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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 health  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 current dogs 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.

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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.

 

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.

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

My 3 year old chi. Has been having seizures since the vet gave him burvetco flea pill at 6 month old. It starts with him being very unsteady on his feet and then his limbs stiffen up. His head shakes and he cries out. His eyes and mouth water. It usually lasts for about 5 min. Then he acts like nothing happened. The last one lasted longer. Its so scary. I put honey on his lips. When he starts locking his lips I know he's coming out of it. Im so afraid that he will die in my arms when it's happening. I take him to a dark room and hold him close to me and softly try and comfort him. After reading these comments im going to try the CBD Oil.

Cathy

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

Poor little guy! I hope the CBD oil helps him.

Sherry

Sunday 24th of October 2021

I hope this site is still active My little baby Kaya (rescued at 6 yrs old, is about 1.5 pounds overweight, my fault, seizures)the vet has her on br-250 1/4 tablet. Lately, I've seen it twice now, her head will fling back and forth like she has a back cramp. This will last maybe 2 minute top. It's like when they get a bath and after that they take their head and drag it side to side on the carpet to help dry, get it dirty again or just cause they a happy it's over with. It's looks like something inside just grabs their head and pulls it to the side, scares me to death but I hold her and try to calm her. Afterwards she is like nothing happened.

Sheila

Thursday 28th of October 2021

@Sherry, Hi Sherry. My Bella just turned 7 this month and is 4 lbs. I’ve been so worried about her. For several months now usually at night she seems to have these episodes where her head jerks back and forth and this usually happens when she’s laying down or on my lap. They only last for about 5-10 seconds but can have several episodes in one night. It happens often. I usually pet her lightly and she seems to stop the jerking. It’s so scary. About two nights ago for the very first time her entire body was jerking and I panicked calling her name while it lasted for about 15 seconds but then it stopped and she was fine. I just ordered a CBD oil tonight and I’m going to see if that will help. So scary and upsetting.

Good luck with your fur baby.

Cathy

Sunday 24th of October 2021

It sounds like it may be a mild seizure. Let your vet know. They may need to adjust the seizure meds.

linda higden

Thursday 14th of October 2021

I have 12 year old long-haired Chihuahua just had first seizure 12:30 a.m. this morning it is now 7 a.m. I am home with him they took complete blood test they are saying he has head trauma something in his head is hurting him or Elysian in his said maybe cancer I don't know a lesion in his head anyway they put him on Kimbrough like I said I'm just home now Kem mpra it is for seizures we will see if he still declining then we know for sure it's something in his head is putting pressure anybody have this with their older dogs did their vet say it was brain trauma please let me know I feel so sorry for everybody here I want my baby to live forever

Cathy

Thursday 14th of October 2021

I'm sos sorry Linda!

Peggy harvey

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

My little chi tinker passed just before age 14..she was very small four pounds...I gave her sugar water..I now have one who is 13 and has been diagnosed with CHF and heart murmur..she just started having seizures..the first was really mild and the third one she screamed and then looked lifeless .I thought she had died but then she came to herself..she weighs 7 lbs so she eats good but I fed her and her sister right after. She is fine now..will have to keep an eye on her...

Cathy

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

One of my grandson's has seizures like that, where he actually looks dead and does stop breathing. It's terrifying.

Peggy harvey

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

I had a very small chi years ago who would have seizure activity and since she didn't eat much I would give her a syringe with sugar water during the seizure and she would come out fast...

Cathy

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

This is common with tiny dogs, usually it's hypoglycemia and sugar water works great to get their levels back up.