Signs a Dog Is Having Difficulty Recovering From a Seizure

Most of the time dogs recover quickly from a seizure, but it's still important to know what to do, and what to watch for, afterward.

Updated July 8, 2023
Golden Retriever lying on floor Seizure

Watching your dog's behavior after a seizure can give you clues about how well they are recovering. A seizure can be very scary and potentially life-threatening. While your pet definitely needs to be seen by a vet, some advice can help you understand how to help your pooch recover more quickly.

When Your Dog's Not Recovering After Seizure

Sometimes it is the first seizure and sometimes it is an already diagnosed condition. Recovery times vary, but most dogs will begin to behave more normally within an hour after the seizure. However, when the dog doesn't recover quickly, there can be a variety of reasons and treatments. There are several potential causes for seizures in dogs as well as potential treatments.

Seizure Stages

A seizure has three stages, which are known as the pre-ictal, ictal and post-ictal periods.

  • Pre-ictal: During the pre-ictal period, your dog senses the onset of the seizure and may appear upset, nervous, restless, fearful, and clingy. This stage is also known as the aural or prodrome stage. It can last several seconds or several hours.
  • Ictal: The ictal stage is when the seizure is actually occurring and can last about two minutes or less. An ictal stage lasting five minutes or more is called status epilepticus.
  • Post-ictal: The post-ictal stage occurs once the seizure has passed and can involve confusion and abnormal behavior.

It's very important to monitor your dog's behavior after a seizure. It's not unusual for the dog to spend a great deal of time sleeping during this period, as well as showing confused and anxious behavior. Periods of sleep and restless behavior, including pacing and drooling. Hiding, temporary blindness, and deafness are fairly typical. It's also not uncommon to see a dog panting after a seizure, or they may also show extreme thirst and hunger.

If your dog continues to show behavioral and physical symptoms past a few hours, contact your veterinarian for their advice. If the symptoms persist more than two days, your veterinarian will most likely want you to come in for a checkup.

What To Watch For After a Seizure

Seizures can be an alarming and distressing event for both the dog and the owner. It's crucial to closely monitor your dog following a seizure and report any abnormalities to your vet. Here's what you should look for:

  • Post-Ictal phase: After a seizure, dogs enter the post-ictal phase. During this time, your dog may be disoriented, have unsteady movements, temporary blindness, or increased thirst and hunger. They may also appear restless, agitated, or unusually quiet. It's important to remain calm and comforting during this phase, providing a safe, quiet space for your dog to recover.
  • Physical changes: Keep an eye out for any significant changes in physical behavior after a seizure. This could include persistent difficulty in walking, pronounced weakness, excessive drooling, unusual eye movements, or incontinence.
  • Behavioral changes: Monitor your dog for any drastic changes in behavior. Some dogs may exhibit aggression or fearfulness post-seizure. They may also show signs of depression or lethargy.
  • Frequency and duration of seizures: Keep track of the frequency and duration of the seizures. If your dog has multiple seizures in a short period or a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes, it's considered a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention. This condition, known as status epilepticus, can cause lasting brain damage.
  • Recurrence: If your dog has another seizure, note the duration and severity of the episode. Any increase in frequency or intensity of seizures should be reported to your vet.
  • Changes in eating or drinking habits: Increased thirst and hunger are common after seizures but should return to normal as your dog recovers.
  • Signs of pain: While seizures themselves aren't typically painful, dogs can injure themselves during a seizure episode. Watch for signs of discomfort or pain such as limping, whimpering, or a reluctance to move.
Need to Know

The post-ictal phase typically lasts about one hour, although for some dogs it can persist for as long as two days.

Status Epilepticus

If a dog has a seizure that last longer than five minutes, they enter a state called status epilepticus. This is a very serious condition that can lead to death without immediate veterinary intervention. The dog needs to receive anticonvulsant medication intravenously.

The prolonged seizure state raises the dog's body temperature to a level that can cause irretrievable brain damage if not brought down right away. Studies have found that dogs with status epilepticus have a shorter life expectancy than dogs with non-SE seizures.

Ravenous Appetite After a Seizure

A seizure gives your dog's muscles a workout that is equivalent to running a marathon, so an affected dog may wake up ravenously hungry and dehydrated. Don't offer any food or water immediately if your dog is still wobbly or seems confused. Your dog may not be able to swallow properly at this point and is at risk of choking.

Once your pet is able to walk fairly well, you can start to offer small amounts of water and food. Limit them to small sips of water, ice chips, or small meatballs of food. Some dogs will gorge themselves and may throw up if they go too fast.

