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Seizures

Species: Dog
Breed: maltese
Age: 11-15 years
Max is 14. Four nights ago he had a big seizure that lasted about 60-90 seconds. He was on his side, panting, pawing, etc. Really scary for my wife and I. We took him to emerg vet and he said probably a brain tumor. Our vet confirmed. Since then he gets these spasms - head and neck - and he's fallen down a couple of times. No more "big" seizures though. He's sitting next to me and just spasmed again and he stands up...jolts him.

I don't want him to suffer. Our vet said he's not suffering. He started slight tiny jolts about 3 months ago which i thought nothing of. Then he started licking the sofa and sheets on the bed (he's licking now on the sofa). My question is are these minor spasms and falling occasionally the result of the major seizure? When do we know when it's time to consider putting him down? He's such a part of our lives, and we've been given so many gifts by his love for us (and manipulation of us!!). I just don't want him to suffer in any way! Thank you!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear that Max is having these problems.

It is true that when a dog of this age starts to have seizures the most likely cause is a brain tumor. Unfortunately this can be really hard to prove because the only way to find a tumor in the brain is to do a cat scan or MRI.

I have found that most of the time when I have a case like this it becomes more and more obvious when it is time for euthanasia. What we are looking for are signs that Max is not enjoying life.

The seizures and the little spasms are not causing him pain. We do think that dogs feel a little bit "off" after having a seizure. This can last for a few minutes to several hours. But this is not painful to a dog.

It's hard to say whether the little seizures are part of the big one or not. What I have found is often the little tremors are kind of like warning signals that a larger seizure is coming. I have seen dogs have several little tremors or shakes throughout the day and then have a big seizure later on.

There are medications that can help reduce the severity or frequency of seizures. However, often they can take several weeks to build up to a level where they are helpful. And, if the cause is a brain tumor then they only work for a short period and that's it.

If the spasms are getting really frequent you could talk to your vet about trying medication. And, when it comes time to thinking about euthanasia, here are some questions you can ask yourself that may help with the decision:

1. Does Max seem to be enjoying life more often than not?
2. Are you enjoying having Max?
3. How is his appetite? When dogs are not feeling well they generally don't want to eat.

And again, most of my clients just seem to know when it is time.

Dr Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thanks! He's eating and drinking. It's probably me "projecting" my thoughts/feelings onto him. I've been a "saver" of animals for years even though I'm a tough guy on the outside. I fear he'll seizure when we're not here and it lasts for a long while or something traumatic. I'd never seen a dog seizure, and especially not one we're so close to and have cared for unconditionally for 14 years.

As for us enjoying Max? We're on pins/needles that he'll have another big seizure, or fall and hurt himself. He's never cried - ever - even after ACL surgery 2 years ago. He's tough. After that seizure he was "screaming" - yelping as I carried him to the car to go the the vet at midnight. That simply tore our hearts out!



Customer reply:

Thanks! He's eating and drinking. It's probably me "projecting" my thoughts/feelings onto him. I've been a "saver" of animals for years even though I'm a tough guy on the outside. I fear he'll seizure when we're not here and it lasts for a long while or something traumatic. I'd never seen a dog seizure, and especially not one we're so close to and have cared for unconditionally for 14 years.

As for us enjoying Max? We're on pins/needles that he'll have another big seizure, or fall and hurt himself. He's never cried - ever - even after ACL surgery 2 years ago. He's tough. After that seizure he was "screaming" - yelping as I carried him to the car to go the the vet at midnight. That simply tore our hearts out!



Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, that does sound traumatic. This is where the part about whether or not you are enjoying having Max really does come into play. If he has more episodes where he is this uncomfortable then we know that these are going to keep on coming. And yes, euthanasia needs to be discussed.

But it doesn't sound like we are at this point right now. Many dogs will have seizure episodes in clusters. It's possible that things calm down and he doesn't have any more seizures for a few months. But, when we are seeing them happen really frequently or gradually getting worse and worse in severity then we know that the end is near.



Customer reply:

Thanks you're awesome. The twitches are every 5-10 minutes. No other big ones we know of. Our vet says they sometimes "vocalize" fear when a pup is confused like right after a seizure. I should mention his anal gland (left) was impacted 3 weeks ago and he was put on metacam and antibiotics for a week and then follow-up without further treatment i.e. all was good. Could this have any possible connection?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It's unlikely that the anal gland problem is directly related to the seizures. My guess is that the thing that is causing the seizures (i.e. likely a tumor) was lurking. Then, the stress of going through an illness (anal gland issue) made things worse for his body.

Has your vet done any blood tests recently? Another possible connection would be if these seizures were because of kidney failure. It's really not common, and really Max should be really unwell and off of his food. But, if there was kidney disease and he was put on Metacam then the kidney disease could have gotten worse. But this really is a long shot though.



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.