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Seizures in sleep?

Species: Dog
Breed: Maltese X Fox
Age: More than 15 ye
My dog is 15 years old he has previously about 4 years ago had a tumor removed near the muscle of his right leg, the tumor was apparently one that didn't spread but I can not remember the name of it, I noticed about 3 months ago a lump on the same leg but it feels like its on the leg bone.

About 8 months ago we were woken by him yelping (I think) in his sleep, its hard to described but its like a yelp/cry. When I wake him he seems disorientated, it takes him a while probably about 5 minutes to sort of realise where he is. In the past 8 months he has had 7-8 attacks, as this is all I can call it.

4 of these attacks would have occurred in the last 7 1/2 months, however in the past 2 weeks he had 4 episodes this time 3 in one night and 1 on Wednesday night, I noticed the last four times he body like tenses up, one of the times when the 3 episodes occurred I was trying to wake him and his body when bending back and he neck was turning like it was going to bend right back on his spine then I was able to wake him from it. As I mentioned he takes a while to come round I put him down to see if he wanted the toilet or a drink the last two times but he just sits there and looks at me.

On Wednesday night I lay with him and rubbed his belly to ensure his body wasn't cramping if that's what it was, for the next 30 minutes he kept making a licking motion as if something was stuck in his throat or he was going to be sick. I rubbed under his neck and realised there was like a ball size lump in his throat which is not normally there and was not there the next morning.

Because he is so old and has bad legs and due to the tumor surgery, I made the choice I would let him live a happy life and not go through any more pain, he sleeps all but an hour a day and seems happy enough, he has started limping with the lump on his leg but my biggest concern is what is happening to him in his sleep. I don't want him to be in pain from this or if it is a seizure for him to not come out if one as himself. If you know what I mean.

I have him booked in for a consultation with the vet on Friday, but just thought I would get some insight if possible before the appointment in case I need to make a decision that is the best outcome for him as I do not want him to be in pain.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that Gizmo is having these problems.

I'm wondering if what you are describing is some sort of a seizure. It certainly is possible. There are many types of seizures. The bending back and tensing of his body really sounds like a generalized seizure. And the licking motion could be something called a focal seizure which means that it is caused by a lesion on a particular part of his brain.

If these are seizures, then they are likely not painful to Gizmo but they can be confusing to him.

The next question though, is why he would be having seizures. Unfortunately in an older dog the most common reason is if there are one or more tumors in the brain.

If the vet feels that these are seizures then they may be able to prescribe medication that can help reduce the frequency of the seizures. But if they are caused by tumors they will eventually get more and more frequent and last longer.

One thing that may help for your vet visit is if you are able to videotape any of the episodes.

I have also seen similar episodes with dogs with heart problems. If your vet feels this is the case then they may be able to treat this with medication.

The tough decision in cases like this is when to decide on euthanasia. I have a few criteria that help me advise clients in cases like this.

-Do you feel that Gizmo is enjoying life more often than not?
-Is his appetite decreasing?
-Are you enjoying having him?

Your vet will help you with making the decision, but I understand that it is a hard one.

Let me know if you have more questions.

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:

Thank you Dr Marie, Last night he was asleep and woke up there was no yelping noise in his sleep but he seemed disorientated and they seem to fall over, he got up and fell again and then made it is his bed and fell again. He has never done this and it was a bit concerning to see. I appreciate your advice you have given me. Keellie


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Sometimes when a dog is having seizures they can be very disoriented for a few hours before and a few hours after the seizure, so it's possible that that was what you were seeing.

Similarly, if there is a heart problem this can cause issues with balance.

One other thought. I have seen dogs have stumbling issues like this if they have an abdominal tumor such as a spleen tumor. A spleen tumor can have pockets that can burst and cause some bleeding into the abdomen. The sudden loss of blood can cause weakness and stumbling and then as the blood gets reabsorbed the dog can recover.

If the stumbling happens again, it would be a good idea to have a look at Gizmo's gums to see if they are pale. If you are noticing that they are very pale pink or even white then this can indicate a bleeding problem.





Customer reply:

Thank you Dr Marie, I appreciate all of your advice.


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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.