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Abortion in Dogs

There are numerous reasons for why pet owners would like to prevent pregnancy in their pets.

There are numerous reasons for why pet owners would like to prevent pregnancy in their pets. It is a common concern, and there are ways to perform a safe pregnancy termination if your dog has become pregnant. If you are considering ending a pregnancy in your dog, it is recommended that you first seek the advice and assistance of a medical professional, so that a full risk and side effects evaluation can be done.

On the other hand, it is also important to note that dogs can experience spontaneous abortions or miscarriages for a variety of medical reasons. Both situations will be covered here.

Symptoms and Types

If your dog has experienced a spontaneous abortion, the most common thing you may notice is abnormal vaginal bleeding; in some cases an expelled fetus may be found. The most common cause of a spontaneous abortion is fetal death due to a hormonal imbalance.

In the case of a planned abortion, bleeding is the most common symptom following the procedure. It is advised that you closely monitor your dog so that any side effects or health related issues can be responded to quickly.

Diagnosis

An ultrasound machine can detect a pregnancy in a dog. In addition, the ultrasound of a fetus is usually necessary before many health care providers will agree to a medical abortion. Doppler-type instruments can also be used to hear a fetus’ heartbeat if the pregnancy is far enough along.

uterus

The hollow bodily organ that holds the embryo and fetus and provides nourishment; only found in female animals.

pyometra

The presence of pus in the uterus

polyuria

Excessive urination

estrogen

The type of female hormone produced in the ovaries that contributes to sex drive and female characteristics

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Abnormal Heart Rhythm in Dogs

Sinus Bradycardia in Dogs

Sinus bradycardia (SB) is indicated by a slower-than-normal rate of impulses in the sinus node. Also called the sinoatrial node (SAN), the sinus node initiates the electrical impulses within the heart, triggering the heart to beat or contract. In most instances, slow sinus electrical impulses is benign and may even be beneficial; however, it can also cause loss of consciousness if it is brought about by an underlying disease that disrupts the cardiac autonomic nerves, which act as the heart’s control system.

SB is fairly common in dogs, especially in cocker spaniels, dachshunds, pugs, West Highland white terriers, and female miniature schnauzers. In addition, this condition is more common in young dogs than old, with the incidence decreasing with age, unless it is being caused by an underlying disease.

Symptoms and Types

Your dog may display no symptoms if it very active or engaging in athletic training. Typically, the sinus bradycardia (heartbeat slower than 60 beats per minute, although depends on the animal’s environment and size) is most apparent when your dog is at rest. Some other common symptoms associated with sinus bradycardia include:

  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Episodic muscle incoordination (ataxia)
  • Excessively slow breathing (hypoventilation), especially under anesthesia

Causes

  • Athletic conditioning (this is not uncommon in athletic dogs)
  • Hypothermia
  • Intubation
  • Oversedation
  • Sleep
  • Underlying disease(s); e.g., respiratory, neurologic, and gastronintestinal diseases

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms, your dog’s overall condition, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition.

A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis — the results of which may indicate the presence of substances that might be causing a slowed heart rate. These tests will also reveal deficiencies in the blood if that is the underlying cause. They also may offer clues to possible kidney failure. Your doctor can also use X-rays and ultrasound to visually examine your dog’s internal organs for abnormalities in the heart, kidney and other organs. An electrocardiogram (EKG) recording can be used to examine the electrical currents in the heart muscles, and may reveal any abnormalities in cardiac electrical conduction, which underlies the heart’s ability to contract and beat. An initial 24-hour heart monitoring may be indicated to conclude a diagnosis. 

sinoatrial node

A lump of tissue inside the right atrium; it helps to regulate the beat of the heart

sinus

A cavity within a bone; may also indicate a flow or channel

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

electrocardiogram

A record of the activity of the myocardium

benign

Not being able to cause harm; the opposite of malignant.

bradycardia

A particularly slow beating heart.

ataxia

A medical condition in which an animal is unable to control the movements of their muscles; may result in collapse or stumbling.

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Abnormal Growths in the Lower Intestines of Dogs

Rectoanal Polyps in Dogs

Rectoanal polyps is characterized by the growth of flap-like protrusions in the anal and rectal walls. The polyps may be directly attached to the intestinal wall (sessile), or attached through a stalk-like cylindrical connection.

Most rectoanal polyps are non-cancerous, and are merely extensions of the innermost tissue lining of the intestinal walls. And while most cases of polyps are usually isolated, there are occasions dogs suffer from multiple polyps.

The condition described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn how rectoanal polyps affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Dogs suffering from this condition will demonstrate straining or pain while passing stools. The stools may be stained with blood and/or covered with mucus.

