You and your dog are hanging out just minding your own business when suddenly your baby goes stiff and falls to the floor. The next thing you know his legs are twitching as if he’s running or treading water but he doesn’t appear to be aware of his surroundings. Your dog is having a seizure and you feel completely helpless.
I have experienced this scary and helpless feeling before and really had no idea what was happening or what to do. My dog and I have been “fortunate” that we only had to experience this once. My puppy is now 12 and has only had one seizure thus far which was when he was about 7 months old. Although my dog has been fortunate enough to only have one seizure many dogs have had to experience this multiple times in their life and some are so unfortunate they experience this multiple times in a month or even in a day.
The following article will look at seizures in dogs and how CBD Oil can help your dog’s seizures.
What is a Seizure?
Seizures are caused by uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in your dog’s brain. You may have heard this called epilepsy. Epilepsy is a general term for neurological disorders that are characterized by recurrent seizures.
Seizures typically appear as your dog uncontrollably shaking or twitching and can last from less than a minute to several minutes.
Causes and Types of Dog Seizures
In 1989 the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) determined 3 causes of epilepsy which have been adapted in veterinary medicine. The category names were changed in 2005 however people continue to use the old names as well as the new. These three causes include:
- Idiopathic or Primary Epilepsy currently called Genetic
- This is typically when no underlying cause can be determined other than a possible hereditary predisposition
- This is diagnosed when the prevalence in a breed exceeds that of the general population. This is an important distinction to make as certain breeds may have a particularly severe form of genetic epilepsy. As an example in a Border Collie survival from seizure onset is two years with a 94% rate of cluster seizure and 53% rate of status epilepticus. However genetic epilepsy in a Lagotto Ramagnolo typically starts at 6 weeks of age and tends to resolve itself by 16 weeks of age.
- The following is a partial list of breeds that have shown at least some evidence of a genetic predisposition to idiopathic epilepsy:
- Australian Shepherds
- German Shepherds
- Border Collies
- Schnauzers (miniature and standard)
- Siberian Huskies
- Belgian Tervurens
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- Irish Setters
- Irish Wolfhounds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Welsh Springer Spaniels
- Poodles (all varieties)
- Wire-haired Fox Terriers
- Saint Bernards
- Symptomatic Epilepsy currently called Structural
- This is typically the consequence of an identifiable brain disorder.
- This is diagnosed when there is a physical disruption of the brain from a malformation, infection, inflammation, stroke or brain tumor.
- Cryptogenic (probably Symptomatic) Epilepsy currently called Unknown Cause
- This is typically when a heritable cause is not likely and an underlying pathologic change in the brain is suspected but not proven.
- This is diagnosed after tests are done and the cause of the seizures cannot be determined.
The International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force also proposed a system to classify seizures according to where it begins in the brain, characteristics of it and frequency. There are several types however some of the most common types in dogs include:
- Grand Mal Seizure (also called tonic-clonic): These occur in both sides of the brain and commonly appears as an involuntary jerking or twitching movement of all four limbs and your dog may lose consciousness.
- Focal Seizure: These originate from one part of the brain and affect only a certain part of the body. This could progress to a Grand Mal Seizure and may involve one limb, side of the body or face.
- Cluster Seizure: This is when there are 2 or more seizures noted within a 24-hour period.
- Acute Repetitive Seizure: This is when there are 2 or more seizures within a 5-12 hour period.
- Myoclonic Epilepsy: This is a sudden, short contraction of a muscle.
- Tonic Seizure: This is a brief seizure that involves a sudden stiffening of the muscles.
Seizures may be caused by a number of different factors including:
- Toxins or Poisons
- An Infection
- Head injury
- Low or high blood sugar
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Electrolyte problems
- Brain cancer
Symptoms of Dog Seizures
Seizures typically have some or all of the following symptoms:
- Jerking, shaking, and/or muscle twitching
- Loss of consciousness
- Involuntary urination and/or defecation
- Abnormal behavior
- Foaming at the mouth
Before a seizure some dogs may have a dazed look or seem unsteady or confused. They may stare off into space prior to the seizure.
After the seizure your dog may be disoriented, wobbly or even temporarily blind. Your puppy may be unsteady and may bump into things and/or walk in circles. He could have a lot of drool and could be bleeding from the mouth if he bit himself and he may try to hide.
