Dog Seizures – What Causes Seizures In Dogs?

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

Dog Seizures

Canine Epilepsy and seizures can be quite debilitating, and they usually interfere with a dog’s ability to lead a happy and full life. Not to mention the hardship and sorrow this condition can bring to a loving pet owner having to watch their family member be tormented by this desperate situation.

Now, more than ever, people are taking the health and well-being of their beloved pets into their own hands to combat ineffective and often detrimental medicine for their dogs by using a natural medical alternative that demonstrates better therapeutic outcomes for diagnosed conditions like Idiopathic Epilepsy and canine lymphoma but without the negative side effects of traditional veterinary medication.

Feeling powerless and frustrated, many pet owners turn to CBD-rich hemp extracts as a last resort to help their dog with seizures with phenomenal results!

Idiopathic Epilepsy in Dogs

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterized by sudden and recurrent episodes of sensory disturbances. Epilepsy can cause seizures. Seizures can be defined as uncontrolled brain electrical activity that can produce minor physical signs, thought disturbances, physical convulsion, or a combination of the symptoms.

Seizures are a common problem in veterinary medicine and control of canine epilepsy is only possible in 70-80% of cases using a combination of prescription drugs.

What Is Idiopathic Epilepsy?

Though major causes of epilepsy and seizures include head injury and tumors, the most common cause of canine seizures is due to Idiopathic Epilepsy. Idiopathic Epilepsy is an inherited disorder, but its exact cause is unknown. Other causes of epilepsy in dogs include liver disease, kidney failure, brain tumors, brain trauma, or environmental toxins.

canine epilepsy
Epilepsy is the most common chronic neurological disorder in dogs – affecting somewhere between 0.5 and 5.7 percent of dogs, depending on their breed.

What Do Dog Seizures Look Like?

Dog Seizure Types

Although there are different types of canine seizures (Grand Mal, Focal, Psychomotor and Idiopathic), and each can have their own point of origin or stimulus, what they have in common is that from the outside you can visually document the frequency of episodes (time day/week or year), duration (time from start to return to normal), intensity (strength of convulsions or physical movements) and recovery (when you see your dog return to normal).

Canine seizures occur in four distinct phases:

Stage One – Prodrome – This phase is characterized by short episodes of odd behavior that can go on for years without obvious signs of seizures.

Stage Two – Aura – This phase presents with symptoms of shivering, drooling, pacing and anxious verbalization.

Stage Three – Ictus – This is the actual seizure phase marked by a dog falling to one side and beginning to paddle, kick and convulse uncontrollably.

Stage Four – Post-Ictus – This phase begins with the start of a seizure episode but continues for a period of time after the seizure. At this point your dog may be dizzy, disoriented or even temporarily blind. There is no set time for this post-seizure phase as all dogs will vary in their episodic recovery.

Canine Epilepsy INFOGRAPHIC
Canine epilepsy – Four stages of epilepsy in dogs.

Dog Seizure Medication

Hemp and Marijuana as a whole have a rich history as a medicine for quelling seizures and convulsions going back thousands of years.

CBD oil from hemp has been known to reduce the number and severity of seizures in both human and in dog patients. In addition, CBD oil extract (along with psychoactive THC), can prevent further serious brain injury during seizures and shorten the recovery period.

Is CBD Oil Effective for Dogs with Seizures?

Some would say the recent rise in popularity of hemp CBD for dogs is due to the failure of contemporary veterinary medicine to fully care for and manage modern canine disease diagnosis and treatment. Others would argue CBD is trending because of the desire of pet parents to offer a more natural, holistic approach to caring for their sick or ailing pets.

I believe the upsurge in the accepted use of hemp CBD oil for dogs can also be attributed to the documented clinical successes, promising data and positive favorable outcomes experienced by pet parents who are the leading edge of real-time, empirical evidence.

How CBD Oil Has Helped Dixie’s Seizures

Here’s what K9 Medibles’ customer, Nancy H., has to say about her dog, Dixie’s seizures and how our Canine Support Formula CBD Oil has helped her pup:

The Canine Support Formula has been a life saver for my 15yr old fur baby, Dixie. She had begun having seizures and our Vet had tried several meds, but we were are the point of discussing of making the horrible decision of quality-of-life vs quantity of life. Our one last hope was to just try the Canine Support Formula …And I am so happy to say NO..I repeat NO seizures since she has been on the formula!!! She is moving and grooving more like a puppy, playing and running during the day and sleeping good sleep at night. I very much recommend Canine Support Formula !!!