Causes

The exact cause of rectoanal polyps is not clearly known. However, middle-aged and older dogs are more likely to contract this disorder.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. Some of the common tests include a complete blood count and a urinalysis, which will usually return as normal. Imaging tools, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, are not applicable to this particular diagnosis.

Some conditions that may produce symptoms similar to those caused by polyps include abscesses, tumors, inflammation, infection of the intestine, and rectal prolapse. Diagnosis, therefore, is usually made on the basis of a manual rectal examination by a veterinarian, or by direct visualization of the polyp through the external anal opening.

After a polyp is identified, a colonoscopy, using a tubular, flexible camera inserted through the anal opening, may be performed to check for the presence of other polyps. A detailed pathological study of the tissue, as well as the fluid from the polyp, may also be completed.

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

prolapse

The falling forward of something, usually visceral

polyp

A growth in the surface of the body

mucus

A type of slime that is made up of certain salts, cells, or leukocytes

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Abnormal Eyelid in Dogs

Entropion in Dogs

Entropion is a genetic condition in which a portion of the eyelid is inverted or folded inward. This can cause an eyelash or hair to irritate and scratch the surface of the eye, leading to corneal ulceration or perforation. It can also cause dark-colored scar tissue to build up over the wound (pigmentary keratitis). These factors may cause a decrease or loss of vision.

Entropion is fairly common in dogs and is seen in a wide variety of breeds, including short-nosed breeds, giant breeds, and sporting breeds. Entropion is almost always diagnosed around the time a puppy reaches its first birthday.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

In toy and brachycephalic breeds of dogs, excess tears (epiphora) and/or inner eye inflammation (keratitis) are common signs of entropion. However, in giant breeds, it is more common to see mucus and/or pus discharge from the outer corner of the eyes. In other breeds of dogs, eye tics, discharge of pus, eye inflammation, or even rupture of the cornea are the usual signs of entropion.

Causes

Facial shape is the primary genetic cause of entropion. In short-nosed, brachycephalic breeds of dogs there is more tension on the ligaments of the inner eye than would normally be seen. This, along with the conformation (shape) of their nose and face can lead to both the top and bottom eyelids rolling inward toward the eyeball. Giant breeds have the opposite problem. They tend to have excess slack in the ligaments around the outer corners of their eyes. This permits the outer edges of the eyelids to fold inward.

Repeated bouts of eye infections (conjunctivitis) can cause spastic entropion, which can lead to functional entropion. This can also be caused by other types of eye irritants and is generally the case in breeds that do not normally exhibit entropion. Lastly, inflammation of the chewing muscles or severe weight loss can lead to loss of fat and muscle around the eye socket, which may be another cause for entropion.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of entropion is fairly straightforward through examination. Any underlying causes or irritants should be dealt with prior to attempting surgical correction. Breeders should pay close attention to puppies, especially thos ehtta are prone, and have them checked for entropion if their eyelids do not open by four or five weeks old.

mucus

A type of slime that is made up of certain salts, cells, or leukocytes

pus

A product made of fluid, cell waste, and cells

keratitis

A medical condition in which the cornea becomes inflamed

epiphora

The excessive production of tears

entropion

Turning in of the eyelids

brachycephalic

An animal with a wide head, short in stature.

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Abnormal Development of the Elbow in Dogs

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Elbow dysplasia is a condition caused by the abnormal growth of cells, tissue, or bone. The condition is characterized by a series of four developmental abnormalities that lead to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint. It is the most common cause of elbow pain and lameness, and one of the most common causes of forelimb lameness in large and giant-breed dogs. Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, Golden retrievers, German shepherd dogs, Bernese mountain dogs, chow chows, bearded collies, and Newfoundland breeds are the most commonly affected. The age for onset of clinical signs is typically four to ten months, with diagnosis generally being made around 4 to 18 months.

One type of the condition is more likely to affect males than females: when the bone fragment is located at the inner surface of the upper ulna. The ulna is one of the bones of the foreleg, just below the elbow joint. Otherwise, there are no known gender differences.

