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Seizure Disorders in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Several different diseases may cause seizures. The term idiopathic epilepsy refers to a seizure disorder that has an unknown cause despite a thorough diagnostic evaluation. Treatment and prognosis (outcome) of seizures depend on their underlying causes.

The most common causes of seizures in young dogs (less than 1 year) may include:

  • Degenerative (storage diseases)
  • Developmental (hydrocephalous, porto-systemic shunts)
  • Toxic (lead, organophosphates)
  • Infectious (distemper or other viral, bacterial and fungal encephalitides)
  • Metabolic (transient hypoglycemia, enzyme deficiency)
  • Nutritional (common with parasitism)
  • Traumatic (acute head injury)

    In dogs that are greater than 5 years, the causes may include:

  • Neoplasia (either primary or metastatic cancer)
  • Metabolic (hepatic or kidney failure)
  • Infectious (distemper or other viral, bacterial and fungal encephalitides)
  • Traumatic (acute head injury)
  • Heart causes

    The most common cause of seizure in middle aged dogs (between 1 and 5 years) is idiopathic epilepsy. However, it is commonly recommended that some of the above causes of seizures be ruled out with blood tests and sometimes imaging studies.

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