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When To Put Down A Dog With Seizures? A Difficult Decision

When To Put Down A Dog With Seizures? A Difficult Decision

While owning a dog is a truly wonderful experience, as dog owners, we must be aware that this thrill can come with heart-breaking moments too. One of those moments is having a dog that is suffering from neurological health issues.

Dog seizures are linked to dog epilepsy. They can also occur as a result of brain damage, brain tumors, low blood sugar levels, liver disease, kidney failure, and so on.

Unfortunately, almost all epileptic dogs have their lifespan shortened to some degree, because dog seizures greatly affect their quality of life.

If you’re a worried dog owner who stumbled upon this article, I hope that you will find answers to when you should put down a dog with seizures.

Again, it’s a very tough decision and it’s not easy to read about this. However, it is important to be informed about dog seizures and to know how to help your lovely pooch.

Let’s explain all there is to it.

Do Dogs With Seizures Get Put Down?

More often than not, dogs with seizures unfortunately do get put down. Of course, this depends on what kind of seizure a dog is suffering from and to what extent it is affecting its quality of life.

Unfortunately, this is the reality most dog owners have to face when dealing with an epileptic dog. Only professional DVMs are able and authorized to provide the best solution for a dog that is suffering from canine epilepsy or other health conditions that cause seizures.

So yes, dogs with seizures do get put down, but only if their condition is so severe that euthanasia is the only (and the best) option.

When To Put Down A Dog With Seizures

If you’re dealing with a dog that is suffering from either cluster seizures or occasional seizures, there is no date and time to decide when to put them down. Actually, you might even find out that it’s not necessary to put your dog down.

Why is it important to find out what kind of seizures a dog has before deciding to put them down?

Well, finding out the nature and the cause of dog seizures lets us in on the answers to their treatment.

For example, if an epileptic dog has one or two seizures that do not last long nor leave any side effects, you should not consider putting them down. They are most likely reacting well to anti-seizure medications and therapy.

On the other hand, if an epileptic dog is having multiple seizures, such as cluster seizures, and no therapy is working so far, it might be the right time to start thinking about putting them down.

Some dogs may experience seizure activity once in six months, while some may experience a seizure every day of the week. When dog seizures become so frequent, it becomes very difficult to achieve proper seizure control.

Related: All About Dog Behavior Before Death: 14 Signs Explained

Types Of Seizures In Dogs

Since we have mentioned the importance of knowing the types of dog seizures, it’s also a good idea to describe each of them.

You might notice that some are more serious than others, and that is exactly what we need to know in order to understand the severity of canine epilepsy.

1. Generalized Seizures In Dogs

The first type of dog seizures I would like to talk about are generalized seizures.

General seizures in dogs usually affect both brain hemispheres. What this means is that the generalized seizures are spread across both sides of the dog’s brain.

Having said that, the dog isn’t doing any physical movement by itself. The dog’s bodily movements are completely out of their control.

As described by the name of this type of seizure, the whole body musculature is affected by these convulsions.

Another term that is used for generalized seizures in dogs is grand mal seizures. Unfortunately, these types of seizures are very common in dogs and they usually lead to loss of consciousness.

When a grand mal seizure occurs, it can last anywhere from five seconds to five minutes. However, grand mal seizures in dogs tend to last up to five minutes, which makes pet owners worry even more. And, this certainly is a reason to worry because the longer the dog seizure lasts, the more dangerous it becomes.

The biggest dangers of prolonged dog seizures are in older dogs. If a dog’s seizure lasts more than a few minutes, as a defense mechanism, the dog’s body temperature rises to high levels — it can get up to 110 degrees.

Generalized seizures in dogs can happen a few times during the day, but they can also be occasional. This health condition got its name, status epilepticus, because the dog doesn’t seem to recover and stays in a more unconscious state than awake state.

2. Partial Seizures In Dogs

Another name for this type of seizure is a focal seizure. Unlike generalized seizures in dogs, focal seizures affect only one part of the brain. So, this means that only one part of the dog’s body is under the effect of the convulsions.

Due to the fact that focal seizures in dogs are somewhat “lighter” than generalized seizures, they often go unnoticed by dog owners. This can be very troublesome because focal dog seizures are prone to progressing into generalized seizures.