Symptoms and Types

  • Not all affected dogs will show signs when young
  • Sudden (acute) episode of elbow lameness due to advanced degenerative joint disease in a mature patient are common
  • Intermittent or persistent forelimb lameness that is aggravated by exercise; progresses from stiffness, and noticed only after the dog has been resting
  • Pain when extending or flexing the elbow
  • Tendency for dogs to hold the affected limb away from the body
  • Fluid build-up in the joint
  • Grating of bone and joint with movement may be detected with advanced degenerative joint disease
  • Diminished range of motion

Causes

The causes are genetic, developmental, and nutritional.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will want to rule out several possible causes for the symptoms before arriving at a diagnosis. For example, whether there has been trauma to the joint, or whether there is an infection that has brought on, an arthritic condition will need to be explored. A tumor may account for the symptoms, and this possibility will be taken into account as well, with x-ray images taken of the affected area for closer examination. Both elbows will probably need to be x-rayed, since there is a high incidence of disease occurring in both legs. Your doctor may also want to order a computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance image (MRI) to look for fragments. A sample of fluid will be taken from the joint with a fine needle aspirate for laboratory testing, and an arthroscopic examination (by use of a tubelike instrument for examining and treating the inside of the joint) may be utilized to help for making a definitive diagnosis.

offspring

The term for an animal’s young

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

sire

The male parent of an offspring

malformation

Any growth or organ on an animal that is not normal

dysplasia

A condition in which growth and development are not up to normal standards

aspirate

a) inhaling b) getting out fluid or gas by the act of sucking.

dam

Any female animal that has given birth.

acute

Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.

lameness

Any type of pain or tenderness or lack of soundness in the feet or legs of animals

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8 Types of Dog Tumors and How to Treat Them

By John Gilpatrick

A cancerous tumor is among the most devastating diagnoses a veterinarian will give to a dog.

That’s because cancer is both extremely common in dogs and a leading cause of death. The National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research says that about 6 million of the 65 million pet dogs in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer each year.

Additionally, in 2011, researchers at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine found that cancer was the most common cause of death in older dogs. (It’s also the leading cause of death for 71 of the 82 breeds studied.) 

Erika Krick, DVM, an assistant professor of oncology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine says signs of cancerous tumors often include skin wounds that don’t heal or unexplained weight loss. That said, many dogs often have lumps and bumps that are completely benign. “If you notice something new, take your dog to the vet,” she says. “You need to know what it is, and the smaller it is when it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.”

Not all tumors in dogs are cancerous, but all of them should be evaluated by your veterinarian. Continue reading for eight common and notable types of tumors in dogs, the breeds that are most susceptible, and what treatment looks like for each.

Mast Cell Tumors

Krick notes that mast cell tumors are one of the most common type of canine skin tumors. “These grow quickly and are usually red and very itchy,” she says.

That’s because the lumps contain a chemical called histamine, one of the substances responsible for itching associated with allergies. “Histamine tells the stomach to make more acid, so dogs with these tumors are also at risk for gastrointestinal ulcers,” Krick says.

Short-faced dogs—including Boxers, Pugs, and French Bulldogs—are most at risk for mast cell tumors. Typically, these breeds develop lower-grade, less aggressive tumors, while Chinese Shar-Peis are prone to very aggressive mast cell tumors. Unlike many tumors that are significantly more common in older dogs, there is a weaker correlation between age and mast cell tumor susceptibility.

Krick says treatment begins with a fine needle aspirate to retrieve a cell sample and diagnose what type of tumor you’re dealing with. Surgical removal follows. The tumor(s) should always be sent to a pathologist for grading (a measure of how aggressive the cancer is) to help determine the need for further treatment.

Lipomas

Christine Swanson, DVM, a veterinary medical oncologist and assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, calls this benign fatty tumor very common and notes that many different breeds are prone to developing them. Lipomas usually feel like a relatively soft mass that can be moved around underneath a dog’s skin.

They vary in size, and most of the time, they’re not a serious issue. A fine needle aspirate is done to confirm the benign nature of the tumor, and the tumor is usually only removed if it’s bothersome to the dog’s normal movement or activity, Swanson says.

Osteosarcoma

Large and giant breeds like Greyhounds and Great Danes are most susceptible to this bone cancer that often affects a dog’s legs

“Most dogs that eventually get diagnosed with this come in because they’re limping,” Krick says. “It’s not as common that a bone in the spine would be affected.”

An x-ray is conducted on the area in question to rule out things like arthritis. Sometimes a biopsy is necessary to differentiate osteosarcoma from other conditions that can look similar on x-rays. If cancer is diagnosed, amputation followed by chemotherapy is the treatment of choice, Krick says, though some dogs are candidates for a limb-sparing procedure. In these cases, only the affected area of the bone is removed, and either a bone graft or a metal rod replaces it.

“This is an option for tumors in the distal radius, or the lower bone in the front leg,” Krick says, although limb-sparing surgery can also be considered for osteosarcoma at other sites. “It’s an extensive procedure and lengthy recovery, but some dogs will struggle following the loss of a limb, so this represents a good alternative.”

