Seizures can be very subtle or very obvious, depending on the dog and the circumstances. Any abnormal behavior that is out of character for your dog and that appears to be neurological in nature, could be considered a seizure. Seizure activity may be very different than what you would normally expect, i.e.: a dog that falls over, jerking or paddling its limbs. Quite the contrary, a seizure can be something a subtle as a dog becoming disconnected for a moment and then suddenly snapping back to reality or a dog whose pupils dilate and who suddenly starts salivating for no apparent reason. All of these things should be a source of concern and should be monitored for increased occurrence or for more severe symptoms. If you suspect your dog may be having subtle seizures, discuss the circumstances with your vet, or make an appointment with a veterinary neurologist to get a more accurate assessment.
Seizures occur in several distinct stages:
• The Prodome – may precede the seizure by hours or days. It is characterized by changes in mood or behavior.
• The Aura – signals the start of the seizure. Signs include restlessness, nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, affection, wandering, hiding, hysterical running, and apprehension.
• The Ictus, the actual seizure – a period of intense physical activity usually lasting 45 seconds to 3 minutes. The dog may lose consciousness and fall to the ground. There may be teeth gnashing, frantic thrashing of limbs, excessive drooling, vocalizing, paddling of feet, uncontrollable urination and defecation.
• The Post Ictus/Ictal – occurs after the seizure, and may be the only sign of epilepsy the owner sees, particularly since many seizures occur at night or early in the morning. For minutes to days after the seizure, the dog may be confused, disoriented, restless, or unresponsive, or may appear blind and deaf and eat or drink excessively. At this stage the animal is conscious but not functional.