Whether they happen in people or our pets, seizures are scary. In fact, if you aren’t used to them and don’t know what’s happening when they occur, there are few things that can happen to your dog that are scarier. Out of nowhere, your dog flops to the ground and looks like he or she is treading water or just shaking uncontrollably. What makes it worse is that most dog owners are completely unsure about what to do.
In this article, we go over what a dog seizures are, how to recognize them, and what to do when your dog experiences one. Plus, we’re going to lay out what we know so far about how CBD may help canine seizures.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Seizure?
Seizures or convulsions in dogs or any other animal are the result of uncontrolled bursts of electrical energy in the brain. Essentially, normal brain function is interrupted and this results in uncontrollable muscle activity. Those bursts of energy cause involuntary shaking, twitching, and other movements. Convulsions in dogs can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
The exact causes of seizures and convulsions in dogs are not completely known. However, we do know that they can be brought on by a variety of different factors or situations. Here are several things that can cause dogs to have seizures:
- Eating poison
- Liver disease
- Low or high blood sugar
- Kidney disease
- Electrolyte problems
- Head injury
- Brain cancer
What Is Going on during a Dog Seizure?
There are several distinct phases that your canine goes through when they experience a seizure. They are known as the pre-ictal phase, ictal phase, and post-ictal phase. During the first phase, dogs will often appear anxious or nervous and will sometimes try to either hide or seek out their owner. Your pooch may be very restless and might start to whine or cry while shaking and salivating excessively. This period and behavior can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours and leads up to the seizure itself.
The second phase is when your dog actually experiences the convulsions. This is what we think of as “the seizure”. Behavior and effects can range from changes in your pup’s mental awareness or demeanor and having a dazed or detached look, to mild shaking and excess salivating, all the way to extreme shaking, complete loss of controlled motor function, erratic movements, urination, and defecation.
In the third, post seizure phase, your dog will most likely experience confusion, disorientation, pacing, anxiety, restlessness, and, in some cases, temporary blindness. The dramatic, confusing, and violent nature of a seizure will cause many dogs to go into a panic because they don’t know what just happened to them.
Are Convulsions in Dogs Dangerous?
Although they appear very scary and violent, seizures in dogs are not painful and a single seizure is rarely a danger to your pet. Your dog will not swallow their tongue, however they could injure themselves by falling or knocking into objects around them. If you can, try to prevent this from happening and guide them to the ground so they have a smaller chance of harming themselves.
One seizure will not typically cause your dog too much harm, but more than one seizure in a short amount of time, known as cluster seizures, or prolonged seizures, can potentially be extremely dangerous. If your dog has multiple seizures one after the other or if a single one continues for more than a couple minutes, their body temperature could rise to harmful levels. In these cases, place a fan close to them and blow cool air on them or wrap a cool, damp cloth around their paws to help cool your pup down.
What to Do If Your Dog Has a Seizure
The first thing you should do if your dog is having a seizure is to remain calm (easier said than done, I know). Don’t panic. Next, you should look at a clock to note the time the seizure starts at so you can tell your vet how long it lasts. Knowing when it started and how long your dog was affected by it will help your vet understand what caused the episode.
Because they think dogs will swallow their tongues, many people will attempt to grab it. DO NOT DO THIS. As we mentioned, your dog will not swallow their tongue and if you put your hands by their mouth you may end up with a serious bite injury.
As we said before, remove any dangerous objects from around the animal and try to bring them gently to the ground so they don’t hurt themselves. Cushion their head and gently hold him or her to soothe them until they regain consciousness and control of their muscles. If the convulsions last longer than a couple minutes, try to cool the dog down with the methods we mentioned.
As soon as the seizure has ended and your dog has regained consciousness, call your vet right away. It’s important to do this even if, immediately following the convulsions, your dog appears to be acting normally and healthily. If your dog has multiple seizures within 24 hours, then you need to bring them to a pet medical emergency facility as soon as possible.