Histiocytoma

These tumors develop through the immune system and are most prevalent in dogs three years of age or younger and in breeds including English Bulldogs, Scottish Terriers, Greyhounds, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Chinese Shar-Peis.

“These tumors are usually benign and do not spread to other parts of the body,” Swanson says. “They will typically regress on their own within two to three months, but removal may be recommended for histiocytomas that are particularly bothersome to a pet.”

Histiocytomas are often referred to as “button” tumors, she adds, because they’re “frequently small (usually less than an inch), red, raised, and hairless.”

They can look very similar to plasma cell tumors (or plasmacytomas), though these are more common in older dogs and generally require surgery.

Hemangiosarcoma

This cancer of blood vessels is most often found on the spleen, Krick says, because it has a big blood supply. “If and when it ruptures, the dog’s gums will get pale, its breathing will become labored, and it will have trouble getting up,” she says. Hemangiosarcomas can also develop on a dog’s heart and in the skin.

A definitive diagnosis is made by a pathologist who examines a sample of tissue from the tumor. This often occurs after surgery to take out the spleen and resolve the internal bleeding has been performed.

Chemotherapy follows surgery, Krick says, because metastasis (spread to distant sites in the body) is very common for this type of cancer. It’s most common in larger breeds like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.

Melanoma

“This is a form of cancer of the pigmented cells of the skin of dogs, and like melanoma in people, these tumors are typically black or dark brown,” Swanson says.

Many skin masses are benign, but those in the mouth and at the nailbed can be very aggressive, she adds. In the case of the latter, the toe is typically swollen and may be painful. Following an x-ray, it may be determined that the affected toe must be amputated in order to fully remove the cancerous mass.

The risks with this specific type of melanoma don’t end there. “It may metastasize to places such as the lymph nodes in the area and the lungs, liver, or other internal organs,” Swanson says. Once evidence of such metastasis has been identified, some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy (a therapeutic vaccine for canine melanoma has been licensed by the USDA) is likely. Swanson says chemotherapy for canine melanoma is generally ineffective, as it is with human melanoma.

Lymphoma

Lethargy, decreased appetite, and coughing may accompany swollen lymph nodes in dogs of all breeds with this type of cancer, although some individuals initially show little in the way of symptoms other than lymph node swelling. Krick says this swelling is most noticeable under the jaw, in front of the shoulders, and behind the knees.

A fine needle aspirate and/or tissue biopsy is done to reach a diagnosis. Then, a veterinary oncologist will conduct something called a staging test to determine where else in the body these cells might be, Krick says. The most common treatment is chemotherapy.

Papilloma

These benign tumors are warts in dogs, and Swanson says they can be uncomfortable and problematic. “When this infection develops, multiple hard, pale, cauliflower-like warts are noted typically on the lips, inside the mouth, and around the eyes,” she says. “The warts can be painful and severe infections can make chewing and swallowing difficult.”

Papillomas will go away after a few weeks, sometimes months—though if they’re causing major problems for the dog in question, they can and should be removed by a veterinarian, Swanson says.

These benign tumors are caused by a virus (called papillomavirus) that is transmitted by direct contact with an infected dog or contaminated objects like bedding or toys, Swanson says. While it’s best to keep affected dogs isolated from unaffected ones, the incubation period often lasts months, so by the time symptoms make themselves known, it might have already spread to other dogs in a household.

Lumps and bumps may signal cancer in pets. But there are other symptoms to watch for. Learn about 10 Signs of Cancer in Pets.

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5 Things Not to Do During Your Pet’s Cancer Treatment

By Dr. Joanne Intile, DVM, DACVM

Learning that your pet has cancer is devastating. Deciding on which, if any, treatment path to take is confusing and it is normal to feel anxious as you are making decisions for your pet. Owners frequently struggle with feeling a lack of control and search for options to enhance their pet’s prognosis during their treatment plan. While most of these choices are not harmful, sometimes an owner’s best intentions can unknowingly offset their pet’s progress. The following are suggestions of what to consider avoiding during cancer treatment to optimize your pet’s care.

Avoid starting your pet on any supplements or medications before talking to your primary veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist.

You might be tempted to start your pet on supplements, vitamins, or other medications as part of a regimen to aid in their body’s defenses against cancer and to support them through their treatments. Most supplements do not undergo regulation regarding content. These products, which may be touted as “natural,” could negatively interact with your pet’s prescribed medications, reducing the benefit of chemotherapy and harming your pet’s system.

Owners are often surprised to learn that some of the chemotherapy drugs we administer come from plants and are therefore also classified as natural substances. The effects of interactions between different natural substances, such as with conventional medicine and alternative medicine/supplements, are unpredictable at best. Veterinarians who cannot guarantee that mixing the two would not lead to treatment failure or harm will honestly explain their concerns and advise you on how to proceed.