What to Do if Your Dog has a Seizure
- Stay calm. This might actually be the hardest thing you do but staying calm will help get both you and your baby thru this terrifying experience.
- Stay away from your puppy’s mouth and head. Although your dog may normally be a very friendly dog that would never bite he has no control during this experience and may bite you. Don’t put anything near their mouth and don’t worry as they can’t choke on their tongues.
- If your dog is near anything that could hurt him, like a piece of furniture or wall, gently slide him away.
- If you are able to try to time the seizure.
- If the seizure lasts for more than a few minutes your dog is at risk of overheating so try to keep him cool. Turn on a fan or put cold water on his paws in an attempt to keep his temperature down.
- Talk to your dog in a soft, reassuring manner. Don’t touch him but stay calm and talk to him in a calming voice and try to reassure him that everything is going to be alright.
- When the seizure ends call your vet. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, if he has several in a row and/or is unconscious take him to the vet as soon as possible.
It is important to know that if your dog is diagnosed as having epilepsy it cannot be cured however it can usually be controlled.
If your dog has a seizure you want to make sure to talk to your vet as determining the cause is very important. Some of the above mentioned causes show that this could be the result of a serious disease that will need to be treated in addition to the treatment of the seizures themselves.
Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam and some lab work in order to find the cause. Your vet may prescribe medicines to control the seizures and you should make sure to follow your vet’s instructions and ensure you never miss a dose.
Unfortunately, some of the medications used to treat epilepsy and seizures, such as diazepam, phenobarbital, and other anticonvulsant drugs, can have serious side effect in some dogs. And even with medication about 30% of dogs will continue to experience seizures. This has led to doctors and owners seeking other solutions. One of the most recent and promising treatments right now is the use of CBD.
CBD and Dog Seizures
CBD (or cannabidiol) is an extract of the cannabis plant and it does not contain the THC that provides a “high” sensation. CBD products extracted from hemp rather than marijuana will contain less than 0.3% THC (sometimes 0%) and is therefore considered safe for your dog and will not get him high.
CBD works with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is found in humans as well as dogs, to help maintain balance in the body. At this time CBD is not known to have any life threatening side effects and any found side effects have been minimal including: dry mouth, drowsiness and possible lowered blood pressure. As a result doctors and veterinarians have been starting to research CBD and all the possible benefits of it. One area that has been getting some focus lately is the use of CBD for the treatment of epilepsy and seizures.
The American Epilepsy Society has stated that CBD can help reduce epileptic seizures (in humans). They published a study testing the efficacy and safety of CBD on children and young adults with hard to treat forms of epilepsy. One of the major clinical studies in the area was published in December 2015 and found that cannabidiol reduced seizures by an average of 36% and that 2% of the patients (210 patients were involved) became completely seizure free following treatment.
On the canine side Dr. Stephanie McGrath of Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital recently completed a small study that found the use of cannabiniol beneficial for dogs with epilepsy.
The clinical trial that was completed showed promising results with 89% of dogs in the clinical trial showing a reduction in the frequency of seizures.
The trial was so promising that Dr. McGrath and her team are starting a new, larger study on the use of CBD for canine epilepsy with funding by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (AKCCHF). This very well could be the first large-scale study published to examine the effects of CBD on seizures in dogs.
Currently there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to the benefits however there are few well-executed research studies on dogs. The drugs currently available frequently cause intolerable side effect or do not work well at controlling the seizures and therefore this research could have a very significant effect on thousands of dogs around the world.
The new study will be a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. In looking at the website for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital they are still accepting participants as well as donations for the research. If you have a dog with this condition and are interested in learning more and possibly being a participant click here to get the information and see if your dog qualifies.
Although studies are ongoing the early research on dogs is very promising and the research on people already shows that CBD can help seizures. As a result many dog owners have been talking to their vet about trying CBD to help their furry friends and many have been trying it. When looking online a number of dog owners have been raving about how helpful they have found CBD in the treatment for their dog’s seizures.
Although the research is promising and those that have tried have been overwhelming positive it is recommended that you speak with your vet before adding this to your dog’s routine. You will want to make sure your vet is aware that you are trying this and make sure it will not interfere with any of the medications your dog is currently on.
There are several treatments available for dogs with seizures and you should work closely with your vet to determine the best course of treatment for your furry companion. Doing this will improve the chances of controlling the problem and giving your dog a happy, comfortable and long life.
If you have any questions, comments, insights or stories to share please leave a comment below.