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Understanding the Three Stages of an Epileptic Seizure in Dogs

Updated: Apr 18

Witnessing your beloved dog experiencing an epileptic seizure can be distressing. Understanding the three stages of an epileptic seizure in dogs is crucial for recognising the symptoms, providing appropriate care, and seeking timely veterinary attention. In this article, we will delve into each stage, describing what happens and the duration of each phase.

A dog having an epileptic seizure

1. Pre-ictal Phase (Aura):

The pre-ictal phase, also known as the Aura, precedes the seizure and can last from a few minutes to several hours or even days. During this phase, subtle changes may be observed in your dog's behaviour. Some common signs include:

  • Altered Behavior: Restlessness, anxiety, or unusual clinginess.

  • Changes in Appetite: Fluctuations in appetite or thirst levels.

  • Generalized Discomfort: Pacing, excessive licking, or scratching.


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2. Ictal Phase (Seizure):

The ictal phase is the actual seizure itself, and it can be further divided into three sub-phases:

  • Aura: This brief phase occurs right before the seizure and may include signs of unease, restlessness, or confusion.

  • Tonic Phase: Muscles contract, leading to rigidity and loss of consciousness. Dogs may fall to the ground, and experience muscle stiffness, dilated pupils, and changes in respiration.

  • Clonic Phase: Rhythmic, involuntary muscle contractions result in jerking movements, limb paddling, and chewing motions. Loss of bladder or bowel control may also occur.

The duration of the ictal phase can vary, typically lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes.

3. Post-Ictal Phase (Recovery):

The post-ictal phase follows the seizure and involves the dog's recovery and return to normalcy. This phase can last from a few minutes to several hours and is characterized by:

  • Confusion and Disorientation: Dogs may appear disoriented, dazed, or unaware of their surroundings.

  • Exhaustion and Fatigue: Extreme exhaustion and weakness, seeking a quiet, comfortable space to rest and recover.


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When to Seek Veterinary Attention

If your dog experiences a seizure, it is important to seek veterinary attention to diagnose and manage canine epilepsy properly. Specifically, consider the following scenarios:

  1. First Seizure: If your dog has never experienced a seizure before, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and establish an appropriate treatment plan.

  2. Cluster Seizures: If your dog experiences multiple seizures within a short period (cluster seizures), immediate veterinary attention is necessary to prevent prolonged or recurring seizures.

  3. Prolonged Seizure: Seizures that last longer than five minutes (status epilepticus) require immediate veterinary intervention as they can be life-threatening.

  4. Change in Seizure Pattern: If your dog's seizure frequency, duration, or intensity changes, or if they develop new symptoms, consulting with your veterinarian is essential to assess the situation and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

Conclusion: Understanding the Three Stages of an Epileptic Seizure in Dogs

Understanding the three stages of an epileptic seizure in dogs is essential for providing appropriate care and seeking veterinary attention when necessary. The pre-ictal phase, ictal phase, and post-ictal phase each play a significant role in the overall seizure episode. Recognizing the signs and duration of each stage can aid in monitoring your dog's condition and seeking appropriate veterinary care.

Remember, if your dog experiences a seizure, it is important to remain calm and ensure their safety by removing any objects that could cause injury. After the seizure, provide a quiet and comfortable space for your dog to recover.

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