If your dog is having multiple seizures in one day, you may be feeling very worried, frightened and overwhelmed. In the medical field, the onset of several seizures that are repetitive are known as cluster seizures. Cluster seizures in dogs may have an underlying cause that can be sometimes identified by a veterinarian or veterinary specialist. In the case of a dog having multiple seizures it’s important to see the promptly vet so to quickly stop them. Repeated, uncontrolled seizures can put the dog at risk for having some serious complications. If your dog is having multiple seizures, please play it safe and have your dog seen right away.
Dog is Having Multiple Seizures
Cluster seizures are medically defined as more than one seizure taking place within a 24-hour period. If your dog is having more than one seizure within a day, then most likely your dog is suffering from cluster seizures.
Seizures in dogs take place when there is excessive electrical activity occurring in the cerebral cortex of the dog’s brain. To be exact, the electrical activity starts in one specific area, specifically an area known as the seizure focus, and then it spreads in a process referred to as “kindling.”
The term kindling is used in this case as a metaphor. In other words, it’s used to depict how seizures may spread in the same manner as, when using easily combustible twigs for starting a fire, one ends up with large flames. In the medical field this term therefore depicts the process where a seizure is initiated and spreads like fire with an increased likelihood for more seizures to come. For a good reason, in the medical field there is a popular saying “seizures beget seizures“.
The more seizures a dog has, the more likely that the seizure focus in his brain becomes sensitized to having more seizures, leading to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break, explains veterinarian Dr. Paul. In other words, repeated stimulation is capable of “lowering the threshold” for more seizures to occur, soon creating a vicious cycle that can be difficult to stop, especially in a home setting. If your dog is having multiple seizures, it’s therefore important to break the cycle with the help of your vet.
“Cluster seizures are defined as more than one seizure occurring in a 24 hour period, and it is not unusual for a dog that clusters, to have more than 10 seizures within 48 – 72 hours.”~Dr. Natasha Olby
Risks of Multiple Seizures
When a dog is having multiple seizures, he or she may collapse, develop violent involuntary movements with loss of consciousness often followed by a period of time during which the dog appears to be dazed and disoriented.
Seizures take a great toll on a dog’s body because their effects are similar to going through intense exercise. As the dog’s muscles repeatedly contract, the dog’s heart rate and respiratory rate increase and the body temperature rises. Repeated seizures that cannot be controlled therefore puts dogs at risk for serious complications such as heart arrhythmia, low oxygen levels, kidney failure, brain swelling and brain damage.
Generally, an isolated episode of a seizure does not require more than monitoring the dog and keeping him from hurting himself, but repeated seizure activity over the course of a day (cluster seizures) and/or seizures lasting more than 5 minutes (status epilepticus) constitute an emergency.
If your dog is having multiple seizures he should therefore immediately see the vet or an emergency center (if it is after hours) so to break the dangerous cycle and prevent serious complications from setting in.
If the seizures have appeared to temporarily stop, it’s best to keep the dog in darkened room that is quiet. Noise, activity and light can stimulate another seizure. Consult with your vet on what to do next.
“Any more than 2-3 seizures in 24 hours should be treated with IV Valium (Diazepam) and overnight monitoring at an ER vet. We also give them IV doses of Phenobarb to get the seizures to stop. “~Dr. Gary
At the Vet’s Office
If your dog is having multiple seizures, your vet’s primary goal is stopping them and then stabilizing your dog. Seizures are generally stopped by giving the dog a a benzodiazepine drug such as diazepam (Valium) either through an IV, intranasally or rectally, followed by the anticonvulsant drug such as phenobarbital for longer-term control.
For severe cases that do not respond to such approach, the vet may administer drugs meant to induce general anesthesia.
Once the seizures have stopped and your dog is stable, your vet may want to investigate the underlying cause for them. This may be challenging at times.
Seizures in dogs may be caused by problems found inside the dog’s brain, but some issues may be occurring outside the brain as well. Examples of problems affecting the brain that may trigger the onset of seizures include infections, parasites that migrate to the brain, trauma to the brain (like being hit by a car causing damage to the brain) and brain cancer (most common in older dogs suffering from seizures).
Examples of problems occurring outside the brain include exposure to certain toxins, kidney or liver failure, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or diabetes.
The vet may want to collect a blood sample for diagnostic purposes so to check the dog’s glucose level and kidney and liver values. If the vet suspects an issue in the brain, he or she may suggest an MRI of the brain and/or a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap so to get a sample of the fluid found around the brain.
In some cases, no exact underlying cause for the seizures is found, in which case the seizures are referred to as being “idiopathic.” Complicated cases may need a referral to a veterinary neurologist.
- DVM360: Treatment of cluster seizures and status epilepticus (Proceedings)
Vet Pathol. 1983 Mar;20(2):160-9.Brain damage in the epileptic beagle dog. Montgomery DL, Lee AC