Brain Disease in Dogs: Seizures Partial or Generalized?

Seizures are typically a sign of cerebral brain disease in dogs.  They can be classified into threePartial or Generalized Seizures and Dogs basic types: generalized seizures, partial seizures, and partial seizures that secondarily generalize.  The type of seizure the animal is having can be indicative of the disease of dogs producing the seizure.

Generalized seizures and diseases of dogs that commonly cause them.

Dogs with generalized seizures suddenly fall on their side and are unconscious.  The eyes are generally open and the pupils are dilated.  The limbs, neck, face and jaw muscles may become rigid and then start to have jerking activity and the animal salivates excessively.  As the animal relaxes, it may also urinate and defecate.  The animal may paddle or lie quietly before recovery begins.  Recovery from the seizure usually lasts a few minutes to an hour.  Animals usually do not breathe normally, but the tongue rarely causes obstruction of the airway.  Owners should keep their fingers out of the animal’s mouth during the seizure or they may get bitten.   Click here to learn more about what to do if your dog has a seizure at home. The interval of the seizure usually lasts 30-90 seconds.  The most common cause of generalized seizures in dogs is epilepsy.  Longer seizures may be associated with toxicities or metabolic diseases of dogs. Click here to learn about the phases of a seizure.

Partial seizures and diseases of dogs that commonly cause them.

If the seizure involves only one part of the brain, the result is often a partial seizure.  The actual seizure may have a variety of appearances, depending on the location in the brain of the increased activity.  One-sided muscle twitching of the face, limbs is an example of a focal motor seizure.  Fly biting or star gazing or other behavior suggesting that the animal is hallucinating are examples of partial seizures in dogs and have been observed in Schnauzers, King Charles spaniels as well as mixed breed dogs.  Occasional tail-chasing and self-mutilation, bizarre, aggressive behavior have many causes, one of which can be a partial seizure.  Partial seizures are most commonly associated with a specific area of brain damage due to diseases of dogs such as infection, metabolic damage, trauma or cancer.

Partial seizures that secondarily generalize and diseases of dogs that commonly cause them.

A partial seizure can secondarily generalize to involve other parts of the brain.  This may occur so fast that the partial phase of the seizure may last only seconds and may not be observed.  Like partial seizures, these types of seizures are due to a focal lesion in the brain.  If activity in the animal during the event is asymmetrical in nature, it is suggestive of this type of seizure event taking place.  These types of seizures are caused by the same diseases of dogs that cause partial seizures.

Click here to learn what to do if your dog has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder and is having seizures at home.

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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