Post-Seizure Care

Seizures can be distressing for both the dog and the owner, but knowing how to care for your dog after a seizure can help ensure a smooth recovery with low stress.

  • Stay calm: Dogs are very perceptive and can pick up on your emotions. If you're panicking, your dog may feel more anxious. Try to stay calm, speak in a soothing voice, and gently comfort your dog.
  • Ensure safety: After a seizure, dogs can be disoriented. Make sure they are in a safe, comfortable area where they can't fall or bump into sharp objects. Don't attempt to move your dog during a seizure, unless they are in immediate danger.
  • Monitor your dog: Closely observe your dog's behavior, physical condition, and symptoms after the seizure. This includes how long it takes for your dog to get back to normal, any changes in behavior, and any signs of injury.
  • Hydrate and feed your dog: Post-seizure, dogs can be very thirsty and hungry. Make sure they have access to fresh water and offer a small meal.
  • Give your dog rest: Rest is vital after a seizure as your dog's body has undergone a stressful event. Encourage your dog to sleep or relax in a quiet, comfortable space.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise: Post-seizure, your dog may be weak or unsteady. Avoid strenuous exercise until your dog has fully recovered and is back to normal.
  • Administer medication if prescribed: If your dog has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder and prescribed medication, make sure to administer it as directed by your vet. Do not adjust the dosage or frequency without consulting your vet.
Need to Know

Do not force your dog to eat or drink if they are not interested or if they seem to have difficulty swallowing.

Older Dogs

An older dog may have a harder time recovering after each seizure. They may experience muscle soreness or exhaustion afterward. You can ask your veterinarian about whether your dog needs any type of anti-inflammatory or pain medication to help in recovery. Some of these drugs can interact with seizure medications though, so even if you have some on hand, check with your vet first.

Encourage your dog to eat small, frequent meals if their appetite is poor. Tempt them with some boiled or roasted chicken, baby food, or cold cuts. Even if they only take a handful at a time, it will help. Follow up with your vet to let them know your dog is having more difficulty recovering after this last episode. Your dog's recovery time after a seizure will depend on their overall health and the basis for their seizures as well as how well they handle medication.

Cluster Seizures

When a dog has multiple seizures in a row, these are called cluster seizures. Cluster seizures can be life-threatening and should prompt an immediate recheck with your vet. If these are partial seizures that don't involve the whole body, this may not be as serious. It can be helpful to your vet to make a video of your dog's episodes. Even partial seizures can cause the body to overheat or lead to other complications, so if you see very frequent seizure activity, contact your vet.

Repeat seizures interrupt the recovery, and your dog's difficulty can last for longer periods. If your dog does not continue to improve in terms of attitude, or has more than two seizures in a 24-hour period, call your veterinarian immediately.

Girl Hugging Bulldog While Vet Exams Him Seizure

Jaw Chattering or Trembling

Not all seizures become full-blown body events. Depending on where the electrical misfire takes place in the brain, only a single body part or two might be involved. Trembling might also be related to an undiagnosed neuromuscular problem, or it truly could be a case of muscle exhaustion.

The trembling might even be due to a fever if your dog's temperature is currently higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. You could also see jaw trembling if your dog has pain in their mouth.

The cause of this oral pain may not be obvious and you may need to take them to your veterinarian for a thorough dental evaluation. Since the possible causes behind the jaw trembling range from benign to serious, jaw chattering or trembling is worth bringing to your vet's attention. This way, you can find out exactly what is going on and whether treatment is required.

Canine Epilepsy

A dog with seizures for the first time should go straight to the vet. If they are diagnosed with canine epilepsy, they will be given medication. Some will continue to have mini seizures, so keep your vet informed so they can adjust the medication as needed.

It is important your vet does blood work on your dog to rule out other causes. There isn't any test available to confirm epilepsy, so it's important to check for some other conditions that can mimic it. Please don't hesitate to ask your vet more questions about canine epilepsy during your next visit. You'll need to arm yourself with all the knowledge you can so you can best help your dog.

Seizures Can Be Tricky

Like people, some dogs may recover from seizures faster than others. There is no guarantee that all canines will recover in the same amount of time. It depends on the type and intensity of the seizure, age, and underlying medical issues. It's a good idea to contact your veterinarian if you're concerned that your dog isn't recovering as rapidly as usual. Taking notes on each seizure can help you keep track of any differences, so be sure to record the type of seizure, how long it lasted, and how long it takes to recover each tim. It's all useful information for your veterinarian to have.

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Signs a Dog Is Having Difficulty Recovering From a Seizure