Because focal seizures in dogs can go unnoticed, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for the following symptoms. Keep in mind that most of these signs are present in all forms of dog seizures.

Body Movements

During an episode, an epileptic dog will experience facial twitches that make it hard for them to swallow. The drool that is formed in the dog’s mouth will appear foamy. Unusual chewing movements will also be present in an epileptic dog.

As for the rest of the body, the dog’s limbs will also move abnormally. During a seizure, the dog will lay on the floor paddling its limbs. The paddling can be of just one or all four limbs.

Behavioral Changes

An epileptic dog isn’t usually aware of what’s going on with him, or around him. Normally, this leads to fear that is followed by aggression. Not all dogs are aggressive during seizures. Most attention seeking behavior and fear is interpreted as aggression in dogs.

But, we have to understand that an epileptic dog is primarily afraid and will need a health assessment as soon as possible.

If an older dog is exhibiting major behavioral changes followed by complete disorientation after a few strong seizure episodes, these might be the first signs that a dog is dying.

Autonomic Functions Change

In other words, change is present in the bodily functions and it isn’t controlled by the dog’s own will.

For example, a dog cannot control their salivation. So, during an episode, hypersalivation (production of excess saliva) is a common sign of a seizure.

The same goes for vomiting. Neither you nor your dog can control vomiting, right? This is also what happens when an epileptic dog is going through a seizure.

Helping your dog throw up is not a good idea during the seizure. If you try to move the dog while they’re still unaware of their surroundings and they’re trying to throw up, you will only interfere and cause more fear.

Involuntary urinating and defecating in an epileptic dog are also common signs of a seizure.

The next body function that changes during a dog seizure is pupil dilation, also called mydriasis. Many epileptic dog patients have dilated pupils during an episode.

Unclassified Seizures

Sometimes, we can’t be entirely sure what caused a dog seizure or how long it will last. When there is no determined cause for the dog seizure, we call it idiopathic epilepsy.

Idiopathic epilepsy in dogs is tricky because of unknown and undetermined medical causes. It can’t be cured, but it can be controlled. Research and practice shows that the most effective treatments used in treating dog seizures are bromide and phenobarbital.

When it comes to canine epilepsy treatment, it’s safe to say that not all epileptic dogs react to the treatment in the same way. Sometimes, this therapy works very well, but sometimes it fails to work at all.

What Are The Typical Causes Of Seizures In Dogs?

There are many causes for the onset of seizures in dogs. Almost anything can trigger a dog seizure, but it’s usually underlying health concerns that are to blame.

Dogs with health problems, such as low blood sugar or kidney failure, seem to be more susceptible to seizures.

Let’s get into the heart of the matter and describe each common cause of seizures.

Canine Diabetes

Diabetic dogs with serious forms of canine diabetes are in danger of continuous seizure activity. Continuous and cluster seizures start manifesting because of the differences in blood sugar levels and insulin intake.

This can be too much for the dog’s body to handle, resulting in a seizure. We often see this in older dog patients who are suffering from this chronic health issue.

See Also: Signs Your Dog With Diabetes Is Dying, Plus Other Complications

Bacterial, Viral, And Parasitic Diseases

In contrast to old dogs with chronic illnesses, the common causes of seizures in young dogs are bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections.

Say a dog is only turning one year old and they are showing signs of seizure activity – this can be linked to pathogenic microorganisms in the brain. Such common causes of seizures include specific parasitic infestations, like canine Neosporosis, Lyme disease, and general bacterial sepsis.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is another health problem that I would link to older dogs. In older dogs, seizures start manifesting when chronic kidney failure is diagnosed and takes its toll.

How is a dog seizure linked to kidney failure? Well, a dog’s kidneys are in charge of detoxing the organism. To put it simply, when a dog’s kidneys “fail”, they do not work properly.

Since the dog’s kidneys don’t work properly, the toxins can’t get out of the system. This results in a toxin build-up within the dog’s bloodstream, causing a complete disbalance in the whole body.

Epileptic dogs with kidney failure should be fed a vet-approved diet for kidney disease that will help ease their symptoms.


We all know that cancers in dogs cause serious health problems and have questionable prognoses. When dog seizures start to manifest in older dogs, veterinarians will want the dog to undergo brain scans.