See Dietary Supplements and Cancer Treatment: A Risky Mixture to learn more about potential negative interactions between supplements and chemotherapy.

Don’t overfeed your pet.

Some pets with cancer, especially cats, will show signs of a poor appetite during treatment. This occurs because of the disease process itself and in response to the prescribed treatments. In those cases, veterinarians frequently lift the typical dietary restrictions placed on companion animals and permit owners to offer a wider variety of foods, including typically prohibited menu items such as fast food or other kinds of “people” food. But for pets whose normal appetites are not being affected by treatment, overfeeding them and/or routinely offering food items the pet would not normally ingest can cause gastrointestinal upset, which may mimic adverse signs from treatment, leading to confusion about how best to proceed. In addition, pets can easily become overweight even with minimal overfeeding, which can exacerbate previous orthopedic disease and lead to concurrent health problems, including cardiorespiratory disease and pain, resulting in a reduction in the pet’s quality of life.

While it’s understandable to want to keep your pet happy during this difficult time, it’s better to shower your pet with attention and toys and activity and not to overdo it with calorie-rich “comfort” foods.

Don’t be a loner.

You may encounter individuals who question your decision to treat your pet’s cancer, arguing that you’re being selfish or traumatizing your animals. Personally, I’ve been told countless times that treating pets with cancer is the equivalent of “torturing” them. Such harsh judgment can be isolating, making you second-guess your choices and intentions. Please find reassurance in knowing that there are thousands of owners who choose to treat their pets, just as you are, and these individuals can be your best resources for information and as sounding boards for you to express your concerns, questions, and frustrations.

Many owners of pets that have undergone cancer treatment are happy to provide insight and advice to owners considering their options. This may be in person or via the Internet. For example, Tripawds is an online community of owners of pets with three (or fewer!) limbs that is an excellent resource for owners considering limb amputation for bone tumors.

Skip the dog park (but only at the specific times outlined by your veterinary oncologist).

Pets receiving chemotherapy can experience temporary drops in their white blood cell counts at specified times following their treatment. During these periods where the immune system is being compromised, animals are more susceptible to infection. While the overall risk of illness is low, there will likely be times you should avoid situations where your pet might encounter new pathogens. This may mean occasionally missing a trip to the dog park or groomer, or keeping your typically outdoor cat indoors for a short period of time. In addition, reducing stress levels to a minimum during periods where your pet may have lowered immune defenses is of utmost importance. This means limiting houseguests (two or four legged) if your pet is the kind to become anxious in such situations, avoiding boarding your pet if you decide to travel (get a pet sitter to stay at your home instead), or taking your pet with you rather than leaving them alone if they have a tendency toward separation anxiety.

While such physical challenges may seem to cause significant negative impacts in your pet’s quality of life, the important consideration is that this change is truly temporary and will only be for a few days following certain medical treatments your pet receives.

Don’t be afraid to ask your vet questions.

You will likely have dozens of questions about your pet’s condition and treatment plan and it’s important to have those questions or concerns addressed as quickly and efficiently as possible. You probably won’t think of all of them right away, so writing them down as they occur to you is important.

While the internet is a valuable resource, internet writers do not know your pet personally. Your veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist will be the most appropriate resource for your concerns. You should never feel that any question is insignificant, and if you are feeling that you or your pet’s needs are not being met, voice your concerns. This empowers you to make the best decisions about your pet’s care and to feel confident in the plan.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is the exact type of cancer my pet has and where in his/her body is it found?
  • What signs should I look for that could indicate disease progression?
  • How will I know if my pet is having a reaction to treatment?
  • What can I do at home to help my pet through treatment and what are the “triggers” I should use to know when I need to call my veterinarian?
  • What is the expected cost of treatment and further testing?
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Tremors and Seizures in Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

By David F. Kramer

Perhaps one of the most disturbing things a dog owner can experience is a bout of uncontrollable shaking in their pet. Involuntary movements can be caused by tremors or seizures, but the two conditions differ with respect to their origin, diagnosis, and treatment. Knowing what makes tremors and seizures alike and different will help you get the help your dog needs. 

What Are Tremors and Seizures?

Dr. Sarah Moore, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, describes the difference between tremors and seizures:

“Tremors are an involuntary muscle movement. During an episode of tremors the dog is awake and aware of its surroundings, which can help distinguish tremors from seizures (where the dog usually has decreased consciousness).”

A seizure, on the other hand, is evidence of a sudden abnormal and uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain, which often results in altered consciousness. Where the activity occurs in the brain determines the signs that are seen. A seizure is not a disease in and of itself, but a symptom of something else that is going on in the body or brain.

