Understanding Epilepsy in Dogs

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder linked to abnormal brain activity that can cause convulsions and alter consciousness. The onset of epilepsy can be idiopathic, meaning it's not known what has caused it, or it can be hereditary. Labradors, golden retrievers, beagles, Shetland sheepdogs, and springer spaniels are particularly prone to developing epilepsy.

Seizures in dogs usually last no longer than a couple of minutes. However, if left untreated, epilepsy can worsen and seizures can occur more and more frequently. Here's what you need to know about epilepsy in dogs:


Dogs usually display specific symptoms before, during and after an epileptic seizure, and you'll get to know your dog's specific symptoms after witnessing just a few seizures.

Just before your dog has a seizure they may:

  • Appear to be dazed or confused
  • Seem frightened and look for comfort from you
  • Hide in a small space or corner

During a seizure your dog may:

  • Lie on their side
  • Become rigid
  • Experience urinary or faecal incontinence
  • Salivate more than they normally do
  • Bark or whine
  • Grind their teeth
  • Move their legs as if they are trying to walk or swim

After a seizure your dog may:

  • Appear disorientated
  • Pace around the house
  • Experience increased hunger and thirst
  • Feel exhausted and rest for several hours


Your vet will diagnose epilepsy by taking details of your dog's symptoms and a detailed account of their health history. They will also arrange blood tests and a urinalysis to rule out other conditions that can cause seizures such as certain cancers and hypothyroidism. Blood tests can determine the condition of your dog's immune system and whether they have any inflammation in their body, while a urinalysis can determine how their kidneys are working and whether they are dehydrated.

Your vet may also want to organise an MRI or CT scan of your dog's brain. Diagnostic imaging can be useful for showing abnormalities in the brain structure such as lesions, which are often present in dogs with epilepsy.


Your vet will prescribe a long-term antiepileptic medication for you to administer to your dog at home. The vet will review your dog regularly to ensure they are receiving the correct dose of medication, which can be determined by a blood test. Some dogs will stop having seizures when they begin taking mediation, while others will experience less frequent seizures.

You can help your dog get the most out of their medication by committing to administer it at the same time each day, which will ensure the level of medication in their blood is stable. Antiepileptic drugs can cause weight gain as a side effect, so your vet will also give you advice on managing your dog's weight and making changes to their diet as necessary.

When your dog has a seizure you may feel helpless, but you should not try to hold them down as this can cause injury. Do what you can to make the space around them as safe as possible by moving anything they could bump into. After a seizure, provide a quiet, comforting environment for them to recover.

If your dog displays any of the symptoms associated with epilepsy, schedule an appointment with a clinic like Warnbro Veterinary Hospital as soon as possible.