What to do after your dog has a seizure.

Here’s What to Do After Your Dog Has a Seizure

Seizures in dogs can be scary to watch and seem to last forever. They cause involuntary contractions of muscles due to the sudden and excessive firing of nerves in the brain.

How a seizure looks can vary from dog to dog. Signs can range from falling over to one side, padding of all limbs, teeth chattering, foaming at the mouth, barking or vocalizations, urinating, and/or defecating. Some dogs will have focal seizures that cause abnormal muscle movements in one group of muscles, such as facial twitching. Clients commonly call veterinary hospitals wondering about dog seizures and what to do after.

First, let’s talk about the components of a seizure. This will help you understand what to expect and what to do after a seizure.

The Three Phases of a Dog Seizure

  1. Aura Phase. The first phase of a seizure is the Aura phase. Some dogs have this, and others don’t. Certain signs of an impending seizure may be evident, such as restlessness, whining, shaking, salivation, wandering, hiding, or affection seeking. These signs may persist from seconds to days in duration and may or may not be apparent to you. Some dogs will run to you or seem “needy” just prior to a seizure.
  2. Ictal Phase. During the ictal phase of a seizure, the actual seizure occurs. The seizure may last from seconds or minutes. The typical generalized seizure looks like this: your dog falls on their side and begins paddling and chomping their jaws. Some owners will notice their dog’s teeth chattering. They may drool, foam at the mouth, urinate, bark or vocalize, and move their bowels. Dogs are unaware of their surroundings during this period.
  3. Postictal Phase. This phase of a seizure occurs immediately after the seizure. Dogs will appear confused and disoriented and may wander or pace. Some dogs will be temporarily blind and may run into objects. The typical postictal dog will wander around aimlessly, be unsteady on their feet, may stumble over to their water dish and overdrink and/or overeat, drool, and seem generally confused. This phase may last a few minutes to hours.

Dos and Don’ts If Your Dog Has a Seizure

Clients commonly want to know what do and what not to do if their dog has a seizure. Seizures can be really scary and often seem to last forever, despite only being minutes in length. Most pet owners even worry about the potential for death. Learn more about the risk of death in Can a Dog Die from a Seizure?

In general, here are recommendations for what to do when your dog has a seizure:

What to Do After a Dog Has a Seizure

The period after the seizure is called the postictal period. This can last from minutes to hours. Typically, dogs are disoriented, often lethargic, with inappropriate behavior such as stumbling, walking into walls, and overdrinking at the water bowl.

Here’s what to do after a seizure in 4 steps:

Your dog should slowly go back to normal over minutes to hours. Once they are acting like themselves, you can allow access to stairs, food, and the outdoors. If your dog continues to seize or has a second seizure, please contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic.

When Your Dog Should See Their Veterinarian

Your dog should see a veterinarian if any of the following occur:

Worried about costs related to treatment for seizures? Pet insurance may be able to help. Click here to learn more.