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Common Causes of Seizures in Dogs

If your dog has a seizure, the first thing you’ll want to do is find out what might be the cause.  The purpose of this article is to give you a few of the common causes, because the treatment will be dependent upon the reason for the fit, (as they are called in England), or seizure, as we call them in the United States.  Both terms refer to the state where the brain temporarily loses control of the body.

Environmental Toxins

The environment contains many toxins which can cause seizures in dogs. If your dog has a seizure the first thing you will want to do is take a look at where the dog has been.  Do you see poisons such as rat bait?  How about leaked antifreeze?  Have you recently put a flea collar on your dog or used flea powder or insecticides in your home?  If you find any of these culprits, you may have good news, because most dogs can fully recover, with quick medical intervention and treatment, if the reason for the seizure is found to be an environmental toxin.

Brain Tumors

A diagnostic test, such as an MRI or CAT scan, can determine whether or not your dog has an abnormal growth on the brain.  Brain tumors, especially those in the cerebrum, can be a common reason for seizures in older dogs, but they are rarely the cause of seizures in younger dogs.  The highest incidence is found among the short-nosed breeds such as the Pug, Boxer, Bulldog, and Boston Terrier.

Tick-induced Diseases

Dog seizures can be attributed to several poisons that can be transmitted by ticks, such as Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Check your dog’s body to see if there are any ticks.  Fortunately, with early treatment such as antibiotics, most of these conditions are reversible, and the dog will make a full recovery from a tick-induced disease.


Distemper, a virus, can cause seizures as the disease progresses.  Puppies are especially susceptible to distemper, around the age of about 3 months, when their bodies no longer have the protection of the antibodies which they received from their mother.  This debilitating disease is preventable if the dog receives a vaccination at about 8 weeks of age.  Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, followed by a dry cough, diarrhea and dehydration. Distemper must be treated by a veterinarian; in fact the very life of the dog can depend upon how quickly the dog receives medical intervention. Although antibiotics have no effect on the distemper virus itself, they are used to prevent secondary bacterial infections.  Anticonvulsants or sedatives are used to control seizures.  The best prevention against canine distemper is vaccination.

Ideopathic Epilepsy

Perhaps the most common cause of dog seizures is idiopathic epilepsy. If everything mentioned above is ruled out, idiopathic epilepsy is usually the diagnosis.  It is attributed to either a genetic or congenital disorder, causing the dog’s neurological system to be vulnerable to a chaotic electrical discharge of neurons in the brain, resulting in seizures.