Are Some Dogs More Likely to Have Tremors and Seizures?

“Some of the early signs of neurologic dysfunction can be vague, such as decreased activity levels or changes in personality. Other things to look for would include difficulty using one or more limbs, loss of balance, trouble jumping on or off furniture, or difficulty climbing stairs,” says Moore. But in some cases seizures or tremors seem to strike out of the blue.

Sometimes, the breed of your dog can make it a candidate for specific types of neurological disorders.

“We definitely see a predisposition for particular problems in certain breeds. For example, there is an autoimmune problem of the cerebellum that is more common in young adult toy-breed dogs. And some diseases that cause tremors due to weakness are more common in large breed dogs,” says Moore.

Dr. Adam Denish of Rhawhurst Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania says he has “seen hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs with seizures.”

“I do see a hereditary pattern in some animals, but we often don’t have information on the parents or littermates. In-breeding and poor breeding choices can lead to these repetitive disease conditions being passed on unnecessarily,” says Denish.

What Causes Seizures and Tremors?

Moore says that “tremors can be caused by a variety of problems, such as behavioral causes (fear, anxiety), electrolyte imbalances, problems of the nerve or muscle, weakness/fatigue, exposure to certain toxins, and problems in certain areas of the brain such as the cerebellum.”

Dogs can suffer from seizures after serious traumas, such as being struck by a car, or other accidents that might result in brain injury. “Another common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy, a condition that seems to have a strong genetic component but for which no other underlying cause of the seizures can be found,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian in Fort Collins, CO. “Other possible causes of seizures include brain infections, brain tumors, inflammatory disorders, stroke-like events, low blood sugar, liver failure or other metabolic conditions, hormonal disorders, electrolyte imbalances, and the ingestion of toxins.” 

Types and Phases of Seizures

There are many different ways to classify the different types of seizures that dogs can have. Coates uses this system:

  • Focal Seizures (sometimes called partial seizures) – in these cases, only a particular area (or several particular areas) of the brain are being affected by the seizures. Dogs will typically exhibit specific movements like lip licking or fly biting (snapping at the air). Dogs may or may not experience altered consciousness with focal seizures
  • Generalized seizures – in these cases, most if not all of the brain is involved in the seizure. The most common type of generalized seizure we see in dogs is the tonic-clonic (also called grand-mal) seizure where dogs fall over, become stiff, paddle their limbs, and may urinate or defecate. Other types of generalized seizures are also possible, but in all of them the dog appears unaware of its surroundings.

Seizures also have specific phases. “Some animals will have what we call a pre-ictal phase. That is, some behavioral or medical sign that shows that a seizure is impending. Animals will also have a post-ictal phase, which is the period after the seizure when their body is coming out of it but they still seem to be ‘off,’” says Denish.

Some of the pre-ictal symptoms to watch for include sudden, unwarranted fearfulness; sniffing, maybe in response to the phantom smells that some people report prior to a seizure; licking the lips; and pawing at the head, perhaps in response to a headache.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Seizure 

Perhaps the most difficult part of dealing with your dog’s seizure is keeping yourself calm. Seizures are disturbing and heartbreaking to witness, but keeping a clear head will help you deal with the situation. It’s best to keep your distance and not try to hold the dog down or put anything in its mouth because they can easily bite without meaning to.

While people often hear that it’s necessary to keep a seizure victim from swallowing their tongue, there’s no need to worry about this in dogs. Again, it’s best to just let the seizure take its course, but be aware of the dog’s surroundings and remove any objects or hazards that could potentially injure your dog.

Once your dog recovers from a seizure, you can use pillows or a blanket to cradle his head. Keep other pets clear and give the dog a chance to rest and recuperate. Your dog may feel confused, sleepy, or unresponsive, and may remain fearful. Once your dog is aware again and able to walk and drink, offer him some water and give him an opportunity to urinate or defecate in his usual spot.

Seizures in dogs are often an ongoing issue, so keep a log of when they occur, how long they last, and any unique information associated with them. This information can be of great help to your vet, and can also help you to recognize factors and situations that might trigger your dog into a seizure and give you a chance to avoid or remove the triggers.

Seizures that are especially severe, last for more than a few minutes, or occur in clusters are especially dangerous and warrant an immediate trip to the nearest veterinarian.

