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What To Do If Your Dog Has A Seizure: Our Seizure Protocol

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

First up, a disclaimer: WE ARE NOT VETS. That said, we have an epileptic dog (Mars, pictured) so we have first-hand seizure experience- but we've checked all of our information against that given by multiple different veterinary sources too. All of the information below is vet-approved and as thorough as I can make it.

1. Get your dog to a safe place, if they’re not already in one

If your dog is at the edge of the stairs, move them away so they don't fall down during their seizure. If they’re outdoors and off-lead, get a lead attached.

If your dog is having a tonic-clonic seizure (also known as a grand mal seizure) and not in control of their movements, it’s not advisable that you attempt to touch your dog while they are experiencing a seizure because you may get hurt but if they are going to hurt themselves where they are, or when they come round, moving them is your first priority.

2. Set a timer

This is so unbelievably important. You need to know how long the seizure lasts and time moves so strangely with the stress that you will struggle to guess. Two of Mars’ seizures were untimed and I couldn’t say if they were 30 seconds or two minutes- which is a huge difference when it comes to seizures.

If your dog is a seizure risk, I’d actually recommend getting a little battery-operated kitchen timer because I can never find my phone timer during the stress. An external timer will also free up your phone so you can video the seizure for the vet or even call your vet if the seizure lasts a long time or you need advice.

3. Open the doors and windows and cool down the room

During a seizure your dog can overheat- a lot. We’re in the U.K. and Mars’ seizures happen overnight so for us, keeping him cool looks like opening all of the doors and windows. For people in hotter climates, it may look like turning on air conditioning and for people who’s dog is seizing outside in warm weather, it may look like carrying your dog indoors (if you can and it’s safe). With regards to fans, see the below point. You're going to have to make the decision on whether your fan is too loud/stimulating to outweigh the benefits of cooling your dog down.

4. Minimise noise, light and anything stimulating

When your dog comes out of their seizure they are going to be confused and frightened and they’re going to need a calm, quiet environment to help them come round. Turn off any bright lights, close any curtains, turn off TVs and radios, remove any other pets or small children etc.

If your dog is a seizure risk you may find it helpful to get a dim lamp so you can have some light that isn't bright overhead lighting.

5. Call a vet

Once you've done the above, there's nothing more you can do currently to help your dog. Call your vet if this is their first seizure or if the seizure is lasting more than two minutes.

At this point the protocol branches off, depending on your dog

  • If your dog stopped seizing between 1-2 minutes

After the seizure, your dog will enter the post-ictal phase. They will be scared, confused and very likely could become a bite risk. Mars is one of the most gentle dogs I’ve ever met and immediately after his first seizure he attempted to bite Jake. After every seizure he’s eyed us cautiously and barked and growled if we got too close because he was so disorientated he didn’t recognise us. For Mars, we’ve found he comes round quickly if we crouch down onto the floor and avoid eye contact and let him come to us although I'm sure every dog will be different so my advice is this: Give them time and give them space.

If you’re lucky enough that your dog has seized in a safe, contained space that you can observe them in, I would leave them there to come round without stress while you call the vet. For instance, we usually leave Mars in his contained bed while we called the vet in the next room to minimise noise for him. We have also left him in our safe front room, viewing him through the glass panels in the adjoining door.

Once your dog comes round they may display erratic behaviour. They may be fatigued, drowsy, clumsy, wobbly or hyper. Often they are hungry and it's okay to give them some food. It's likely that your dog will lose control of their bladder during their seizure and they may even poo during the post-ictal phase so you'll probably have some cleaning up to do. In our experience, Mars has always gotten zoomies after a seizure so we let him into the secure garden while he calms down and cools down and clean up any mess before giving him some food.

  • If your dog's seizure lasted between two and five minutes

Call your most local, open, vet and pack up the car. It is very likely that your vet will ask you to bring them in urgently but you may have to work around your dog's post-ictal phase. The vet you speak to will advise you on what to do.

Every pet owner should have to hand the phone numbers and addresses of:

Your regular vet

Your closest vet (if different)

Your closest 24/7 vet (if different)

  • If your dog is still seizing and it has been five minutes or more

Call your most local, open, vet and pack up the car.

As above, you may not be able to immediately transport your dog if they finish seizing but enter an aggressive post-ictal phase. The vet you call should be able to advise you on what to do.

If you are transporting a dog that is still seizing, I would recommend a secure car crate and applying a lead, again, for their post-ictal phase. (Make absolutely sure that they are monitored and cannot get the lead stuck on anything). It's hard enough for dogs to come out of a seizure in a calm, quite, familiar environment, never mind a moving car and you will need to be prepared. Again, the vet you call should be able to advise you on what to do. Thankfully we have never experienced this situation.

Lastly, make a record

Once your dog is out of the woods and everything is sorted, use the Notes app on your phone to keep track of when the seizure was, how long it lasted, how long it took them to come round, and any important notes such as where they were when it started, how they acted before and after.

I truly hope none of you ever need this information but at least you now have it. If there's one thing to take away from this: time any seizures. The time is the most important thing that isn't immediately obvious (you'll know to move them if they're at the edge of the stairs). Next week I'll be sharing our epilepsy experience so far but I wanted to get this protocol out first.


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