Seeing your pet undergo seizure activity, especially a grand mal seizure, can be terrifying. Whether you are witnessing a seizure for the first time, or your pet was diagnosed with epilepsy years ago, knowing how to react can make a world of difference for your four-legged friend. Be prepared, by learning the following do’s and don’ts of seizures in pets to best help your pet.

DO remain calm when your pet starts having a seizure

If your pet is having a seizure, remain calm. Your pet can sense your stress and anxiety, which will only worsen their worry about what is happening. Depending on your pet’s seizure type, signs may include:

  • Altered consciousness
  • Stiffened muscles
  • Jerking motions
  • Paddling legs
  • Twitching face
  • Violently opening and closing the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Urinating
  • Defecating

Some pets display warning signals prior to a seizure, known as the pre-ictal phase. During this period—which can last for a few seconds to a few hours—your pet may be restless or anxious, seek out your companionship, or try to hide.

After a seizure, your pet may take some time to return to their old self. During this post-ictal phase, the brain is trying to return to normal, so you’ll likely notice confusion, agitation, or pacing.

At each seizure phase, be a calm, reassuring presence for your pet. Speak in a soft, measured tone and move in controlled movements—speaking frantically in a high-pitched voice and moving rapidly will make your pet more anxious. 

DON’T try to restrain your pet during a seizure

While holding down your pet to keep them from thrashing may seem like a good idea, leaving them alone is best. As long as your pet is in a safe location, avoid touching them, and instead reassure them with your gentle voice. Also, stay away from your pet’s head, since they may lash out unexpectedly during a seizure because of the irregular brain activity. 

If your pet is near a staircase or the edge of a bed and may fall, gently move them by pulling them from their hind end. Pets undergoing a seizure may not be aware of their surroundings, and being moved could startle them, or the seizure itself could cause a biting motion. If necessary, wrap your pet in a blanket to move them, and then uncover them, since seizure activity causes the body temperature to rise.

DO look at the clock when your pet’s seizure starts

Although it’s likely the last thing on your mind when your pet is having a seizure, try to glance at the clock to keep track of how long the seizure lasts. Jot down the time your pet takes to return to normal, and note any strange behavior before or after the seizure. Keeping a log of your pet’s seizures, including how long they last, what they look like, and how frequently they occur, is important for formulating a treatment plan. If possible, take a video of your pet’s seizure—this will not only have a time stamp, but also will clearly highlight whether the details of your pet’s activity is indeed a seizure.

DON’T grab your pet’s tongue during a seizure

Contrary to popular belief, a pet or person experiencing a seizure will not swallow or choke on their tongue. Do not stick your hands in your pet’s mouth or try to hold their jaws closed during a seizure, since you could easily get bitten. 

DO contact your veterinarian immediately after your pet’s seizure

When your pet’s seizure is over, let our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team know what happened. We’ll make a note in your pet’s medical record that is kept on file, and determine if your pet requires treatment. Emergency veterinary care is typically necessary only if your pet’s seizure lasts for longer than five minutes, or if your pet has two or more seizures in a 24-hour period. However, if this is your pet’s first seizure, they will require diagnostic testing to determine the cause and an appropriate treatment plan. 

DO give your pet prescribed medication for their seizures

If your pet continues to have seizures, an anticonvulsant medication can help limit their severity and frequency. Although you may notice a marked improvement in your pet’s seizures—they may stop having seizures altogether—do not stop their anticonvulsant medication. Anticonvulsant medications are a lifelong treatment and cannot be discontinued. Therefore, we typically will not start your pet on therapy unless they are having seizures more often than once every four to six weeks, cluster seizures, or prolonged grand mal seizures. 

If you are unsure whether your pet is displaying seizure activity, contact our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team for an appointment.