It's hard to remain calm while watching your dog experience a seizure, but it's important to do so. Your dog isn't in pain during the episode, but beforehand and afterward he's probably scared. Your presence and behavior in the "post-ictal" phase of the seizure helps your dog recover.
Canine seizures consist of three phases. Although seizures arise from various conditions, the three phases are generally similar. In the pre-ictal phase, the dog senses that something is about to happen to him, resulting in nervous behavior. This includes pacing, restlessness, whining and clinging. The second phase, or ictal phase, is the actual seizure. His body might stiffen as he falls over, losing consciousness. He could lose control of his bladder and bowels, while his head draws back and he salivates profusely. This phase might last less than a minute—seizures lasting five minutes require emergency veterinary attention. The post-ictal phase is the recovery period, but your dog might remain disoriented and restless for quite some time.
After the Seizure
During the post-ictal phase, stay with your dog until his behavior returns to normal. In some dogs this is merely a matter of minutes, while in others it might take hours. Pet him gently and speak to him in a reassuring tone. If you're having trouble controlling your voice because you're upset, breathe slowly and deeply until you sound calm. If your dog hears a frightened quality in your voice, he becomes more frightened himself. You can also try singing a lullaby or similarly soothing song to your dog as he recovers.
Protecting Your Dog
When the seizure occurs, or when you sense it's about to begin from previous occurrences, move your dog to a safe place, away from anything he can bump into. Place him on a rug or other soft surface. Remove any pets or children from the area. Do not put your hands near the dog's mouth. Start the calming activity while the dog is still seizing. It's possible that calming behavior on your part can lessen the length of the post-ictal phase, according to Canine Epilepsy Resource.
If you're lucky, your dog's seizure is a one-time event, never to be repeated. Realistically, that's not always the case. While it's important to take your pet to the vet, the seizure is usually over by the time of an examination. That's why it's important to jot down information about the episode. That includes the length of time the dog was seizing, his behavior during the episode and what occurred just before and afterward. You can also record the seizure on your phone to show the vet. After conducting various tests, your vet might prescribe medication to control seizure activity.
By Jane Meggitt
Canine Epilepsy Resource: Seizures in Dogs
American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: How to Handle a Seizure in Your Dog
Veterinary Partner: Seizures/Convulsions
VCA Animal Hospitals: Seizures—General for Dogs
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.