Ask a Vet

When is the Right Time to Put Down a Dog with Epilepsy?

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Nobody wants to find out that their dog has epilepsy, but unfortunately, it can happen to your dog. If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, then things might get a little bit more difficult than usual. 

When is the right time to put down a dog with epilepsy

It is not pleasant to have to watch your dog go through seizures, and it can often leave you feeling completely helpless. Something that might be playing on your mind is whether or not your dog is suffering, and if so, should you put them down?

There are so many things to consider when it comes to epilepsy and your dog’s quality of life, as every dog’s circumstances will be different.

If you are considering putting down your dog or wondering if this is something you will need to do in the future, we are here to help provide you with all of the information you might need.

We are going to look at epilepsy in dogs in detail to give you a better understanding of what you can expect from the future. 

What Happens to a Dog With Epilepsy?

A dog that has epilepsy will start to have seizures as a result of the condition. However, just because your dog has had a seizure, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have epilepsy, as there are other things that can bring on seizures.

Lots of things can lead to seizures, so a vet will need to diagnose your dog based on their individual circumstances.

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders that is seen in dogs, but it only affects around 0.75% of the dog population.

Epilepsy is a heterogeneous disease that is characterized by the presence of recurring and unprovoked seizures that are caused by an abnormality in the brain.

Epilepsy can be inherited through genetics, caused by structural problems in the brain, or stem from an unknown cause.

If your dog is experiencing seizures with no medical explanation, then it is likely that your vet will diagnose your dog with epilepsy.

Your dog could be experiencing cluster seizures, which is when they have multiple seizures within 24 hours. This is a neurological disorder, but the cause of it is not often easily known. 

What Causes Seizures for Dogs?

The causes of seizures in dogs are not always known, but they could be caused by an underlying medical condition, like:

  • A brain tumor or brain trauma caused by toxins
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Trauma
  • Poisoning
  • CNS infections

Ensuring that you are able to get the correct diagnosis is really important, as this will allow you to give your dog the right treatment.

Understanding why your dog keeps having seizures will also help you to know exactly what is happening to your dog, what you can do to help, and when to consider having them put down.

Which Breeds Are More Likely to Get Epilepsy?

There are some studies that have shown that there are some breeds of dogs that are more likely to suffer from epilepsy than others. Some of these dog breeds include:

What Are the Signs of Canine Epilepsy?

If your dog has had at least 2 seizures that are more than 24 hours apart, then it is likely that your vet will diagnose them with epilepsy.

It can be really difficult for a vet to be able to tell the difference between seizures and other health conditions, and they will probably need you to provide as much information for them as possible.

The three main characteristics of epileptic seizures are a loss of voluntary control that is often paired with convulsions, irregular attacks that start and finish quite suddenly, and attacks that appear to be similar or that have a repetitive clinical pattern.

Is There Any Treatment for Canine Epilepsy?

There is some treatment that can be used for canine epilepsy, and your vet will likely prescribe anticonvulsant medications. There are lots of different types of this medication for your vet to choose from, depending on your dog and their condition.

If this medication is stopped at any time, the risk of your dog having a seizure will increase. This could lead to more severe episodes, which is why it is important to carefully follow any instructions that your vet has given you.

The diagnosis itself can involve many different neurological tests, and once epilepsy has been confirmed, your dog will require ongoing drug treatment and regular checkups.

This is all going to cost you, and sometimes, the expenses of this condition simply cannot be managed for some people. Unfortunately, this is often a cause for putting a dog down.

What Should I Do if My Dog is Having a Seizure?

If your dog is having a seizure, there isn’t much that you will be able to do for them. Unfortunately, there is nothing that you can really do to help other than to give them some space and wait for the seizure to stop.

This might be unpleasant to experience, but they don’t typically last for very long, and your dog will not be in pain while it is happening.

While you cannot do anything for your dog directly, you can help them indirectly by making sure that your dog is safe and that there is no risk of them hurting themselves by knocking into objects or by falling from a height.

This will all depend on where they are when they have the seizure, but you might need to move things out of their way if they are going to knock into them. 

Something that you should keep in mind is that no matter what you may have heard, you should never try to hold a dog’s tongue when they are having a seizure. They are not going to swallow it, and you could end up causing even more damage.

It is highly likely that your dog will feel a bit confused and disoriented after having a seizure, so you should make sure to keep an eye on them just in case.

