect during a veterinary consultation:

  • Medical History: Your vet will start by gathering your dog's medical history, including any prior health issues or incidents that could be relevant.
  • Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination will help the vet assess your dog's overall health and identify any neurological abnormalities.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Depending on the findings, the vet might recommend diagnostic tests such as blood work, urine analysis, and imaging scans like MRIs or CT scans.
  • Neurological Assessment: The vet will perform neurological tests to assess reflexes, coordination, and sensory responses, helping to pinpoint the potential cause of seizures.
  • Discussion and Planning: If seizures are confirmed, the vet will discuss potential causes, treatment options, and a customized plan for managing the condition.

Remember, early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve the quality of life for your older dog. Veterinary professionals are your best allies in providing the care your furry friend needs.

Treatment Options

Dealing with seizures in older dogs requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the specific cause and individual needs of the dog. Here are some treatment options to consider:

  • Medication: Depending on the diagnosis, your vet might prescribe anticonvulsant medications to manage and reduce the frequency of seizures.
  • Underlying Cause: If the seizures are secondary to an underlying health issue, addressing and treating that issue can lead to seizure control.
  • Dietary Changes: In some cases, dietary modifications can help manage seizures. Your vet might recommend a diet rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients.
  • Avoid Triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers that could prompt seizures, such as stress or certain foods, can play a significant role in management.
  • How Often Vet: Scheduled veterinary visits are crucial to monitor your dog's progress, adjust medications, and ensure overall well-being.

Medication and Seizure Management

Medications are often a cornerstone of managing seizures in older dogs. Here's how they work and what to expect:

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  • Phenobarbital: This common anticonvulsant helps control seizures by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Regular blood tests may be necessary to monitor its levels.
  • Potassium Bromide: Another medication that can be used alone or in combination with phenobarbital, potassium bromide helps manage seizure activity.
  • Monitoring: During medication adjustment, your vet will monitor your dog closely for side effects and assess the effectiveness of the chosen treatment.
  • Dosage Adjustments: Dosages might need to be adjusted over time to find the optimal balance between seizure control and managing potential side effects.

Lifestyle Adjustments for Seizure-Prone Dogs

Creating a safe and supportive environment is essential for dogs prone to seizures. Here's how you can make necessary lifestyle adjustments:

  • Eliminate Hazards: Remove objects that could cause injury during a seizure, such as sharp furniture corners or fragile items.
  • Soft Surfaces: Provide comfortable bedding or mats to prevent injury during a seizure episode.
  • Quiet Space: Create a calm and quiet space where your dog can rest and recover after a seizure.
  • Routine and Stability: Maintain a consistent daily routine to reduce stress and separation anxiety, which can be triggers for seizures.
  • Limit Strenuous Activities: While regular exercise is crucial, avoid intense activities that might trigger exhaustion or stress.
  • Stress Management: Minimize changes in the environment, loud noises, or situations that could induce stress.
  • Easing Fear at the Vet: Keep up with regular check-ups to monitor your dog's health and make any necessary adjustments to their care plan.

Supportive Care and Environment

Creating a supportive and comfortable environment is essential for dogs dealing with seizures. Here's how you can ensure your furry companion's well-being:

  • Calming Environment: Keep the living space quiet and peaceful to minimize stress triggers. Providing a secure haven can help your dog feel secure.
  • Comfortable Resting Area: Offer a soft, cozy bed where your dog can rest comfortably, especially after a seizure episode.
  • Regular Routine: Dogs thrive on routine. Stick to a consistent schedule for feeding, exercise, and rest to reduce anxiety.
  • Gentle Handling: During and after seizures, handle your dog gently and calmly. Avoid sudden movements that might startle them.
  • Cuddle Time: Spend quality time with your dog to provide emotional support. Physical touch and soothing words can do wonders.

