If you own a dog, you may have witnessed them making twitching sounds in the early mornings, either while asleep or just after waking. Are these twitching sounds a sign of morning seizures?
If so, morning seizures in your dog can be frightening for you as a dog parent and scary for your dog. They can lead to permanent neurological damage or death if left untreated.
The main cause of morning seizures in dogs is a change in canine brain activity which usually results from environmental changes and medical conditions.
There are certain ways to help manage this condition in your dog, leading to a healthier and longer life; read on to find out more!
What causes morning seizures in dogs?
Seizures in dogs happen when brain activity malfunctions, causing triggering or jerking actions. Morning seizures are especially common because sleeping time is one of the periods when there is a change in brain activity, making this time a sensitive period for seizures.
While many things trigger these reactions in dogs, the common triggers are environmental changes, stress, and underlying medical conditions.
More often than usual, when dogs experience seizures, it may not be a condition but a sign that an underlying condition needs to be treated.
Underlying medical conditions like the following can lead to seizures in your dog:
- infection/inflammation in the brain
- brain cancer
- head trauma
- kidney failure
- lead toxicity
- liver disease
- blood sugar inadequacies
If seizures happen recurrently, and no medical diagnosis can determine the cause, that dog can be diagnosed with primary epilepsy. This condition would need complete management by your veterinarian.
Certain changes in your dog’s environment can also trigger episodes of seizures. You can not completely shield your dog from relating to its environment, where certain factors may affect your dog’s health.
Some of these factors are other pets, strangers, or neighboring gardens, which may have pesticides or herbicides dangerous to the canine brain.
Other environmental factors, like changes in your dog’s diet or daily routine, might also affect your dog’s brain health and lead to seizures.
For example, a change in your dog’s meal plan to foods your dog is allergic to can trigger seizures in your dog. Also, changes in your dog’s daily routine can affect your dog’s internal clock, leading to a change in brain activity and, thus, seizure.
Emotional and physical stress can also be a trigger of seizures in dogs. This is similar to how various stress factors can lead to seizures in humans, it is the same in dogs—however, less prevalent.
Physical stress factors like overworking your dog, dehydration, and exhaustion can affect your dog, mostly in the morning when their body changes from the sleep/wake cycle.
Separation anxiety, long travels or car rides, loneliness, or being around loud noise or arguments can cause emotional stress triggers in dogs.
It is also possible that when your dog experiences long periods of overexcitement, it may imbalance brain activity, leading to seizures.
Other common factors that may affect your dog’s brain health include continuous vet visits, extreme weather conditions like thunderstorms, irregular eating schedules, and certain medications or vaccinations.
How to recognize and respond to the signs of morning seizures?
Sometimes it might be hard to tell that your dog is having a seizure, as it might look like a normal episode in dreamland, depending on the level of the seizure. However, with these signs, you can easily tell if your dog is having a morning seizure and can provide help in time.
Shaking/twitching of the whole body is one of the main signs; other signs that may accompany this are
- Bladder loss
- Blank stare
- Stiffening of the whole body
- Loss of consciousness
- Tongue chewing
- Fly-snapping behavior
- Foaming at the mouth
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, your next question is, “what should I do to help my dog?” The following steps will guide you in helping your dog through a seizure.
1. Remain calm
Staying calm is the most important step towards helping your dog when they have a seizure, as difficult as it might seem.
Panic may lead to confusion, preventing you from reasoning and making the right decisions. A great idea is to take deep breaths and think through the process of getting help for your dog.
2. Remove all harmful objects
When your dog has a seizure, you should remove all harmful objects from his surroundings to prevent yourself and your dog from getting hurt.
Usually, when a seizure ends, some dogs may get unstable or temporarily blind; this may affect their mobility. They may crash into objects or blindly fall into pits.
Hence, removing harmful objects from the surroundings and creating barricades will help minimize the risk of them getting hurt.
3. Keep hands away from your dog’s mouth
One common mistake many dog owners make when their dog is having a seizure is to try and stop tongue chewing or give them substances to stop the seizures.
The effect is usually that the dog owner gets bitten or may sometimes have their fingers stuck in their dog’s mouth during the episode.
Thus, keep your hands away from your dog’s mouth, and don’t try to force any substance in to stop the seizure. Forcing something in their mouth could cause them to choke.
The seizure will pass. Be calm and attentive. Don’t try to stop the seizure.
4. Contact your vet doctor
Another step you should take is to contact your veterinarian. This is especially important for cases where this is the first time your dog has had a seizure happen or when the seizure has lasted longer than 10 minutes. Also, this is the case if more than two seizures occur in 24 hours.
Treatment options for your dog’s morning seizure
You can take several approaches to help treat your dog’s condition based on the cause of the morning seizure. Ensure that you, however, do your research thoroughly and consult with your veterinarian before sticking to a plan
Use of medications
Medications can help control the intensity or frequency of your dog’s seizures; professionals usually prescribe them. Some of these medications are phenobarbital, potassium bromide, or anti-convulsant medications.
Sometimes, the vet prescribes diazepam (valium) to be administered to your dog’s rectum to shorten the period or lessen the severity of the seizure.
Stick to a routine
Another way to reduce the frequency of morning seizures in your dog is to make sure you stick to a certain routine and try as much as possible to avoid frequent changes in daily or weekly routines.
For instance, changing your dog’s routine from time to time may cause stress and further worsen his condition—sticking to a schedule will help avoid such stressful situations.
Keep track and avoid triggering situations
You can also aid your dog’s treatment by removing triggers from their surroundings and also completely avoided.
An example of a trigger is a meal change; if you must change your dog’s meal, start with little portions to minimize the risk.
Managing morning seizures in dogs and minimizing the risks
Dealing with dogs with morning seizures is a long and frightening process for both the dog and the dog owner; this requires that you are patient, attentive, and forward-thinking.
Below are some daily tips to help you navigate the process and make treatment less stressful and more effective.
- Keep your veterinarian’s contact details close and be in constant communication.
- Have a little diary where you record all details pertaining to your dog’s condition and treatment.
- During seizures, use a timer to estimate how long each seizure took—this will help you give the best information to your veterinarian.
- Join a community of dog owners or lovers ready to listen to you, as dealing with this situation can be emotionally draining.
- If you have more than one dog, take the other dog away from the scene as soon as your seizing dog begins to show signs. Dogs tend to react badly toward other dogs suffering from seizures.
- Once the episode passes, hold your dog and make them comfortable to avoid hurting themselves as they do not always feel better immediately.
Morning seizures in dogs are not only problematic for the dog. Most times, the effect of the condition has a greater impact on the emotional stability of the dog owner.
Several causes of morning seizures in dogs include underlying medical conditions, environmental factors, or stress.
Seizures in dogs, however, do not mean the end of the world, as your dog can lead a healthier, happier, and longer life with the proper treatment and lifestyle changes.
So, once you notice the first sign of seizure in your dog, take note, follow the tips provided in this guide, then discuss with your veterinarian the next line of action for your dog.