Brain Disease in Dogs: Phases of a Seizure

There are 4 basic phases to a seizure: the preictal phase, the aura, the ictus, and the postictalBrain Disease in Dogs: Phases of a Seizure phase.  Although the phases of a seizure can vary greatly in presentation and duration, it serves to give an owner an expectation of what should be observed to characterize the animal as having a true seizure.  Seizures reflect some form of brain disease in dogs.  By understanding the phases of a seizure, a pet owner can better identify if his/her dog is possibly having a seizure or if the observed activity may be due to some other condition.

The preictal phase of a seizure, or prodromal period, may occur several days or hours prior to the actual seizure.  Possible signs include restlessness and pacing, insecurity and seeking out the owner for consolation or other form of abnormal behavior.

An aura or localizing sign may be the actual beginning of the seizure.  An aura is a feeling, and the animal may display abnormal behavior similar to the prodromal period.  A localizing sign is often reflected by some involuntary contractions of certain muscle groups on one side of the face or body.  Some classification systems group the preictal and aura phases together describing only 3 phases of a seizure.

The ictus, fit or seizure can very greatly in description depending on the focal or diffuse nature of the seizure event.  Observation of the consciousness, body position, jaw and limb movements and signs of salivation, urination and defecation should be noted by the owner.  Dogs may fall down, have body convulsions or thrashing, jaw motion and salivation, and loss of bowel control during this phase of a seizure. Click here to learn what you can do at home if your dog has a seizure.

The postictal phase or recovery phase of a seizure, the animal may be hyperactive and continually pace, or be very tired and sleep.  Some animals are very hungry and thirsty, and may want to urinate or defecate if the did not do so during the seizure.  Animals may appear confused and disoriented, and might have temporary loss of senses.

A pet owner should try to note as best possible the onset of the first seizure, frequency of seizures and any patterns associated with the event.  This information can be very helpful to a veterinarian in trying to determine the nature of the problem and how to best treat it.  Not all seizures produce the same signs or are generalized in nature.   Dogs that have partial seizures do not exhibit the classic phases of a seizure.  They do not have convulsions but tend to show behavioral changes such as fly biting or tail chasing. Click here to learn more about the differences between generalized and partial seizures.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder, and is on medication to treat the disease, you can click here to learn what to do if your dog has a seizure 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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