Dogs and Seizures: Understanding Canine Epilepsy

When my dog got an epileptic fit the first time, I was scared. This is my journey to help others know what to expect.

Jun 16, 2023byDesiree Botha
dog epileptic fits

I have been an avid animal lover for years. But there was just something special when I got my little Yorkie, Taffy. She is the dog of my heart and quickly became my baby. Just looking at those big brown eyes could melt my heart. That is why it was so incredibly scary when she got an epileptic fit for the very first time.

Today I will share our journey with you, in the hopes that other pet parents can learn from our experience. We will look at different appearances of epileptic fits, and when it is important to get your dog on medicine.

The Appearance of Fits

Yorkie Looking Out Window

Many of us expect epileptic fits to show up in the normal way. The dog will move uncontrollably, jerk or shake and her body might even go tight. This is definitely one of the ways that epilepsy manifests itself. But when Taffy had her very first fit, that is not what happened.

It was early in the morning, and she wanted to go out for the first time. I would later learn that these fits often happen just after the dog wakes up. She got up, and suddenly her back legs and her lower back just stopped working. She seemed to be paralyzed. She lost control of her bowls, and she was distressed.

I am sure you can imagine how scared I was. At the Vet, they explained that this could be an epileptic fit. This could be a once off or it could become worse over time. At that moment it was a waiting game to see what would happen next.

How Her Symptoms Worsened

Yorkie Fish Pond

Generally, most vets will only put a dog on medicine after regular fits that are closer than 3 months in frequency. Two or more fits a month and fits that last for a longer duration, are all indicators of Epilepsy that is not under control.

In the weeks that followed that first seizure, Taffy had regular seizures. The most recent one lasted a lot longer and started again after a few seconds. It was bad. After the 3rd fit in a month, it was clear that her Epilepsy needed to be treated. First, they did a few blood tests to ensure that there was no underlying condition and that she just had true epilepsy. Luckily nothing else was wrong. It was time to put her on medication. How would that affect her?

Going On Medication

Yorkie On Beach

The Vet decided to put Taffy on Phenobarbital, a medicine to treat epilepsy. She would take half a tablet twice each day. It is always scary to put your pet on medication. But in this case, it was very clearly needed. She would also need to take a liver supplement each day, to ensure that the medicine did not damage her liver.

If giving your dog pills twice a day sounds like a nightmare, I get it. I wondered how we were going to manage that too. But luckily Taffy is easily bribed with snacks. I bought some trainer treats and every time she gets her pills, she also receives a treat. Now she comes when I tell her it is time for pills. There is no fight because she is excited to get rewarded.

They warned that she could experience weight gain. She could be more tired from the pills and less active, and she could drink more as well as experience mood changes. And in some measure, she did experience some of these changes. But for the most part, they all went away after the first few weeks on the medication.

Life After Treatment

Yorkie Baby

Taffy has now been on her medication for more than a year. And she is doing incredibly well. Her seizures have decreased drastically. In fact, in the year she has only had one fit. She did show some of the signs of getting a seizure, but each time the medicine would then stop it before it got to that point.

The side effects of the medicine have also almost gone completely too. She drinks a lot more water and that worried me at one point. But she is a happy healthy dog that just happens to take medicine every day. That is a great thing, because since she has a baby brother, also a Yorkie, she has been busier than ever.

It is a bigger problem for me than it is for her. Leaving her in someone else’s care has already been a struggle for me. Now I always worry that they will forget her medicine. Sometimes we just need to trust people.

Would I Do It Again?

Yorkie Happy Running

I feared putting my dog on medicine that she would need to use for the rest of her life. But in the end, it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I have my happy dog back. One of the key things was to have a vet I trusted completely, and who really cares about my dog. Together we made a plan and things worked out for the best.

Desiree Botha
byDesiree Botha

Desiree is an animal lover with a lot of experience caring for pets. Her book, “The Complete Guide to Boerboels,” describes caring for this giant breed dog. She lives with her two Yorkshire Terriers, Taffy and Bruno, a Senegal Parrot, Sam, and a Tortoise named Bowser. They rule the roost, and she loves every moment of it.