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What to Say to Your Kids About Canine Epilepsy

When a dog falls into an epileptic seizure, it can be quite an alarming sight. A formerly friendly dog might begin to snap or foam at the mouth; the dog’s legs may stick out straight and rigid, and then begin to kick. While an adult may witness this behavior and understand what it means, it can be quite disturbing for a child. If you have a son or daughter and your dog has epilepsy, it’s a good idea to speak to your child about the condition so he or she will know what to expect. 

Explain the Mechanisms

Seizures are caused by electrical malfunctions in the brain. When this happens, your dog’s brain momentarily loses the ability to control the muscles, which causes the physical part of the seizure. Older children might want an explanation of epilepsy, while younger children only need to know that the dog’s brain is having problems. Reassure them that what is happening is natural, if unfortunate.

Teach Them to Watch For the Aura

Dogs seldom have seizures with no warning. Most dogs have an aura for a few minutes or even a few hours before the seizure comes on. For example, a normally aloof dog may insist on lots of cuddles or petting. A typically outgoing dog might try to hide. Part of learning to deal constructively with your dog’s seizures is learning when they are about to happen, and this is true for anyone.

dog with kids

What to Do

Children are like anyone else: they hate to feel helpless. Feeling helpless and not knowing what to do can make anyone upset, so let your kids know what they should do if your dog has a seizure.

For example, let them know that even the friendliest dog might accidentally bite them during a seizure because it is not in control of its jaws. That means that if a dog starts to have a seizure, the child needs to take a big step backwards. Then he or she should find a trusted adult. This keeps the dog and the child safe from harm, and it enables a grownup to take over.

Give the Dog Space Afterwards

Following a seizure, the dog is likely to be a bit shaky. If your child has a very affectionate relationship with your pet, he or she might be tempted to swamp the dog with affection. Teach the child to sit still after a dog has experienced a seizure and wait for the animal to approach on its own.

This can be difficult for an impatient and loving child, but be firm. A dog that is still shaky on its feet after a seizure will not necessarily be helped by a lot of physical contact.


If you have children and a dog that has seizures, it is very important for your kids to know what to do if the dog has a seizure in front of them. They should be armed with more knowledge rather than less, so be clear about what needs to be done.

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