Q: Our 2-year-old Lab has recently started to have seizures. So far he has only had a couple of them that maybe lasted about a minute each. How do we know if we need to give him medication for his seizures or if we can continue to just watch and make sure that he isn’t having any other problems?
A: This is a really good question because many people are confused as to what to do if they see their dog having a seizure. It basically boils down to the duration of the seizures and also the frequency of the seizures. You also need to remember that a shorter duration seizure, one that lasts less than a couple of minutes, is almost never an emergency. It will typically be over and your dog will be acting completely normal by the time you have a chance to get him to your regular veterinarian or to an emergency clinic. So don’t panic!
The most common type of seizures is an epileptic seizure. These typically start in dogs when they are 1 to 5 years of age. Your dog certainly fits into this age range, so epilepsy is the most likely cause. But you shouldn’t jump to that conclusion without seeing your veterinarian and having some basic blood tests run to help rule out other causes. If it is epilepsy, you need to keep in mind that virtually all of the anti-seizure medications can have some side effects. That is why you need to monitor duration and frequency. For very short (under 1-2 minutes), and infrequent (one every several months) seizures, simple monitoring and tracking may be the best way to go. But if the individual seizures get longer (more than 5-10 minutes), or more frequent (less than 2 weeks apart), it is probably time to consider medicating your dog.
If you do have to start medication, make sure that you have his blood levels tested periodically to see what the blood concentrations of the medications are and also to monitor organ function, mainly kidney and liver levels. This will ensure that he is getting enough of a medication, but not too much, and also make sure that no internal side effects are taking place.