Brain Disease in Dogs: Causes of Seizure Disorders in Young Dogs (under 6 Months Old)

The most common types of disease in dogs that causes seizures in young dogs are congenitalBrain Disease in Dogs: Causes of Seizure Disorders in Young Dogs (under 6 Months Old) (developmental) disorders, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), Infectious diseases, toxicity, and trauma.  Toxicities and trauma are straightforward causes of seizures in animals.  Many chemical intoxicants can produce seizures, the most common being organophosphates (commonly used to control parasitic disease in dogs), chlorinated hydrocarbons, strychnine, and lead.  Trauma can cause a seizure immediately after or within a few days of a severe head injury, but can occur up to 2 years following the traumatic event. Click here to learn more about different types of seizures.

Congenital disease in dogs that cause seizures in puppies.

A common congenital disorder that can cause seizures in dogs is a portocaval shunt.  This is a condition where a blood vessel that normal causes blood to bypass the liver prior to birth, does not close after birth, as it normally should.  This results in blood not being filtered of metabolic waste products by the liver.  The result is a build up of these waste products that can have a negative impact on brain function, causing signs of disease in dogs, including possible seizures.

A congenital brain disease in dogs that can cause seizures is hydrocephalus.  Congenital hydrocephalus is commonly seen in toy breeds of dogs, such as Chihuahuas and poodles and brachycephalic breeds such as Boston terriers and Pekingese dogs.  Affected animals are usually the smallest in the litter.  Abnormal behavior is typically noticed by four to five months of age.  Typical observations may be dementia, inability to be trained, aggressive or irrational behavior or seizures.  Hydrocephalus can also be acquired secondary to infection in young puppies.  This form of hydrocephalus typically has an acute onset of neurological signs at six to eight weeks of age.

Other less common congenital disease in dogs that can cause seizures includes lissencephaly, lysosomal storage disorders, or other metabolic disorders.  Lissencephaly is a malformation of the brain most commonly seen in Lhasa Apsos.  Lysosomal storage disease in dogs is produced by enzyme defects within the lysosomes of the cells that cause a build-up of material that can disrupt normal cell function and causes cell death.  Most lysosomal storage diseases in dogs are autosomal recessive in nature, meaning both parents are carriers of the genetic trait.

Disease in dogs that cause low blood sugar in young animals.

Low blood sugar in puppies can be caused by severe infestation with parasites or an inadequateCauses of Seizure Disorders in Young Dogs (under 6 Months Old) diet.  The most common parasitic disease in dogs that cause low blood sugars is roundworms, as well as hookworms and whipworms.  The puppies tend to be depressed and weak in between the seizures.  Early detection and treatment of the low blood sugar and inciting cause often results in complete recovery with no residual brain damage or seizures.  Young toy breed dogs tend to be unable to properly store glucose in the form of glycogen in the liver.  As a result, they have no resources of glucose during stressful events and can be prone to weakness and seizures as a result.

Infectious disease in dogs that can cause seizures in young animals.

Infection with the canine distemper virus is the most common viral disease in dogs that causes seizures in young animals. This occurs in young unvaccinated dogs and is usually preceded by a respiratory or intestinal disorder also caused by the virus.    Toxoplasmosis is a protozoal disease in dogs that has also been rarely reported to cause seizures in young dogs.  Exposure is most commonly through cat feces containing the oocysts, and less commonly raw meat.

To learn about causes of seizure disorders in dogs over the age of 5, click here.

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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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