CBD Oil for Dogs Seizures – How to Stop Dog Seizures

In the mid-19th century, the U.S. Pharmacopeia listed cannabis tincture as a ‘treatment for epilepsy’; and subsequent scientific studies have documented the anticonvulsant effects of psychoactive THC, CBD and other whole plant cannabinoids.

Many pet parents of epileptic dogs have learned through trial and error that augmenting CBD-rich hemp oil by adding some THC or better yet, THCA (the unheated, non-psychoactive form of THC that’s present in raw cannabis flowers and leaves) helps with long-term seizure control. As with all cannabis substrates, proper dosage is important.

idiopathic epilepsy in dogs
Epilepsy in dogs. Research has suggested that many cases of idiopathic epilepsy are inherited, but the specific genes that are associated with the condition seem to vary by breed.

Seizures In Dogs – Better Care Through Plant Medicine

Natural Treatment for Dog Seizures

Pet parent testimonials and formal research show that cannabidiol to be an effective alternative therapy in reducing epileptic seizures and the negative aftermath. According to numerous studies, hemp CBD has strong anti-epileptic properties. Some research attribute this down-regulation of the nervous system to CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation; others deem it effective at the cellular level of neuronal regulation. Perhaps it is a combination of both.

How To Treat Dog Seizures

Even though the exact biological mechanism by which cannabidiol mitigates this effect remain unclear, studies have shown that CBD performs better when compared to standard anti-epileptic (AE) and seizure therapies for certain dogs. In fact, CBD has proven to be as effective as traditional prescription anti-epileptic (AE) drugs for certain types of seizures.

As such, scientists are now discovering what dog owners have been saying–using hemp CBD along with other antiepileptic medications has reduced the number and frequency of seizure episodes & diminished the impact in the aftermath of a seizure.

Either way, as a community of canine caring people, scientists and loving pet parents are on the right path to finding a truly effective alternative therapy for canine epilepsy and seizures.

Refractory Epilepsy in Dogs

There are numerous benefits for dog patients consuming a full spectrum hemp derived CBD extract and the science of its effects speaks volumes for its specific application to Canine Refractory Epilepsy.

Is CBD a Cure for Canine Epilepsy?

Numerous studies have provided evidence to prove that CBD has beneficial therapeutic effects when it comes to relieving epilepsy and seizures.

All drugs have inherent side-effects, but CBD has minimal side effects when used to relieve epilepsy and seizures than currently approved treatments for these same conditions.

This makes CBD a better therapeutic aid than conventional seizure medications.

Studies have also shown that CBD provides unique advantages when it comes to relieving canine epilepsy and seizures when compared to the currently available prescription anticonvulsants.

According to research, CBD shows not only anticonvulsant activity of the cannabinoids that are applied exogenously, but it also limits seizure duration through the activation of CB1 receptors in the canine Endocannabinoid System.

There’s also factual evidence for the use of CBD for neurological conditions (including Idiopathic Seizures) since the US Patent #6,630,507 is predicated on CBD being used as antioxidant and neuro-protectant.

So, while the government has patent approved evidence of CBD for neurological conditions, what isn’t clear is the dosages necessary to bring about observable clinical changes in canines for these medical conditions.

natural treatment for dogs seizures
The take-away is that you can use really good science to apply CBD to your dog’s situation BUT you’ll be venturing into uncharted territory when you ask what you can expect from cannabinoid therapy to treat neurological imbalances.

Dog Seizure Treatment Home Remedy

What you and every dog owner wanting to help their pets is facing is the partial unknown–which puts you front and center as the leading edge of discovery for the therapeutic application of CBD. What that means is you are the best person to determine the effect (and effectiveness) of CBD for your own dog. If it helps, you will be picking up where recent studies by Dr. Stephanie McGrath have left off.

A major clinical trial to study the use of cannabidiol to treat drug resistant epilepsy in dogs was led by Stephanie McGrath, MS, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology), at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Known as the “Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) for the Treatment of Canine Epilepsy”DrMcGrath intended to determine if CBD is effective for treating epilepsy in dogs and measure the potential adverse side-effects of CBD as an anti-convulsive (Anti-Epileptic) medication.

She studied 16 dogs with greater than 2 seizures a month and found that using a full-spectrum CBD extract in a carrier oil of MCT oil.

Dr. McGrath‘s findings showed positive clinical results with a statistically significant reduction in the FREQUENCY of canine seizures with zero adverse side effects–even when combining CBD and Keppra for the management of epilepsy.

