Understanding Old Dog Seizures and How to Deal with Them

old dog seizures

Witnessing seizures in pets can cause alarm and concern for pet owners, especially when it involves their older dogs. Seizure disorders, commonly known as epilepsy, can affect dogs at any phase of their life, even in their old age. It’s fairly common for dogs to experience seizures.

Almost all dogs may experience seizures, although some breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, are more susceptible to experience seizures at some point than other dogs.

As our furry friends age, they may become more susceptible to certain medical conditions that can trigger seizures. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and management of old dog seizures, providing valuable information to help you understand and support your aging canine companion.

Why Do Old Dogs Start Having Seizures?

Old dogs are more likely to experience seizures compared to young ones.

Old dog seizures can have various underlying causes. It is crucial to identify the underlying cause to determine the most effective course of treatment. Here are some common causes of seizures in senior dogs:

Idiopathic Epilepsy

This is the common cause of most seizures in dogs, and it is characterized by recurrent seizures without a known cause. While idiopathic epilepsy can develop at any age, it can also manifest in an older dog.

Brain Tumors

 Brain tumors can occur in senior dogs, leading to abnormal electrical activity in the brain and one of the causes of most seizures. It’s essential to consult a vet immediately if you suspect a brain tumor in your older dog.

Diabetes and Too Much Insulin

Untreated diabetes and too much insulin are often typically accompanied by canine seizures. If left untreated, it can cause coma or death in diabetic dogs.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can potentially develop seizures in dogs, as the brain relies on glucose for proper functioning. Monitoring and maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial to prevent dog’s seizure with conditions such as diabetes or insulinoma. Consulting a veterinarian is essential for diagnosis, treatment, and managing the correlation between blood sugar and seizures in dogs.

Liver Disease

 Liver disease or liver failure can cause seizures in senior dogs due to the accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream. Monitoring liver function and prompt veterinary care is crucial for seizure dogs with liver disease.

Kidney Disease

 Similar to liver disease, kidney disease can lead to the buildup of toxins in the body, which may trigger seizures in older dog. Regular blood tests and monitoring of kidney disease function are essential for early detection and management of kidney disease and subsequent seizure.

Head Trauma

 A history of head trauma and blood clot in the brain, even if it occurred years ago, can increase the risk of seizures in older dogs. If your dog has experienced head trauma, be vigilant for any signs of seizures or abnormal behavior.

Toxins and Metabolic Diseases

Abnormal metabolic conditions and intoxication can also be causes of seizures in old dogs.

Breed Specific Seizures

According to vets, certain breeds like Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles are more prone to seizures.

Symptoms of Seizures in Senior Dogs

Seizures in senior dogs can manifest in various ways. Recognizing the signs of a seizure is crucial for providing timely assistance and seeking veterinary care. Here are some common symptoms associated with seizures in older dogs:

Uncontrollable Body Movements

Seizures often cause involuntary shaking, twitching, and convulsions in dogs. These uncontrollable movements can affect the entire body or be limited to specific areas.

Strange Behavior or Abnormal behavior

 During a seizure, a senior dog may display abnormal behavior such as disorientation, pacing, restlessness, or snapping. Some dogs may exhibit repetitive actions or vocalizations. Other neurological symptoms include excess twitching, drooling, and uncoordinated movements. Neurological symptoms depend on how many seizures the dog has had.

Loss of Consciousness

 Dogs experiencing seizures may lose consciousness or appear dazed and unresponsive (along with other symptoms). They may not recognize their surroundings or their pet parents during this time. They may have more seizures one after the other.

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures, also known as grand mal seizure, involve the entire body and typically last for a few seconds to a few minutes. These seizures can be particularly alarming for pet parents to witness.

Brain Damage and Brain Tumors

Brain tumors in dogs can develop seizures too. They may affect different regions of the brain, and their symptoms can vary depending on the location, size, and type of tumor. Even short seizures can cause brain damage in dogs.

Body Temperatures Rises

The longer the seizure goes on, the dog’s body temperature may rise. The dog may lose consciousness.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Had a Seizure?

There are several signs that can indicate if a dog has had a seizure. Here are some common indications that a dog may have experienced a seizure:

  • Loss of consciousness or altered awareness: The dog may suddenly become unresponsive or seem disoriented during the episode.
  • Uncontrolled shaking or convulsions: Dogs may exhibit uncontrollable shaking or jerking movements of the limbs, head, or body.
  • Muscle twitching or tremors: Involuntary muscle contractions or twitching may be observed during a seizure.
  • Dazed or confused behavior after the seizure: Dogs may appear disoriented, confused, or exhibit abnormal behavior once the seizure has ended.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control: In some cases, dogs may lose control of their bladder or bowels during a seizure, leading to involuntary urination or defecation.