Although there are treatment options to reduce the effects of seizures while they’re occurring, the best treatment option is to lower the chance of them happening in the first place. This is where CBD may be the answer.
CBD for Dog Seizures
CBD is being used more and more by pet owners and veterinarians to treat a wide range of health ailments and illnesses. In addition to things like pain, separation anxiety, and allergies, one of the most promising areas of CBD for dogs is in treating seizures and canine epilepsy. There is increasing amounts of anecdotal evidence supporting the idea of treating dog seizures with CBD, but we are still at the beginning of scientific and clinical research.
A series of preliminary studies done in 2016 by Stephanie McGrath, D.V.M., a veterinarian and assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, found that 89 percent of dogs suffering from epilepsy who received CBD in a clinical trial had a reduction in the frequency of seizures.
Dogs enrolled in the clinical trial were randomly assigned to the treatment or placebo group. Those in the treatment group received CBD oil for 12 weeks. All of the dogs were required to stay on standard anticonvulsant drugs, including phenobarbital and potassium bromide. The dogs' owners and CSU medical staff did not know if the animal received CBD or a placebo until the study was complete.
The CBD product used in the study was derived from a hemp plant, which has 0.3 percent or less of the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC. The encouraging results of these studies have spurred on further research into the topic.
Despite needing more data and larger studies, after that study and others, Dr. McGrath remarked: “I feel really comfortable at this point, given all of our clinical trials and our initial research, that it’s a safe product.”
How to Treat Dog Seizures with CBD
Before treating your pet’s seizures with a CBD product, it’s important to discuss their condition with your vet. Ask them if they would recommend your canine taking CBD on its own for treatment or in conjunction with other anti-convulsant drugs.
If you and your vet do decide that CBD would be an appropriate treatment option for your animal, then it’s important that they start consuming it regularly. As we’ve mentioned before in several of our articles about CBD for animals and humans, the key to realizing the beneficial health effects of cannabidiol is to build it up in your system by consistently consuming it.
In order to potentially decrease the severity and frequency of canine seizures, your dog should receive CBD every day. Dosage amounts can vary quite a bit from one situation to the next, so it may be necessary to experiment to find the right amount, and how often to give. Keep in mind that you cannot overdose and there is no toxicity associated with CBD.
Side Effects of CBD for Dogs
What we know so far is that there are not any known serious negative side effects of CBD for either humans or animals. It is completely non-toxic and does not produce euphoric or other psycho-active effects (in other words, CBD will not make your dog “high”). According to a report put out by the World Health Organization in 2017, CBD appears to be safe and well tolerated by both dogs and cats, and no serious negative effects have been observed.
With all that said, there have been some reported mild side effects of CBD in dogs and cats. Reported side effects include:
- Dry mouth: Research has shown that CBD can decrease the production of saliva. For dogs, this would manifest as an increased thirst.
- Lowered blood pressure: High doses of CBD have been known to cause a small temporary drop in blood pressure.
- Drowsiness: Dog owners have used CBD to treat anxiety. The calming effect of CBD can also cause slight drowsiness, especially when using higher doses.
It’s important to remember that just because some owners have reported these side effects in their pets, it does not mean that if you give CBD to dogs and cats, your pets will experience the same. The effects we listed above are primarily the result of dosage issues. Like we mentioned, you just have to experiment to find the correct amount that helps your dog’s seizures.
Conclusion: How to Administer CBD for Canine Seizures
If you think that CBD will help your dog’s seizures, then there are several ways of administering it. Depending on what type of food your pet eats, many owners will simply add oil to their meals. This works well if your pet eats wet food or if the dry food is porous enough to absorb the oil. Similarly, if you give your pet porous treats, you can place CBD oil on the treat to absorb it and then give the treat to your dog or cat.
Another common method for giving CBD to your pet is placing it directly in their mouth. For example, at Urban Roots you can purchase our tincture products and use the dropper to drop the CBD under or on their tongue.
If you have any questions about using CBD to treat seizures in dogs, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Urban Roots team!