A study of this scope proved the efficacy of plant-based cannabinoid therapy for dogs with uncontrolled epilepsy.

However, what constitutes successful “anti-convulsant therapy” will vary among clinicians’ opinions, dog (patient) experiences and will inevitably be defined by dog owner satisfaction. Total eradication of seizures may not be an attainable goal–while decreased frequency, severity, or duration of the seizure episode may be considered a success for many animals.

Adjusting your expectation for a more positive outcome rather than a complete cure is a more realistic first step!

Canine Support Formula
Improvement in epilepsy treatments is urgently needed, especially for dogs with drug-resistant epilepsy or where side effects of currently available drugs are not well tolerated.

A New Understanding of What Causes Dog Seizures

Seizures can be thought of as starting from “neuro-inflammation” in the brain. And 80% of neurotransmissions (neuron firing) can be attributed to the activity of two neurotransmitters–GABA & Glutamate.

GABA is primarily involved with rest, repair and general brain detoxification. Glutamate is responsible for the fight or flight response. Phenobarbital and other barbiturates work by decreasing the effect of the glutamate neurotransmitter in the brain (something you’re trying to do with natural CBD).

So, what you end up with is an imbalance in brain chemistry weighted to the glutamate dominant side and the result is indiscriminate, haphazard neuron firing and seizures.

What CBD does is bring down the level of glutamate re-cycling in the brain, so there is a more balanced level of both GABA and glutamate.

CBD also works by reducing the number of free radicals produced in the brain that creates an over-excited neurotoxic state (again, too much glutamate) that results in fear, anxiety and stress responses.

CBD Oil Dosage for Seizures

Since every dog is going to have a different reaction to CBD it’s important to be vigilant in the beginning to measure starting dosage and document his response. This is a period of trial and error. CBD is not so much ‘condition-specific’ (Ie. arthritis vs epilepsy) as it is an individual dog specific medication.

You, the Pet Parent, are the best source to determine actual effective dosage. This is an experiment so go-low & go-slow.

Start with a low amount and titrate up until you find the effective ‘sweet spot’.  A good starting point is to base a daily dose on the weight of your dog. Since there can be potential pharmacokinetic interactions with anti-epilepsy drugs like Phenobarbital that can alter or interfere with drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination, hemp CBD extract should be given 4 hours away from other medications.

Dog With Seizures: A Holistic Approach to Canine Epilepsy

If you’ve tried several traditional ways to help a dog with arthritis, allergies, pain, digestive issues, or seizures and haven’t seen the success you hoped for, a more holistic approach may be the right answer. In fact, many veterinarians today use traditional methods like lab tests and prescription drugs in conjunction with holistic remedies and procedures.

People often turn to alternative therapies when their pet doesn’t respond to traditional medications and procedures. A more effective holistic approach to veterinary medicine that focuses on the animal as a whole mind, body & spirit using several different practices, including acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, chiropractic treatment, nutrition, acupressure, and even sound therapy to address a variety of ailments and conditions.

Indeed, dogs with epilepsy and seizures can gain significant benefits from using hemp CBD supplements to decrease or prevent seizure incidences. The take-home message for those dog owners who are considering CBD as a potential treatment for epilepsy: using a low-THC hemp oil product like CBD oil by itself may not work for every dog.

Canines, like people, need access to a wide spectrum of whole hemp plant remedies to help successfully control seizures. Take this knowledge to your veterinarian so you can have an educated conversation about figuring out the best way to add Cannabidiol to your pet’s holistic therapeutic treatment regimen.

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2 thoughts on “Dog Seizures – What Causes Seizures In Dogs?”

  1. Our 2yr old lab started having seizures at one year of age. We tried the CBD oil for 6months and she was still having them pretty regularly every 2 weeks. Our vet highly recommended putting her on Keppra and it has reduced the seizures to maybe once a month. She still suffers from anxiety(loud noises, motorcycles, thunderstorms) Can we supplement the Keppra( she takes 1 500mg ER tab per day) with CBD oil for her anxiety?

    • Kathy, all medications, including natural supplements like CBD, should be discussed with your vet. You’ll have to bring up the topic because veterinarians are not allowed to start the conversation but can offer their opinion once you’ve solicited their medical advice. You an give CBD along with AE meds (anti-epileptic) some even work BETTER with the addition of CBD. Just remember to give all meds away from CBD to avoid any metabolic interference with liver metabolism.


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