If you suspect that your dog has had a seizure, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. They will be able to evaluate your dog’s symptoms and determine the underlying cause of the seizures.

What Are The Three Stages of Dog seizures?

Dog seizures can generally be classified into three stages: the pre-ictal stage, the ictal stage, and the post-ictal stage. Here’s an overview of each stage:

Pre-ictal stage

This is the period before the seizure occurs. During this stage, dogs may exhibit subtle behavioral changes or show signs of restlessness, anxiety, or agitation. They may appear nervous, seek attention, or try to hide. Some dogs may display clingy behavior and stay close to their owners.

Ictal stage

This is the actual seizure phase. It is characterized by the involuntary muscle contractions, twitching, convulsions, and other abnormal movements. Dogs may fall to the side, paddle their limbs, exhibit jerking motions, or experience full-body convulsions. They may lose consciousness or have altered awareness during this stage. The duration of the seizure can vary, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes.

Post-ictal stage

This stage occurs after the seizure has ended. Dogs may appear disoriented, confused, or exhausted. They may exhibit unsteady movements, difficulty walking, or temporary blindness. Some dogs may be restless or anxious, while others may be lethargic or seek comfort from their owners. The post-ictal stage can last from a few minutes to several hours.

It’s important to note that the duration and characteristics of each stage of seizures can vary between individual dogs and seizure episodes. Consulting with a veterinarian is

Also Read: Dog Care – The Complete Guide

What Do You Do When an Old Dog Has a Seizure? Managing Seizure Disorders in Older Dogs

If your aged dog experiences seizures, it’s crucial to take the following steps to ensure their well-being and seek appropriate medical care:

Stay Calm

During a seizure, it is important to stay calm and remove any potential hazards from your dog’s immediate surroundings. Keep in mind that your dog may be disoriented after the seizure, so provide a safe and quiet space for them to recover.

Contact a Veterinarian Immediately

 If your dog experiences a seizure, contact your veterinarian immediately. They will guide you on the next steps to take, which may include a physical examination, blood tests, or a referral to a veterinary neurologist for further evaluation and to prevent neurological symptoms.

Remember: you must treat more than one seizure in dogs in 24 hours as a medical emergency.

Anti Seizure Medication

 Depending on the underlying cause and severity of the seizures, your veterinarian may prescribe seizure medication to manage the condition. It is essential to follow the prescribed treatment plan and monitor your dog’s response closely.

Seizure medication for dogs, also known as anticonvulsant or anti-epileptic drugs, can be prescribed by a veterinarian to manage and control seizures. 

The specific medication and dosage will depend on the individual dog’s condition and the underlying cause of the seizures. Here are a few commonly prescribed seizure medications for senior dog:


This is one of the most commonly used anti seizure medications for treating seizures in dogs. It helps control seizures by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Regular blood monitoring is usually necessary to adjust the dosage and ensure the medication’s effectiveness.

Potassium Bromide

This veterinary medicine is often used as an adjunct therapy with phenobarbital or as a standalone treatment for certain types of seizures. It helps stabilize nerve activity in the brain of the senior dog.


Zonisamide is another anticonvulsant veterinary medicine that can be used for treating seizures in old dogs. It is sometimes used in combination with other medications to improve seizure control.


Levetiracetam is an antiepileptic medication that can be prescribed for dogs with refractory seizures or as an alternative to other medications. It is well-tolerated by most dogs and can be used as an adjunct therapy.

Provide Regular Veterinary Care

 Aging dogs with a history of seizures require regular veterinary check-ups to monitor their overall health, adjust medication dosages if necessary, and address any changes in seizure activity or other symptoms.

Provide Supportive Care

Providing a stable and low-stress environment for your aging dog can help manage their seizure disorder. Maintaining a consistent routine, minimizing triggers, and reducing stress levels can contribute to their overall well-being.

How Long Can an Older Dog Live With Seizures?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the underlying cause of the seizures, the dog’s overall health, and the effectiveness of treatment. Let’s explore these factors in more detail.

Underlying Cause:

The underlying cause of seizures plays a significant role in determining a dog’s prognosis. Some causes, such as idiopathic epilepsy, may be manageable with medication, allowing dogs to live relatively normal lives despite experiencing seizures. 

However, if the seizures are caused by a severe condition like a brain tumor or liver disease, the prognosis may be less favorable. Also, Remember more than one seizure in dogs in 24 hours may have a bad prognosis.

Treatment and Medication

Proper treatment and medication are crucial to managing seizures in older dogs. Anti-seizure medications, prescribed by a veterinarian, can help control seizure activity and reduce its frequency and intensity. 