Treatment for Seizures and Tremors

If your dog suffers from tremors or seizures, your vet might employ a battery of medical tests to find the cause, including MRIs and CAT scans, blood work, urinalysis, or X-Rays. Your vet may take a sample of your dog’s spinal fluid to check for abnormalities. Once your dog receives a diagnosis, your vet will devise a course of treatment that could include therapies aimed at specific underlying causes and/or medications to control the tremors or seizures, assuming they are severe enough to warrant treatment. 

“With animals, we do use the same medications that are useful in human subjects. Obviously, there are some cost issues with using the newer human medications. We generally start with the older, simpler medications like phenobarbital or diazepam (Valium), however we also use medications like Keppra and potassium bromide, as well as gabapentin and zonisamide,” says Denish.

While there are vets who specialize in neurological issues, you might not necessarily need to enlist the help of a specialist.

“Most cases of seizures or tremors can be handled by a conventional vet,” says Denish. “However, even we will seek the help and guidance of a veterinary neurologist in difficult cases, or cases that don’t respond appropriately to medicine. Additionally, stress and other secondary diseases like Diabetes, Cushing’s Syndrome, and Hypothyroidism can all play a role in making seizures worse in the patient.”

Seizure and Tremor Management

If your dog is affected by tremors, some life changes may need to be made, but this depends on their severity. It may be best to avoid excessive excitement or stress in your dog, and sometimes even vigorous play should be avoided. If your dog is going to exercise, it’s best to keep it as low key and sedate as possible, like a walk around the neighborhood. Your vet can offer you guidelines based on your dog’s specific condition..

Recommendations for seizures are a little different. “Luckily, most dogs are normal between seizure episodes. That’s good news for the pet but it can make it difficult to see when a seizure actually occurs. Owners could be at work while the dog has a seizure and come home to find a normal and happy-go-lucky dog,” says Denish. Coates adds that depending on the cause of the seizures or what it is that seems to trigger them, lifestyle modifications may be in order.

With proper veterinary care, a dog’s prognosis is often good.

“Many of the potential causes of tremors [and seizures] can be managed effectively so that pets can live a normal lifespan and have a good quality of life,” says Moore. 

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Tremors and Seizures in Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

By David F. Kramer

Perhaps one of the most disturbing things a dog owner can experience is a bout of uncontrollable shaking in their pet. Involuntary movements can be caused by tremors or seizures, but the two conditions differ with respect to their origin, diagnosis, and treatment. Knowing what makes tremors and seizures alike and different will help you get the help your dog needs. 

What Are Tremors and Seizures?

Dr. Sarah Moore, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, describes the difference between tremors and seizures:

“Tremors are an involuntary muscle movement. During an episode of tremors the dog is awake and aware of its surroundings, which can help distinguish tremors from seizures (where the dog usually has decreased consciousness).”

A seizure, on the other hand, is evidence of a sudden abnormal and uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain, which often results in altered consciousness. Where the activity occurs in the brain determines the signs that are seen. A seizure is not a disease in and of itself, but a symptom of something else that is going on in the body or brain.

Are Some Dogs More Likely to Have Tremors and Seizures?

“Some of the early signs of neurologic dysfunction can be vague, such as decreased activity levels or changes in personality. Other things to look for would include difficulty using one or more limbs, loss of balance, trouble jumping on or off furniture, or difficulty climbing stairs,” says Moore. But in some cases seizures or tremors seem to strike out of the blue.

Sometimes, the breed of your dog can make it a candidate for specific types of neurological disorders.

“We definitely see a predisposition for particular problems in certain breeds. For example, there is an autoimmune problem of the cerebellum that is more common in young adult toy-breed dogs. And some diseases that cause tremors due to weakness are more common in large breed dogs,” says Moore.

Dr. Adam Denish of Rhawhurst Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania says he has “seen hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs with seizures.”

“I do see a hereditary pattern in some animals, but we often don’t have information on the parents or littermates. In-breeding and poor breeding choices can lead to these repetitive disease conditions being passed on unnecessarily,” says Denish.

What Causes Seizures and Tremors?

Moore says that “tremors can be caused by a variety of problems, such as behavioral causes (fear, anxiety), electrolyte imbalances, problems of the nerve or muscle, weakness/fatigue, exposure to certain toxins, and problems in certain areas of the brain such as the cerebellum.”

Dogs can suffer from seizures after serious traumas, such as being struck by a car, or other accidents that might result in brain injury. “Another common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy, a condition that seems to have a strong genetic component but for which no other underlying cause of the seizures can be found,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian in Fort Collins, CO. “Other possible causes of seizures include brain infections, brain tumors, inflammatory disorders, stroke-like events, low blood sugar, liver failure or other metabolic conditions, hormonal disorders, electrolyte imbalances, and the ingestion of toxins.” 

