Dog seizures may mean epilepsy

Q: My sweet little Border Collie had three seizures this month. ‘Harley’ is only 3 years old, and so, of course, I am worried. My veterinarian says Harley likely has epilepsy. Can you tell me more about epilepsy and our treatment options? P.W., Farragut

A: I am sorry that Harley is having seizures, as it can be frightening for all involved. Seizures can happen for a variety of reasons, including toxins, previous head trauma, bacterial or viral infections, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), metabolic disease, cancer and epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological disease in which the pet has recurrent seizures. Epilepsy is a diagnosis that is “backed into;” epileptic dogs and cats have normal blood tests, normal spinal taps and CT/MRI show no signs of trauma, cancer, etc.

Epilepsy typically begins when the pet is younger, typically under 5-to-6 years of age. The disease can run in families and/or be inherited in certain breeds of dogs. Given that Harley is a 3-year-old Border Collie (one of the breeds that is predisposed), it’s certainly possible that she has epilepsy, especially if she has normal blood tests and no history of trauma, toxins or illness.

Seizure activity itself can be quite short (5-to-10 seconds) or lengthy (10-to-15 minutes). Longer seizures are more serious and can result in temporary or permanent complications. Thus, it is important to control seizures as soon and as well as possible.

There is no cure for epilepsy, but there is medication to eliminate or greatly decrease the frequency and severity of seizures. The medication must be given daily, and it is generally effective for most pets.

A referral to a veterinary neurologist is considered for a number of reasons, including when advanced diagnostics are needed (CT or MRI) or when the pet is not responding as expected.

Hopefully Harley will do well on her seizure medication and still enjoy a great quality of life.

If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at