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A Chihuahua Owner’s Guide to Seizure Disorders

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Chihuahua Owners Guide to Seizures

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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 face 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 sensationsabnormal 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. 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:

Common Reasons for Seizures in Chihuahuas

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is especially an issue with young puppies who don’t eat frequently enough to maintain a good blood sugar level. 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.

Portosystemic Shunt (Liver Shunt). Another condition that’s prevalent in toy breeds, a liver shunt is a 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.

GME This a condition that affects the nervous system that is more common in small dogs and is believed to be caused by over-vaccination.

Diagnostic Testing for Chihuahuas

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 of the incident.

Diagnostic tests 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.

What To Do

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 and keep track of how long it lasts, too, and, if there are multiple seizures, how long of a time period in between each seizure.

Also, use your camera function on your cell phone and take a video of the seizure while it’s in progress to show your vet.

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 seizing – they’ll need some extra loving care afterward.

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 then I would just hold him for a while. He seemed to need 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 24 hours
  • 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 afterward.

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?

Click to find other chihuahua health problems.

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 a natural choice, and it is fish and sweet potatoes formula. I started my spike on that three weeks ago, and since 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.

Also, check the comments below as several people reported good results in stopping seizures with different tactics.

One of them is CBD oil, which has been none to help prevent or lessen the effect of seizures in some dogs (and humans too). We recommend (and use for other reasons on our elderly dog) King Kanine.

If you try CBD oil, start with the lowest dose first and be consistent with it every day for several months before you decide whether it’s helping your dog or not. 

Be sure to add your recommendation if you found something that has helped your dog with their seizures.

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Chihuahua Seizure FAQ

Is it common for Chihuahuas to have seizures?

45 percent of people surveyed said that they owned a Chihuahua who experienced seizures of unknown origin. It is more of a common occurrence in more than 30 dog breeds and significantly affects more than 5 percent of all dogs.

What should I do if my Chihuahua has a seizure?

First, stay calm. You can put cold water on your dog’s paws to cool him down. Avoid touching him during the seizure to avoid any accidental biting and call your vet immediately once the seizure has ended.

Are there foods that can cause seizures in dogs?

If your dog is prone to seizures, they should avoid eating any potentially inflammatory foods, including those foods that may trigger an allergy or sensitivity. These inflammatory foods include anything containing chemical additives, wheat, soy, corn, beef, or cow’s milk products.

Will treatment help prevent your dog from having seizures?

There are some medications your veterinarian can prescribe that can help control seizures. You should always discuss treatment with your vet because they can target your dog’s specific problem. Alternative therapies may also prove to be helpful in some cases.

Can a seizure kill a dog?

Status epilepticus is a very serious and often life-threatening situation for your dog. This occurs when your dog’s seizure lasts for more than five minutes. To help stop the seizure activity, intravenous anticonvulsants are needed, or the dog may die or suffer from irreversible brain damage because of the seizure.

How do you treat hypoglycemia in Chihuahuas?

Sometimes a sugar source like Karo syrup that is highly concentrated can help with hypoglycemia in dogs. Giving your pet a small amount of sugar to eat may help return their blood sugar levels to normal. However, you should always discuss any treatment for your Chihuahua with your veterinarian first.

Can low blood sugar cause seizures in dogs?

When your dog’s blood sugar levels drop too low, it can cause pain, seizures, loss of consciousness, and sometimes even death. Low blood sugar also ultimately affects the organs and overall brain function of your canine companion as well.

Why do Chihuahuas have seizures?

Idiopathic epilepsy is one of the most common causes of seizures in canines. This disorder is inherited, but its cause is still unknown. Other causes of canine seizures include liver disease, kidney failure, and brain trauma.

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Barbara A Kropik

Friday 24th of July 2020

My brother's Chihuahua had a seizure when I came in his house. She hasn't seen me in a while. He also said the months long fireworks have really upset her. That's when they started

Cathy

Friday 24th of July 2020

I have heard that a lot about fireworks bringing on seizures in dogs Barbara.

Missy

Monday 27th of April 2020

My baby boy is 8 years old and about a year ago I figured out he was having seizures, I attributed them to night terrors but when the last one had gotten so bad I thought he was going to die I took him to the vet that very morning. He would always lose control of his bladder during this. Which was a key indicator. He began having them when he was a puppy and only had them maybe 5 or 6 times up until last year when he started having them more frequently. He’s been on phenobarbital ever sense but has had a couple very short lasting seizures recently. He is always extremely tired after, my daughter (who is 7) is also so worried for him when these happen. We love him so much and it’s scary everytime. The vet found no originating problem for the seizures. I feel for everyone dealing with these seizures and their beloved fur babies.

Cathy

Monday 27th of April 2020

Yeah they are rough to watch. I remember feeling so helpless watching Joey going through knowing I couldn't do anything to stop it. Joey also lost control of his bladder during them and also was very tired afterwards. He's also be very clingy for the rest of the day and thirstier than normal too.

Allan

Thursday 5th of December 2019

My 15 year old Chihuahua started to have seizures after giving her a bath. Thus far she had a full blown one that lasted less than 30 seconds. The next time I gave her a bath she started to behave like she was going to have another seizure so I picked her up and held her close. She trembled and had a dazed look. She did not seemed to have a seizure, there was no convulsions or muscle spasms. After a few minutes she wanted to walk so I placed her on the floor while keeping a close eye on her. She went back to her normal self after that. I took her for a walk and she appeared to have no issues. I read somewhere that over excitement can trigger seizures, not sure if this is the case. Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Cathy

Thursday 5th of December 2019

I have heard that too Allan although I have never heard of a dog having a seizure because of a bath. But I can certainly see how that could happen if they are nervous and scared about being bathed. My dog would just get them out of blue for no particular reason although about half happened when her was sleeping. I wonder if you could get a mild tranquilizer from your vet or give her some pet CBD oil to calm her down before a bath.

Laurie

Thursday 31st of January 2019

I realized a long time ago that my chihuahua has seizures when she is overheated. She also gets chills easily so I would cover her up. But now I make sure part of her body is not covered up. She hasnt had one in a long time. This was the same with another chihuahua puppy I was holding in my sweatshirt before I figured out that overheating was the issue. Keep them warm but not completely covered and see if it helps. Sending all the pups love ?

Cathy

Thursday 31st of January 2019

Good advice Laurie.

Hazel Belanger

Monday 16th of July 2018

My 4 lb. Chi started losing her hair so I took her to the vet. He took a series of blood test and determined she has low thyroid . He put her on pills but she began getting a twitch in her head after getting those needles . That was 3 months or more ago and they are improving, my granddaughter who is a registered nurse said the needles damaged a nerve but it can get better . Now I’m afraid of injections . She screamed when they were trying to find her small veins. I hope she doesn’t start having seizures . I’m praying for her and I believe in the power of prayer. Karma is 11 years old .

Cathy

Monday 16th of July 2018

Poor little Karma. Hope she gets better!