Useful Information and advice for Dogs that suffer from fits.

Several terms are used to describe a fitting animal.  Convulsions are violent or
unco-ordinated contractions of muscles due to abnormal cerebral stimulation.  The muscle activity is described as clonic when the contractions are interspersed with periods of relaxation or tonic when the muscle contraction is sustained without periods of relaxation.

The condition is more common in dogs than in cats, and is usually seen in dogs aged 1-3 (primary fits).  Older animals suffer from secondary fits, following brain damage by disease (such as distemper), trauma to the head or toxaemia (poisoning),

Fits are not normally fatal however, very rarely the animal may swallow its tongue and choke.  Under no circumstances should anyone put there hand in the animals mouth to move the tongue.  *you will get bitten*

Eplilepsy is a central nervous disorder in which the brain creates disorganised electrical activity causing convulsions.

Status Epilepticus occurs when convulsions are continuous – one following another.

There are many causes of fit:

  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Intracranial trauma
  • Brain Tumours
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Cerebral Anoxia
  • Idiopathic Epilepsy
  • Portosystemic shunts
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Hypocalcaemia
  • Poisons (cyanide, metaldehyde, lead)
  • Renal disease
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Anorexia & haemorrhage – depriving the brain of vital substances


Pre Ictal Phase – Initial phase
Animals may be asleep or resting, awake suddenly or appear restless and anxious.  Occasionally the animals becomes hysterical, barking and running around agitated.  The fit will usually happen suddenly.

Ictal Phase – Actual Fit

A typical grand mal fit:
The animal having a fit collapses on to its side and goes into violent convulsions, legs extended with head pulled back and neck arched, chomping its jaws and salivating – which will turn into froth around the muzzle, vocalising, urinating and defecating.  The eyes will usually remain open and fixed.  In additions limbs will start to paddle.  The respiration rate will be increased.  The animal is unaware of its environment and will not be responsive to its name.

The petit mal seizure is less dramatic than the grand mal, the animal will wander around staring fixedly and will be unresponsive to its name and unable to settle.

Usually convulsions will subside after 5-10 minutes but when the fit is more severe it can last for several hours coming out of one fit to commence another fit straight away, with no time for recovery in between.  Fits that last for long periods of time are normally treated with varying degrees of sedations to general anaesthesia.

Post Ictal Phase – Immediately after fit

The animal will get up and wander around looking dazed and exhausted.  “He” will be unsteady for a while but should return to normal in a short space of time. The dog should be responsive to its name.

Treatment Available

You must seek advice and treatment from your vet so that your dog may be monitored correctly.

You could consider seeing an animal homeopath.  Homeopathic remedies to look into would be Chamomilla, Selenium, Ignatia, Lyssin, Nux Vomica, Tarent Lisp or Zincun.

Rescue Remedy can help an animal suffering BUT the timing of administering has to be when the dog is responsive to its name so there is no risk of being bitten.


  • Owner should not touch the animal.
  • Should move items away from the animal to prevent injury.
  • Clear the room of people.
  • Reduce the noise and draw the curtains to provide a quiet environment.  No external stimulus (auditory or visual).
  • Make sure the room is well ventilated by opening a window.
  • Stay with the animal until the fit is over, but must not fuss over it.
  • Offering reassurance once the animal is responsive to its name.
  • The owner should NOT move the animal or attempt to drive to a Veterinary surgery with a fitting animal BUT must seek the advice of a vet by making a phonecall.
  • Allow 20-30 minutes recovery time for the animal, before taking to a vet for examination.  If the animal is suffering from continuous fits then a veterinary surgeon should come to your home to treat the animal.

Useful things to note

Make a note of the date, length of fit and how many.  Time between fits.
What was the dog doing prior to the fit (active or resting)
During the fit did the dog:

  • Salivate
  • Arch its neck
  • Lay on its side, paddling
  • What was “his” eyes doing – twitching from side to side or fixed?
  • Moving in circles or act as though “he” was blind and dazed?
  • Pass urine or faeces?

This information will help the vet assess the severity of the fit and how to treat the dog. It is also useful for the owner to know how frequent the dog has fits (I.e. weekly, monthly or every once in a while).

Seizures – types with some basic symptoms

Audiogenic Seizure – bought on by sound
Cerebral Seizure – epileptic fit or disturbance of nervous system, electrical activity in the brain.
Grand Mal Seizure – Often occurs as the animal is waking from sleep, but may also happen when fully conscious.  In the latter case the animal may become restless immediately before the fit commences, seeking affection or reassurance.  The fit has no vocalising signs.  Unconsciousness, generalised muscular activity, excessive salivation, chewing activity, paddling movements, often urination and defeacation.
Partial Seizure – restricted focus on the brain, signs correspond to the affected area or limbs.  Apparent blindness, hallucinations such as fly chasing.
Petit Mal – mild and brief general seizure.  The animal does not necessarily collapse.
Photogenic Seizure – bought on by light.
Psychometere Seizure – motor seizure accompanied by psychic stage hallucination, salivation, papillary dilation, mastication (chewing), urination and defeacation, wild running.
Tentanic Seizure – spasm of the muscles, rigid limbs, pricking of ears and flaring of the nostrils.
Tonic Seizure – Rigid muscles
Tonic – Clonic Seizure – alternating tonic (rigid muscles) and Clonic (jerking muscles) phases grand mal seizure.

If in doubt always consult your vet for further advice.

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