Types and Phases of Seizures

There are many different ways to classify the different types of seizures that dogs can have. Coates uses this system:

  • Focal Seizures (sometimes called partial seizures) – in these cases, only a particular area (or several particular areas) of the brain are being affected by the seizures. Dogs will typically exhibit specific movements like lip licking or fly biting (snapping at the air). Dogs may or may not experience altered consciousness with focal seizures
  • Generalized seizures – in these cases, most if not all of the brain is involved in the seizure. The most common type of generalized seizure we see in dogs is the tonic-clonic (also called grand-mal) seizure where dogs fall over, become stiff, paddle their limbs, and may urinate or defecate. Other types of generalized seizures are also possible, but in all of them the dog appears unaware of its surroundings.

Seizures also have specific phases. “Some animals will have what we call a pre-ictal phase. That is, some behavioral or medical sign that shows that a seizure is impending. Animals will also have a post-ictal phase, which is the period after the seizure when their body is coming out of it but they still seem to be ‘off,’” says Denish.

Some of the pre-ictal symptoms to watch for include sudden, unwarranted fearfulness; sniffing, maybe in response to the phantom smells that some people report prior to a seizure; licking the lips; and pawing at the head, perhaps in response to a headache.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Seizure 

Perhaps the most difficult part of dealing with your dog’s seizure is keeping yourself calm. Seizures are disturbing and heartbreaking to witness, but keeping a clear head will help you deal with the situation. It’s best to keep your distance and not try to hold the dog down or put anything in its mouth because they can easily bite without meaning to.

While people often hear that it’s necessary to keep a seizure victim from swallowing their tongue, there’s no need to worry about this in dogs. Again, it’s best to just let the seizure take its course, but be aware of the dog’s surroundings and remove any objects or hazards that could potentially injure your dog.

Once your dog recovers from a seizure, you can use pillows or a blanket to cradle his head. Keep other pets clear and give the dog a chance to rest and recuperate. Your dog may feel confused, sleepy, or unresponsive, and may remain fearful. Once your dog is aware again and able to walk and drink, offer him some water and give him an opportunity to urinate or defecate in his usual spot.

Seizures in dogs are often an ongoing issue, so keep a log of when they occur, how long they last, and any unique information associated with them. This information can be of great help to your vet, and can also help you to recognize factors and situations that might trigger your dog into a seizure and give you a chance to avoid or remove the triggers.

Seizures that are especially severe, last for more than a few minutes, or occur in clusters are especially dangerous and warrant an immediate trip to the nearest veterinarian.

Treatment for Seizures and Tremors

If your dog suffers from tremors or seizures, your vet might employ a battery of medical tests to find the cause, including MRIs and CAT scans, blood work, urinalysis, or X-Rays. Your vet may take a sample of your dog’s spinal fluid to check for abnormalities. Once your dog receives a diagnosis, your vet will devise a course of treatment that could include therapies aimed at specific underlying causes and/or medications to control the tremors or seizures, assuming they are severe enough to warrant treatment. 

“With animals, we do use the same medications that are useful in human subjects. Obviously, there are some cost issues with using the newer human medications. We generally start with the older, simpler medications like phenobarbital or diazepam (Valium), however we also use medications like Keppra and potassium bromide, as well as gabapentin and zonisamide,” says Denish.

While there are vets who specialize in neurological issues, you might not necessarily need to enlist the help of a specialist.

“Most cases of seizures or tremors can be handled by a conventional vet,” says Denish. “However, even we will seek the help and guidance of a veterinary neurologist in difficult cases, or cases that don’t respond appropriately to medicine. Additionally, stress and other secondary diseases like Diabetes, Cushing’s Syndrome, and Hypothyroidism can all play a role in making seizures worse in the patient.”

Seizure and Tremor Management

If your dog is affected by tremors, some life changes may need to be made, but this depends on their severity. It may be best to avoid excessive excitement or stress in your dog, and sometimes even vigorous play should be avoided. If your dog is going to exercise, it’s best to keep it as low key and sedate as possible, like a walk around the neighborhood. Your vet can offer you guidelines based on your dog’s specific condition..

Recommendations for seizures are a little different. “Luckily, most dogs are normal between seizure episodes. That’s good news for the pet but it can make it difficult to see when a seizure actually occurs. Owners could be at work while the dog has a seizure and come home to find a normal and happy-go-lucky dog,” says Denish. Coates adds that depending on the cause of the seizures or what it is that seems to trigger them, lifestyle modifications may be in order.

With proper veterinary care, a dog’s prognosis is often good.

“Many of the potential causes of tremors [and seizures] can be managed effectively so that pets can live a normal lifespan and have a good quality of life,” says Moore.