Dog seizures are definitely one of the scariest things a pet parent may have to go through.
As canine companions go, Chihuahuas are fantastic! They have sassy, super-size personalities packed into pint size bodies – it’s easy to see why this breed is popular with dog lovers everywhere, from Coach-toting celebrities to the neighbor next door.
Unfortunately, much to the chagrin of their owners, these spunky little dogs tend to be prone to some health problems, and recurrent seizures are one of the most concerning issues that faces the Chihuahua breed today. In fact, a 2009 healthy survey by the Chihuahua Club of America revealed that 45% of survey participants had either bred or owned a Chihuahua with seizures of unknown origin – an alarming fact that has many lovers of the breed worried for their future.
I have gone through this myself. Although my Chihuahua has never had a seizure (thank God!) I went through this for almost 19 years with my beloved terri-poo Joey. He had them once or twice a month, so although he didn’t have to go on medication for them, they were still quite terrifying to go through, both for him and myself too.
What exactly does a dog’s seizure look like? Well, much in the same way as a human seizure might happen, a canine seizure or convulsion is a sudden excessive and uncontrollable firing of nerves in your pup’s brain. When this happens, it produces a pattern of involuntary movements (contractions) of some muscle groups, and it can show up as odd sensations, abnormal behaviors (like staring into the distance, blinking or repetitive movements), a full-body convulsion or any combination of the above.
Here’s a video of a little Chi going through a seizure:
There are usually three parts to seizure activity, in fact. The first stage, or ‘aura’ stage, is when signs of a coming seizure may be noticeable – dogs will often become restless, anxious, or clingy, and might whine, tremble or hide from you. Second is the ictal stage, which is when the actual seizure occurs. Depending on the type of seizure, you might note that your pup vocalizes, chomps, pees or poops, as they aren’t able to control these functions at the time. Finally, the post-ictal stage describes the time period right after the seizure. Your pup might seem confused, tired, or less responsive to you; this stage can last for mere minutes or up to a few days after the seizure.
Besides noting the signs of a seizure in your four-legged family member, it’s important to know about the causes of seizures in Chihuahuas as well. The most common reasons for seizures in this breed are:
• Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is especially an issue with young puppies who don’t eat frequently enough in order to maintain a good blood sugar level, and since Chihuahuas have a smaller number of fat cells than many other breeds, they don’t have much energy reserve to fall back on.
• Hydrocephalus. Sometimes called ‘water on the brain’, this is a condition that’s caused by an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain cavity, and it’s one that’s common to many toy breeds including Chihuahuas. The increased pressure on the brain can cause poor growth, lethargy, stumbling, and seizure activity.
• Porto-systemic Shunt (Liver Shunt). Another condition that’s prevalent in toy breeds, a liver shunt is blood vessel that carries blood around the liver instead of through it. For Chihuahuas, the defect is usually one that’s congenital (present from birth). The shunt prevents the liver from removing toxins from the bloodstream and can limit a dog’s access to energy stores.
• Hereditary (or idiopathic) epilepsy. Some Chihuahua breed lines are prone to hereditary seizures that don’t originate from any particular health problem.
Determining the cause for your Chihuahua’s seizures is a task that’s best left up to your veterinarian. If your dog has had a seizure, your vet may recommend diagnostic tests to find out the underlying cause for the incident, which can include a full health history, examination (including neurological exam), blood tests, urinalysis and stool checks. These tests are vital for determining the type of treatment needed (if necessary) for your Chihuahua’s seizure activity.
So what should you do if your Chihuahua has a seizure? First of all, don’t panic, and keep in mind that they’re not actually in any pain – just unconscious!
If possible, move your pup away from furniture, stairs or water to keep him safe. You may need to hold your dog still to keep them from flopping around or trying to stand up during the seizure.
It’s a good idea to time the seizure if you can to keep track of how long it lasts, too, and, if there are multiple seizures, how long of a time period in between each seizure.
Call your vet for advice right away if your pup’s seizure lasts longer than five minutes. Don’t put your hand or any other object in your dog’s mouth during a seizure either – dogs don’t ‘swallow their tongues’, and you run the risk of being bitten accidentally; objects in their mouth during a seizure are also a choking hazard for your Chihuahua.
Stay by your little dog’s side to give them comfort and to help calm them down once they stop seizuring – they’ll need some extra loving care afterwards.
I know Joey always stuck to me like glue for a few hours afterward. First I would take him out to go potty, then get him a drink of water. He was always thirsty. And them I would just hold him for awhile. He seemed to need the comfort.
For some dogs, seizure activity can sometimes become dangerous. You should bring your Chihuahua for emergency veterinary care immediately if you note:
• Seizures that last longer than ten minutes.
• Seizures that happen more than once in a 24 hour period.
• Seizures that begin before your pup has completely recovered from the last seizure.
To help your Chihuahua recover after a seizure, make sure to stay close and help them through any confusion or disorientation. Keep the room dim and quiet, and speak softly and calmly, keeping your furry friend away from hazards like stairs until they are acting like their usual self.
Some dogs may seem tired, while others bounce back as though nothing happened and are ready to play again. You can offer a small amount of water, but realize that your pup may not feel like eating or drinking for a short while afterwards.
For owners who adore their little sprites, their Chihuahua’s seizures can be a scary experience – it’s always difficult to watch a fur baby go through an experience like that without being able to help them. With the right care and management, though, many Chihuahuas with seizure disorders go on to live well into their senior years as happy dogs. My Joey lived to be one month shy of his 19th birthday.
I wanted to include this video although I have no idea if it really works. If anyone tries it or has tried it, please share your results. This lady says she has found a way to halt her dog’s seizures:
If you have gone through this with your dog, feel free to share your experiences in the comments section. Have you had to put your dog on medication for seizures? How often do they have seizures?
FOOTNOTE: One of the readers, Steven Bruggeman on our Facebook page wrote this: “Not long ago my precious “SPIKE” almost passed away after multiple seizures Overnight . the Emergency Vet here in Sarasota advised me to put her down. I got my Baby girl and came home. I posted the story on my fb page. A fantastic friend told me of a vet in Mobile Alabama had proven that feeding your dog with seizures a special brand and flavor of food and that would stop the dog from having a seizure. It is natural choice and it is fish and sweet potatoes formula I started my spike on that 3 weeks ago and then that time she has made a full recovery where she was almost lifeless at the emergency vet.”
I have no idea if this will work for all dog seizure cases but I thought I would add it as a possible remedy. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try it.