January 10th, 2013, Pierson’s Gotcha Day – Except for the tapping on my keyboard, my office is virtually silent. It’s evening, late enough to be dark out but not quite dinner time. I have the lights off so the only light is from my computer screen. All is peaceful. I’m working on fun dog stuff online while Maya lies at my feet and Pierson rests beside my chair.
Suddenly, Pierson starts thudding around on the floor. My first thought is that I had rolled the chair leg onto his long hair and he was trying to get up but couldn’t. But when I pull the chair away, he’s still doing the same thing. Is he playing with something? Is there a bug on the floor that he’s trying to catch? I don’t know. I can’t see. The lights are off.
I quickly turn on the lights to see him on his side. He’s making motions like he is trying to get up but can’t. I quickly kneel beside him to see if I can tell what is going on. His eyes are rolled back. His upper body is moving oddly but his back legs are stretched out behind him and not moving, as though paralyzed. The paw of one of his front legs is curled up close to his chest.
I rest my hand on his side to calm him and keep him from trying to move around too much. Alarm bells are going off inside my head but I remain outwardly calm and try to make my voice sound as though all is normal. He stops moving around in that peculiar way and tries to get up but his legs won’t cooperate. I massage his muscles thinking perhaps he had a muscle cramp.
Even if it was just a cramp, I have to make sure. I have to call the vet. My phone is in my pocket but I don’t have the vet’s number saved on it. The number, where is it? I have to call them as quickly as possible before they close for the day. The computer is right there. I could look it up. But I remember that the number is also on a refrigerator magnet in the other room. I go to get it and Pierson tries to get up to follow me. His legs still won’t work properly and he falls.
I make him stay and quickly retrieve the number. The receptionist answers. Thank goodness, they’re not closed yet. Help is close at hand. She asks a few quick questions then puts me on hold to get the vet on the line. When I get back to Pierson he seems a little shaken but fine. He gets up and is now walking normally. I sigh heavily with relief.
I kneel beside Pierson and he is shaking, but otherwise okay. The vet gets on the line and asks me what happened. As I explain it, I realize that what I am describing was probably a seizure. My vet agrees. After further discussion and helpful information from the vet, I decide it probably isn’t necessary to bring Pierson in immediately unless he has another one.
If we suspected Pierson had been hit in the head, exposed to something potentially harmful, if the seizure had lasted for several minutes, or if he kept having them over and over again, the vet would have strongly urged to bring him in right away. But none of these was a factor. It was probably an isolated incident. It’s okay if I wait to bring him in the next day for a check-up. Pierson went the next day and we are still awaiting test results.
Upon further research regarding seizures in dogs and canine epilepsy, this is what I have found:
- Although I didn’t notice this in Pierson, there is sometimes an event called an ‘aura’ that occurs before the seizure. This can include restlessness, panting, demand for attention, or desire for seclusion.
- Move stuff out of the dog’s way so they don’t hurt themselves.
- Do not put anything in the dog’s mouth. Dogs can’t swallow their tongues so don’t worry about that.
- Don’t touch the dog as this may prolong or trigger another seizure.
- Be calm.
- After-effects of the seizure include disorientation, stumbling, drooling, etc.
- After-effects can last a few moments or even a few hours.
- Seizures can occur for many reasons including brain trauma, poisoning, and heat stroke.
- The most common reason for a seizure is a disorder called idiopathic epilepsy. It occurs in as many as 5% of all dogs.
- Dogs can live long normal lives even though they may suffer from idiopathic epilepsy.
If you think your dog has had a seizure, call your vet. It could be an emergency situation or everything could be fine. Pierson is doing well, back to his normal silly self. He hasn’t had another episode. The vet did not notice anything of great concern when we went in the next day so we can now just sit back and relax… thank goodness.