My Old Dog Is Having Seizures, When To Put Down

If your old dog is having seizures, you are likely searching for any possible cause behind this sudden decline in their health. Seizures are often terrifying to witness in your furry friend, and make it challenging to know how to react when they begin.

Seizures in old dogs are more concerning than those in young dogs, causing many pet owners to wonder if it’s a sign to say goodbye.

In this article we will discuss the details of seizures in older dogs, and help you make the best decision for your canine friend going forward.

Are Seizures In Old Dogs Serious?

Old Dog Is Having Seizures

Seizures in elderly dogs are always a bit more concerning than seizures in young dogs. While sudden seizures in young dogs can usually be linked to canine epilepsy, this is not the case for our older canine friends.

The general onset of canine epilepsy is from 2-6 years of age, meaning it would be extremely unlikely for a senior dog to suddenly develop epilepsy. Because of this, this often means other medical conditions are to blame.

Seizures in old dogs are not the end of the world, but they certainly require a bit more digging to get to the root of the cause. Neurological symptoms in old dogs can be a complication of a current medical condition they are battling, or the development of a new issue altogether.

What Would Cause An Old Dog To Have Seizures?

Senior dogs can have seizures for multiple reasons. Whether your old dog is generally healthy or has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, seizures are always something to take seriously. To help you better understand your old dog’s neurological symptoms, let’s discuss the most common cause of canine seizures below.

Canine Epilepsy

While it’s not common for an old dog to be diagnosed with epilepsy, it is still the most common neurological condition in dogs as a whole. The general onset of this condition is between 2-6 years of age, and is a result of abnormal electrical activity occurring within the brain.

There is no set cause for canine epilepsy, but there is potential for it being a hereditary condition. Dogs with epilepsy can experience anywhere from one seizure a year to multiple seizures a month, and will require different treatments based on how severe their condition is.

Brain Tumors

Brain tumors are a common cause of seizures in older dogs. They can be primary or secondary in our furry friends, meaning they either originate in the brain, or they are a result of metastasis. When a senior dog has a brain tumor, this can cause a disturbance in the normal activity within the brain. This often results in seizures, as well as other abnormal neurological behaviors.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause seizures in older canine friends. Dogs can experience hypoglycemia due to not eating for extending periods of time, or as a result of unmanaged diabetes. Other metabolic diseases can cause fluctuation in a dog’s blood sugar as well, meaning seizures can occur in an array of canine medical conditions.

A dog with low blood sugar may also experience a wobbly gait, disorientation, weakness, and even collapse. Hypoglycemia is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention, as it can result in death if the blood sugar is not corrected.

Kidney Disease

A dog’s kidneys help to filter the toxins from their bloodstream. When the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, this can lead to a toxin buildup in their system. This is most common in the late stages of kidney failure in dogs, as their kidneys have lost most of their normal function. If your dog with kidney disease has begun to have seizures, it may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian.

Liver Disease

Late stages of liver disease in our furry friends can cause seizures and abnormal neurological behavior. Liver disease can lead to a condition called hepatic encephalopathy, which is a result of ammonia buildup in the bloodstream due to the insufficient liver function. Hepatic encephalopathy can cause a dog to experience seizures, wobbly gait, strange behavior, confusion, vocalizations, and more. If your dog with liver disease has begun to have seizures, it may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian.

Head Trauma

Any type of head trauma can lead to seizures in older dogs. Head trauma can cause swelling or serious injury of the brain, both of which can result in seizures. Head trauma is a medical emergency in our canine friends, as they can rapidly decline in the time following the injury. If you fear any type of head trauma in your senior dog, it’s best to contact your vet immediately.

Toxins

Toxicity can lead to seizures in dogs of all ages. If a toxin builds up in your dog’s bloodstream, this can result in seizures or other abnormal neurological symptoms. Because toxins can range from human food to human medications, you should always try your best to stick to your pup’s approved diet and care routine. If you do want to offer them human food of any kind, it’s best to first get permission from your vet.

If you think your senior dog is having a toxicity to a certain item, it’s best to contact the Pet Poison Helpline (888) 426-4435, for further guidance.

What Do Seizures Look Like In Dogs?

We tend to think of seizures in dogs as violent shaking and thrashing. While this can certainly happen, it is not the only sign of seizures in our canine friends. Some of the most common symptoms of seizures in dogs include:

  • Shaking of one limb, or only their limbs
  • Facial twitching
  • Ear twitching
  • Chewing fits
  • Hypersalivation
  • Body tremors
  • Hallucinations, as if they are chasing things that are not there
  • Confusion
  • Collapse
  • Shaking or thrashing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Urinating or defecating on themselves
  • Vocalizations

Seizures can range from sudden disorientation to full body tremors. Seizures can look many ways in our canine friends, so it’s important to always be on the lookout for any abnormal behavior. Many veterinarians suggest recording your dog during any episodes of abnormal behavior, as this can help your vet determine if they are having a seizure or not.

How Are Seizures In Dogs Treated?

Treating seizures in old dogs is not always cut and dry. Seizures can have multiple causes in our senior friends, meaning there are multiple forms of treatment available. Getting to the root of your dog’s seizures is essential for finding the right treatment path, and will be the only way to either manage or end their seizures for good.

For example, if your dog is seizing due to hypoglycemia, the treatment will involve addressing their low blood sugar, and determining what caused it in the first place. Because the seizure is a symptom of a bigger issue, the correct treatment will involve addressing the cause.

As we mentioned above, epilepsy is not the most common cause of seizures in old dogs. Due to this, starting them on seizure medication is not always the best approach. Determining the cause of their seizures will be the only way to offer them relief.

What To Do If My Old Dog Is Having A Seizure

Watching your old dog have a seizure is scary, and many pet owners freeze in the moment because of this. To help you best prepare for any future seizures in your dog, let’s discuss what you should do, step by step.

  1. Stay calm. Your senior pup will likely be confused and scared when they come to, and they will need a confident owner to help comfort them. 
  2. Assess the area for anything that can potentially injure them. For example, if they are by the stairs, you will want to stand in front of the stairs and block them. 
  3. While you will want to cradle your dog, it’s best to refrain from doing this. Dogs do not know what they are doing when they are having a seizure, and they may accidentally injure you in the process. If you are fearful of them injuring themselves, you can surround them with pillows or blankets. 
  4. It’s important to never put your hand in your dog’s mouth while they are seizing. Inaccurate myths state that dogs can swallow their tongue while they seize, but this is 100% false. It is impossible for a dog to swallow their tongue, so this will only result in you getting severely bitten. 
  5. If you have a free hand, try to record the episode. This will help your vet determine the best plan of action going forward. 
  6. Once your dog has come out of their seizure, we suggest contacting your vet for further guidance.

When To Put Down An Old Dog Who Has Seizures

If you’re struggling with making the decision to put your old dog to sleep, you are not alone. Symptoms like seizures can make it even more confusing, causing you to wonder when their seizures have become too much for them to bear.

If your old dog is having seizures as a result of a worsening medical condition, it may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian. This is also true of any seizure disorders that are no longer managed with medication, as this could mean their condition has progressed beyond help.

No matter what, you should always discuss your dog’s situation with the vet that has cared for them. They know your dog’s specific situation best, and can help you make the right decision for your pup.

Ultimately, you will have to make that decision. You will know when the time has come. Our bond’s with our pets over the years allows us to know when they are suffering. As hard as it will be, euthanizing your dog will be one of the hardest decisions you will have to make. In the end, it will be about their quality of life.

Final Thoughts

You are never alone in your concerns about your seizing senior pup. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above so you can make the best decision for your beloved companion.

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