Flash of lighteningEpilepsy is a condition of the brain which causes seizures.  A seizure develops when there is a sudden massive surge of electrical activity in the brain which causes disruption to the brain’s normal activity.  The effect of a seizure depends on the part of the brain affected.  Some dogs may have partial seizures where just a small part of the brain is disrupted.  Other dogs have generalised seizures where the whole or most of the brain is affected.  Generalised seizures can be very distressing to watch but the dog is often unaware of what is going on.

Not all seizures are caused by epilepsy.  Other causes include eating toxic substances, liver disease, meningitis or a brain tumour.  Epilepsy where no primary cause can be found is known as idiopathic epilepsy.

Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy generally have their first seizure between 6 months and 6 years of age.  It is always worth getting your dog checked over by a vet after the first seizure.  Your vet will want to examine your dog and may recommend blood tests to check for any underlying cause for the seizure.  In general, your dog will not be started on medication immediately but you should be asked to monitor for any further seizures and keep a diary.  A video of your dog having a seizure can be very useful.


What to do if your dog is having a seizure? – Click here.

Golden Retriever lying on lawnSome dog breeds are particularly prone to epilepsy, including:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Boxers
  • Border Collies
  • German Shepherd dogs
  • Italian Spinoni
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen

The Animal Health Trust is conducting research into the genetic basis of epilepsy in some of these breeds.  Please click here for more information to see if you can help this research.

Keeping a seizure diary can be very useful for monitoring your dog’s condition and possibly even predicting future seizures.  You can now keep a seizure diary on your phone using the Royal Veterinary College’s Pet Epilepsy Tracker app available on Android and Apple devices.

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