Nutrition and Seizure Control

Proper dog nutrition plays a role in managing seizures. Consider these nutritional factors for your older dog:

Fi GPS Collar
  • Balanced Diet: Opt for high-quality commercial dog food or prepare homemade meals that provide essential nutrients for overall health.
  • Consultation: Consult your veterinarian for dietary recommendations that might help control seizures. They might suggest specific supplements or ingredients.
  • Hydration: Ensure your dog stays hydrated. Dehydration can worsen seizure episodes and impact recovery.
  • Avoid Triggers: Some dogs might have dietary triggers for seizures. If you notice a pattern, work with your vet to eliminate those foods.

Alternative Therapies

In addition to conventional treatments, some dog owners explore alternative therapies to complement seizure management. Here are a few options:

  • Acupuncture: This ancient practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow. Some dogs find relief from seizures through acupuncture.
  • CBD Oil: Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is gaining popularity for its potential to reduce seizures in dogs. However, its use should be discussed with a vet.
  • Herbal Supplements: Certain herbs like valerian root or chamomile might have calming effects that help reduce seizure triggers. Always consult a vet before introducing new supplements.
  • Massage and Physical Therapy: These techniques can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

Remember, while alternative therapies might offer benefits, they should be approached with caution and under the guidance of a veterinarian. It's crucial to ensure that any chosen therapy is safe and effective for your dog.

Monitoring and Keeping Records

Tracking your dog's seizures and responses to treatment is vital for effective management. Here's how to monitor and keep accurate records:

  • Seizure Journal: Maintain a journal to record the date, time, duration, and details of each seizure episode.
  • Triggers: Note any potential triggers, such as stressful events, changes in routine, or dietary factors.
  • Medication and Dosages: Keep track of medication administration and any adjustments made by your veterinarian.
  • Behavior Changes: Record any behavioral changes, improvements, or setbacks you observe.
  • Vet Visits: Document the outcomes of veterinary appointments, including test results and treatment recommendations.

Coping with Seizures: Emotional Support for Dog Owners

Witnessing your dog have a seizure can be emotionally challenging. Here's how to provide emotional support for both your furry friend and yourself:

  • Stay Calm: During a seizure, remain composed. Your dog can sense your emotions, so your calm presence can help reassure them.
  • Comforting Touch: Gently stroke or hold your dog if they're comfortable with it. Your touch can provide reassurance.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn more about your dog's condition. Understanding seizures can help alleviate some of the fear and anxiety.
  • Support Groups: Join online or local support groups for dog owners dealing with seizures. Sharing experiences and advice can be immensely comforting.
  • Professional Help: If you find it challenging to cope emotionally, consider speaking to a therapist or counselor.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Knowing when a seizure warrants immediate veterinary attention is crucial. Here's when to seek emergency care:

  • Prolonged Seizures: If a seizure lasts for more than five minutes or occurs in clusters without recovery time in between.
  • Breathing Difficulties: If your dog has trouble breathing during or after a seizure, seek help promptly.
  • New Symptoms: If the seizure introduces new symptoms, such as severe disorientation or paralysis.
  • Injury: If your dog injures themselves during a seizure, especially if bleeding occurs.
  • Unconsciousness: If your dog doesn't regain consciousness after a seizure, urgent veterinary care is necessary.

Remember, your veterinarian is your best resource for determining when emergency care is needed. Prompt attention can make a significant difference in your dog's well-being.


Seizures in older dogs can be challenging, but with knowledge, patience, and proper care, you can provide your furry companion with the best possible quality of life. Remember to work closely with your veterinarian to tailor a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your dog's specific needs.


Q1: Can seizures be cured in older dogs?

  • Seizures can often be managed but not always cured. The goal is to minimize their frequency and impact on the dog's well-being.

Q2: Are there breeds more prone to seizures?

  • Certain breeds have a genetic predisposition to seizures, but they can occur in any dog regardless of breed.

Q3: Are natural remedies effective in controlling seizures?

  • While some natural remedies may help, it's necessary to consult a veterinarian before introducing them, as they might interact with prescribed medications.

Q4: Can diet make a difference in seizure frequency?

  • A balanced diet can contribute to overall health, but it might not eliminate seizures. Consult your vet for personalized dietary recommendations.

Q5: How can I keep my dog safe during a seizure?

  • Clear the area around your dog to prevent injuries, and remain calm. Note the duration of the seizure for your records and seek veterinary advice if necessary.