Witnessing a dog having a seizure can be a very scary experience. Here are some simple steps to take to help your dog and yourself cope.
1. Check your watch
Timing a seizure is very important. A seizure (where the dog is unconscious) of less than 3 minutes in length is not life-threatening. If the seizure lasts for 5 minutes or more, your dog will need immediate veterinary attention.
2. Clear the area of anything your dog could injure himself on
Don’t try to move your dog as he will be completely unaware of what he is doing and may bite. Instead, move any items of furniture or other objects which he might hit against, or cover them with something soft.
3. Video the fit
Although this may sound like an inappropriate thing to do while your dog is thrashing around, it is actually really helpful for your vet to see exactly what your dog is doing while he is fitting and as he is coming round. This does not need to be film-quality, a simple video on a smart phone is perfectly good enough.
4. Administer rectal diazepam
If your dog has had a previous fit, your vet may have given you some diazepam in a rectal tube to administer to your dog. This should be kept somewhere secure and out of reach of children. If your dog has come round from the fit by the time you have got hold of the medication, there is no need to give it, however if your dog is still fitting, squirt the contents of the tube up the anus. If your dog does not come round after this, call your vet.
5. Call your vet
If your dog is not coming round from his seizure, or if another seizure follows soon afterwards, call your vet as an emergency. If your dog comes round without any problem you can wait until your veterinary practice is open before contacting them. If this is the first time your dog has had a seizure, your vet may want to do some investigations to find an underlying cause. If your dog has been previously diagnosed with epilepsy, you may just be recording seizures or your dog may need to start on medication, or have doses adjusted. Either way, it is useful for your vet to have on record the dates of seizures.
After the seizure
Your dog may be quite disorientated after the fit and could even be temporarily blind. Keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t injure himself but take care as his inhibitions will be reduced so he may be uncharacteristically aggressive. Make a note of how long it takes for him to get back to his normal self (the period of time between regaining consciousness and getting back to normal is known as the post-ictal period). Your dog may well be very thirsty and tired after his seizure so make sure he has a clean water supply and plenty of time to rest.
Sit down and reflect. 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. Talk through the event with other family members and your vet to discuss what you can do to help your dog in future.
Remember that seizures are more distressing for those witnessing the event than they are for the dog.