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Signs a Dog Has Difficulty Recovering From a Seizure

Kelly Roper
Reviewed by Vet Clare Deming
Golden Retriever lying on floor

Watching your dog's behavior after a seizure can give you clues about how well he's recovering. A seizure can be very scary and potentially life-threatening. So while your pet definitely needs to be seen by a vet, some advice can help you understand how to help your pooch recover quicker.

Dog Not Recovering From Seizure

Sometimes it is the first seizure and sometimes it is an already diagnosed condition. Recovery times vary, but most dogs will begin to behave more normally within an hour after the seizure. However, when the dog doesn't recover quickly, there can be a variety of reasons and treatments. The article Canine Seizures discusses some potential causes for seizures in dogs as well as potential treatments.

Seizure Stages

A seizure has three stages which are the pre-ictal, ictal and post-ictal periods.

  • During the pre-ictal period, your dog senses the onset of the seizure and may appear upset, nervous, restless, fearful and clingy. This stage is also known as the aural or prodrome stage. It can last several seconds or several hours.
  • The ictal stage is when the seizure is actually occurring and can last about two minutes or less. An ictal stage lasting five minutes or more is called status epilepticus.
  • The post-ictal stage occurs once the seizure has passed and can last about one hour although for some dogs as long as two days.

It's very iportant to monitor your dog's behavior after a seizure. It's not unusual for the dog to spend a great deal of time sleeping during this period, as well as showing confused and anxious behavior. Periods of sleep and restless behavior including pacing and drooling. Hiding and temporary blindness and deafness are fairly typical. It's also not uncommon to see a dog panting after a seizure, or he may also show extreme thirst and hunger. If your dog continues to show behavioral and physical symptoms past a few hours, contact your veterinarian for his or her advice. If the symptoms persist more than two days, your veterinarian will most likely want you to come in for a checkup.

Older Dogs

An older dog may well have a harder time recovering after each seizure. They may have muscle soreness or exhaustion afterward. You can ask your veterinarian about whether your dog needs any type of anti-inflammatory or pain medication to help in recovery. Some of these drugs can interact with seizure medications though, so even if you have some on hand, check with your vet first.

You can encourage your dog to eat small, frequent meals if her appetite is poor. Tempt her with some boiled or roasted chicken, baby food, or cold cuts. Even if she only takes a handful at a time, it will help. Be sure to follow up with your vet to let him know that your dog is having more difficulty recovering after this last episode. Your dog's recover time after a seizure will depend on his overall health condition and the basis for his seizures as well as how well he handles medication.

Cluster Seizures

Vet examining bulldog

When a dog has multiple seizures in a row, those are called cluster seizures. Cluster seizures can be life-threatening and should prompt an immediate recheck with your vet. If these are partial seizures that don't involve the whole body, this may not be as serious. It can be helpful to your vet to make a video of your dog's episodes. Even partial seizures can cause the body to overheat or lead to other complications, so if you see very frequent seizure activity, contact your vet.

Repeat seizures interrupt the recovery, and your dog's difficulty can last for longer periods. If your dog does not continue to improve in terms of her attitude, or she has more than two seizures in a 24-hour period, call your veterinarian right away.

Status Epilepticus

If a dog has a seizure that is longer than five minutes, it enters a state called status epilepticus. This is a very serious condition that can lead to death without immediate veterinary intervention. The dog needs to receive anticonvulsant medication intravenously. The prolonged seizure state raises the dog's body temperature to a level that can cause irretrievable brain damage if not brought down right away. Studies have found that dogs with status epilepticus have a shorter life expectancy than dogs with non-SE seizures.

Ravenous Appetite After a Seizure

A seizure gives your dog's muscles a workout that is equivalent to running a marathon, so an affected dog may wake up ravenously hungry and dehydrated. Don't offer any food or water immediately if your dog is still wobbly or seems confused. Your dog may not be able to swallow properly at this point and is at risk of choking. Once your pet is able to walk fairly well, you can start to offer small amounts of water and food. Limit her to small sips of water, ice chips, or small meatballs of food. Some dogs will gorge themselves and may throw up if they go too fast.

Jaw Chattering or Trembling

Not all seizures become full-blown body events. Depending on where the electrical misfire takes place in the brain, a single body part or two might only be involved. Trembling might also be related to an undiagnosed neuromuscular problem, or it truly could be a case of muscle exhaustion. The trembling might even be due to a fever if your dog's temperature is currently higher than 101 degrees F. You could also see jaw trembling if your dog has pain in his mouth. The cause of this may not be obvious and you may need to take him to your veterinarian for a thorough dental evaluation.

Since the possible causes behind the jaw trembling range from benign to serious, jaw chattering or trembling is worth bringing to your vet's attention. This way you can find out exactly what is going on and whether treatment is required.

Canine Epilepsy

A dog with seizures for the first time should go straight to the vet. If they are diagnosed with canine epilepsy, they will be given medication. Some will continue to have mini seizures, so keep your vet informed so they can adjust the medication as needed.

It is important your vet does blood work on your dog to rule out other causes. There isn't any test available to confirm epilepsy, so it's important to check for some other conditions that can mimic it. Please don't hesitate to ask your vet more questions about canine epilepsy during your next visit. You'll need to arm yourself with all the knowledge you can so you can best help your dog.

Signs a Dog Has Difficulty Recovering From a Seizure