Your dog will start to recover after around 15 to 30 minutes, and you will be able to take them outside for some fresh air at this point.

It is really difficult to watch your dog having a seizure, but the best thing that you can do in this situation is to stay calm and stay with your dog.

If your dog is having repeated seizures within a 24-hour period, then you should get them to a vet as soon as possible. This could be very dangerous and negatively impact your dog’s health.

What Are the Different Types of Seizures?

There are a few different types of seizures that you might want to know about, and they can all affect your dog differently. Some dogs can have more than one type of seizure, and you should also know that not all seizures will lead to convulsions.

The majority of epileptic fits will happen quite suddenly or without warning. They typically only last for a short time, like a few seconds or minutes, and they will stop on their own.

It is possible for injuries to occur during a seizure, but most of the time, your dog will not hurt themselves, and they don’t usually need to go to the vet unless epilepsy has not yet been diagnosed.

We will explain the different types of seizures below, so you can learn what to expect from them.

Focal Seizures

Focal seizures will only occur in one half of the brain, and they will occur within a specific region of the brain. The way in which these seizures will present themselves will depend on where in the brain the abnormal activity has started and what the function of that part of the brain is. 

These seizures can present as episodic movements like facial twitches, rhythmic blinking, head shaking, or repeated muscle contractions of one extremity.

They can also cause episodic movements, like excessive salivation, vomiting, or dilated pupils. As well as this, they can cause behavioral changes like restlessness, anxiety, attention-seeking, or unexplainable fear.

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures will occur on both sides of the brain, and they can occur alone or after a focal seizure. In the majority of cases, the dog will lose consciousness, and salivation, urination, and defecation can occur.

It can lead to motor movement on both sides of the body, and parts of this seizure are referred to as tonic, clonic, tonic-clonic, and myoclonic. We will explain what this means below.

Tonic – An increase in muscle contraction that lasts from seconds to minutes

Clonic – Involuntary rapid and rhythmic contractions of muscles

Tonic-Clonic – A sequence of a tonic phase that is followed by a clonic phase

Myoclonic – Sporadic jerks that are usually on both sides of the body

Focal Seizure That Turns Into Generalized Seizure

This type of seizure is when a generalized seizure continues on from a focal seizure, and this is the most common type of seizure when it comes to dogs.

The focal seizure will usually be quite short, and the generalization seizure will follow very quickly after it. The focal seizure is not always easy to spot as it happens quite quickly.

Should you put down a dog that has epilepsy

Should You Put Down a Dog That Has Epilepsy?

If you have a dog that has been diagnosed with epilepsy, it can become a difficult and emotional experience for you and your family. There is no cure for this condition, and it will shorten your dog’s lifespan.

All of this can often be really difficult to deal with, but it doesn’t always have to lead to putting your dog to sleep. There are lots of treatment options available, and medical management is certainly possible for lots of dogs. 

If you are thinking about the possibility of putting down your dog due to their condition, you should talk to your vet first. They will be able to discuss whether this is necessary or if there are other things that you can try first.

They will be able to talk you through all of your worries and concerns and offer you a non-biased perspective. 

What is the Life Expectancy for Dogs With Epilepsy?

A dog that has been diagnosed with epilepsy will have an average lifespan of around 8 years. While this is a few years shorter than the normal lifespan of a dog, it is still long enough for your dog to have a good and long life, but this will depend on their condition.

Most dogs that have epilepsy will be able to live a comfortable life with the right medication, which can help to manage their condition. You can also give your dog the right diet and plenty of exercise to help with this.

If you think that your dog can have a good quality of life with the right treatment, and your vet agrees, then there is no reason for you to have to put them down.

When is the Right Time to Put Down a Dog With Epilepsy?

Unfortunately, not all dogs that have epilepsy will be able to have a good quality of life, even though most can.

Deciding whether to have your dog put down is always going to be a difficult decision, and you might not be able to receive the results that you were expecting from treatment.

If this is something that you are considering, you should always talk to your vet about it first to get their advice.

They can help to provide you with more clarity about your dog’s condition, give you more information about what will happen in the future, and tell you about any medications that you have not yet tried.

You should always talk to your vet to find out if any other options are available.

If you are struggling to manage your dog’s epilepsy, and you fear that their quality of life is deteriorating or that they are suffering, then it might be time to think about having them put down.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.