Besides toxins getting from the bloodstream to the brain, brain tumors in dogs are common causes of seizures in old dogs.

While the overall seizure activity can be brought under control by medication (to some extent), the only way to get rid of a brain tumor that has grown in size is with surgery. Brain tumors are what directly causes the dog seizure.

However, older dogs are at high-risk when it comes to general anesthesia and such complex brain surgery. Unfortunately, euthanasia commonly ends up being the best solution for a dog that is suffering from a brain tumor.

Liver Disease

Similar to normal kidney function, a healthy liver in dogs should be able to remove toxins. In other words, it should detoxify a dog’s organism. Whenever there is damage to the liver, either a trauma or liver disease, this can lead to a dog seizure.

The chemical compound build-up within the dog’s body becomes too much as the chemicals travel through the bloodstream.

Due to changes in liver function, an epileptic dog may experience a change in urine color and frequency.

In dogs, it’s usually a chronic liver disease that causes seizures. Here’s the catch with liver disease, anticonvulsant prescribed medication is used in therapy against dog seizures. But, anticonvulsants can lead to liver disease, if administered improperly.

So, to be on the safe side, it’s best to ask your vet to run some blood tests (which he/she will already want to do).

See Also: When To Euthanize A Dog With Liver Failure: The Right Call

How Many Seizures Is Too Many For My Dog?

Even though there is no “correct” answer to this question, research proves that more than three dog seizures in a 24 hour period is too many for a dog to endure without consequences for their general health condition.

Cluster seizures are also very risky. If your dog is having one seizure after another, that cluster is considered too many.

These dog seizures can lead to some serious, irreversible health issues, such as brain damage. So, if you notice these types of seizures in your dog within a short period (a 24 hour period) you should immediately contact your vet and check what’s going on.

How Long Do Dogs Live With Seizures?

If your dog is displaying mild seizures that are under control with proper treatment and medication, the prognosis is quite pawsitive. A dog that has their seizures controlled to some degree has more chances of living a longer life.

The sooner canine epilepsy is diagnosed, the faster the seizure therapy is started, making it easier to control dog seizures.

Research shows, an epileptic dog roughly lives to around 8 years of age. Dog seizures do affect their lifespan. An epileptic dog has their life expectancy shortened by 2-2.5 years. However, this all depends on the severity of their seizures.

Dogs with status epilepticus live shorter lives than those that have idiopathic epilepsy without cluster seizures and five-minute long seizures.

Dog Breeds That Are Prone To Seizures

Among all the dog breeds, there are those that are more prone to developing seizures.

For example, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are genetically predisposed to canine epilepsy. Although most of us would rather not hear about this fact, it is something that both prospective dog owners and current dog owners have to keep in mind.

The Beagle is one of those cute dog breeds that is unfortunately prone to canine epilepsy. While Beagles are usually healthy dogs, they may develop canine epilepsy as early as two years of age. If there is no underlying medical condition diagnosed, idiopathic epilepsy in a Beagle is most likely a genetic trait.

The sausage dog we all love also has problems with canine epilepsy. Dachshunds are at high-risk of developing dog seizures.

The last dog breed I want to mention is the Siberian Husky. Now, in Huskies, idiopathic epilepsy can be quite tricky. It can develop as early as six months of age, or at two years of age. In older dogs, especially older Huskies, epilepsy can be linked to kidney and liver diseases.

Final Thoughts

Although many articles provide a lot of information on dog seizures, a responsible dog owner should not form his or her opinion based solely on information found on the Internet.

In serious situations like these, seeking medical advice from a professional doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) is of utmost importance. Only a competent DVM is allowed to assess the medical condition of your dog and determine whether or not the seizures compromise the overall state of health.

Make sure to find a professional veterinarian who specializes in neurology. He or she will let you in on all the information on caring for an epileptic dog and helping you decide when to put down a dog with seizures. After doing all the necessary health tests, the DVM will let you know whether or not it is a good idea to euthanize your dog.

We know that this is a heart-wrenching period in your life and no one will ever get used to their pet passing away. If your dog is suffering and their disease cannot be cured, then the best thing you can do is make the pain go away.

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