Pet First Aid: fits and seizures in dogs

Claire Dunling

If your dog has idiopathic or primary epilepsy, then you’ll know what to expect when they’re about to have a seizure. However, if your dog has a fit due to an external factor, like brain trauma, high or low blood pressure or from consuming a toxic substance, you may be caught off guard. Do you know how to prevent or manage fitting in dogs? Get clued up for any seizure emergency scenarios…

External reasons for fitting in dogs

Slug or snail pellets contain the chemical metaldehyde, which is poisonous to dogs and causes symptoms like tremors and convulsions. Cleaning products, antifreeze and firelighters are also highly toxic to dogs and can have a similar effect. These are typical products found in the garden, garage or shed that is easily accessible and should be kept in secure containers to prevent poisoning in dogs.

Other reasons for fitting could be a result of eating plants or weeds found in the garden. Common flowers found at home or in the garden like the sago palm or Brunfelsia plant, sometimes called ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ plant is highly poisonous to dogs. Mushrooms or toadstools found on countryside walks can also pose a risk. Some fungi are edible whereas others are lethally poisonous and can cause seizures in dogs. During the warmer months, toads are likely to be in your garden. The venom that is secreted from their back is highly poisonous to dogs and can cause seizures. Be wary of what your dog is investigating in the garden or out on walks while your back is turned!

How to manage dog seizures

If you find your dog having a seizure, keep calm and make sure music, lights or the TV are off or at a minimum to reduce further stimulation. Cigarette smoke and scented candles can also trigger seizures so removal of these is essential to minimize the intensity of the seizure. While it may be distressing to watch, it’s important to give your dog some space until they are out of the episode. To keep them and yourself safe, follow the steps below:

Being prepared for emergencies and having an out-of-hours veterinary clinic contact saved in your phone could save you precious moments to ensure your dog recovers.

How to prevent fitting in dogs

If your dog has been diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, it may or may not need medication (depending on the frequency and severity of the fits). Regular vet checks and reducing stress are advised.

To minimise the chances of your dog being affected by structural epilepsy, you can ensure cleaning products, antifreeze or slug pellets are out of reach. Of course, there is a chance that you may encounter slug or snail pellets in your local park. To prevent accidental consumption of nasty chemicals, be mindful to give their paws and muzzle a good wash down when you return home.

It’s also good advice to become aware of common flower and weeds that are poisonous to dogs as well as being aware of the symptoms of poisoning. Ensuring any poisonous plants are removed from the garden and making sure to use pet-safe lawn and gardening products are good preventative measures. In such a case, every minute is vital to your dog’s wellbeing and recovery.

This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!