However, it’s important to note that not all dogs respond equally to medications, and finding the right dosage and combination may require some trial and error. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor the dog’s response to medication and adjust the treatment plan if necessary.

Overall Health

The general health of the older dog also plays a significant role in their ability to cope with seizures. Dogs with pre-existing medical conditions such as kidney disease or liver disease may have a more challenging time managing seizures. 

Additionally, age-related conditions can weaken the dog’s overall health, making them more vulnerable to the effects of seizures. Adequate veterinary care, including addressing any underlying medical conditions, can help improve the dog’s quality of life and potentially extend its lifespan.

Seizure Frequency and Severity:

The frequency and severity of seizure occurs can vary greatly among individual dogs. Some older dogs may experience infrequent and mild seizures in dogs, while others may have frequent seizures.

 Dogs that experience cluster seizures (multiple seizures occurring close together) or status epilepticus (prolonged seizures) may be at higher risk for complications. Frequent and severe seizures in dogs can have a detrimental impact on a dog’s overall well-being and may shorten their lifespan.

Quality of Life

When assessing a dog’s prognosis with seizures, it is essential to consider their overall quality of life. Seizures in dogs can cause temporary disorientation, confusion, and physical discomfort.  if the dog continues having multiple seizures despite treatment, then it can greatly hamper the quality of life.

Can a Senior Dog Live With Seizures?

Yes, with proper management and medication, many dogs with seizures can still lead happy and fulfilling lives. Pet parents should work closely with their veterinarian to ensure that their old dog’s seizures and the dog’s situation are well-controlled and managed and that they can maintain a good quality of life.

The prognosis for older dogs with seizures depends on several factors, including the underlying cause of the seizures, the effectiveness of seizure treatment, overall health, seizure frequency and severity of seizures, and the dog’s quality of life. 

With proper veterinary care, medication, and a supportive environment, many older dogs with seizures can live for several more years. Pet parents need to work closely with their veterinarian to develop an individualized treatment plan that maximizes their dog’s well-being and quality of life.

Old Dog’s Seizures – When To Put Down?

Deciding when to put down an older dog with seizures is a difficult and personal decision that should be made in consultation with a veterinarian.

 Factors to consider include how often the seizure occurs and the severity of the seizures, whether there are multiple seizures or clusters, the dog’s overall quality of life, it is rapidly losing weight, the effectiveness of seizure management, and the presence of other medical conditions. 

It is important to have an open and honest discussion with your veterinarian to assess the dog’s well-being and determine the best course of action for their individual situation.


Why did my 13-year-old dog have a seizure?

There are various potential causes for seizures in a 13-year-old dog, including underlying medical conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, brain tumor, or idiopathic epilepsy. A thorough veterinary examination and diagnostic tests can help determine the specific cause of the seizure.

What are psychomotor seizures in dogs?

Psychomotor seizures, also known as complex partial seizures or focal motor seizures, are a type of seizure disorder that can occur in dogs. 

These seizures originate from a specific area of the brain and are characterized by abnormal electrical activity affecting a localized region.

They typically involve alterations in behavior and movement and manifest as repetitive, stereotypical behaviors or abnormal movements.

Is it normal for younger dogs to have seizures?

Seizures in dogs are not as common in younger dogs as they are in old dogs although certain breeds are more prone to them.

Do dogs need sugar after a seizure?

Some dogs tend to have low blood sugar after seizures. Also, untreated diabetes can cause seizures due to low blood sugar. Provide a little vanilla ice cream or apply some honey to the dog’s mouth to prevent strange behavior post seizure due to low blood sugar.

Are seizures in older dogs painful?

Seizures in older dogs themselves are not painful, although the dog may exhibit uncontrollable body movements, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. However, they typically do not experience pain unless there is a head trauma or injury to the dog’s body. 

However, injuries sustained during a seizure or multiple seizures in dogs or the underlying cause of the seizures can result in pain or discomfort, which should be addressed and managed by a vet immediately.

How long can an older dog live with seizures?

Studies have shown that the median age for old dogs to live after first having seizures is 2.3 years. Female dogs lived longer than males.

What if my dog has a seizure when I’m not home?

As far as possible, try not to leave an old dog with epilepsy at home alone. If possible, hire a pet sitter to watch your old dog and teach them how to stay calm and help the old dog when a seizure occurs.


 Old dog seizures can be a distressing experience for both the pet parent and the canine companion.

 Understanding the potential causes, recognizing the symptoms of seizures in dogs, and seeking veterinary care are essential for managing seizure disorders in old dogs

With appropriate medical attention, ongoing monitoring, and a supportive environment, it is possible to provide a good quality of life for dogs experiencing seizures in their senior years. Remember, your veterinarian is your best resource for guidance and support in managing your older dog’s health and well-being.

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