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Epilepsy in Dogs: Causes and Symptoms

Jane McGrath

In a grand mal seizure, the type of seizure most commonly associated with epilepsy, a sudden attack takes over a dog’s entire body, causing him to fall to his side, salivate and experience convulsions and involuntary spasms. A seizure can last between a few seconds and a couple of minutes.

Epilepsy in Dogs: Causes and Symptoms


Epileptic seizures are caused by hyperexcitable neurons firing in the dog’s brain. Dogs can also get partial seizures, also known as focal seizures, which cause muscle twitching in a specific area such as the face or one leg. A dog having a partial seizure may salivate or stare into space, but these symptoms are rarer than in grand mal seizures.

Epilepsy is the term used to describe recurring seizures, so if your dog has had one seizure, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has epilepsy. Seizures may be triggered by many things, such as an infection, a tumor pressing on the brain, cranial trauma or poisoning from a toxin. Sometimes, however, your vet won’t be able to figure out the cause of a seizure. If your dog continues to have seizures, your vet may classify him as having epilepsy.

Dogs of any breed, including mixed breeds, can suffer from epilepsy, which may be inherited. Some of the breeds that are more susceptible include Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Poodles, and Golden and Labrador Retrievers.

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