2 grand mal seizures in a row....


10 Years
Mar 5, 2009
Humboldt County
Our border collie, Althea, has had grand mal seizures for the last year or so. She's 8 years old. Last night, she had 2 major seizures in a row. My daughter works as a vet assistant and was told that if she had another seizure before 3 weeks had passed, we should start giving her phenobarbitol (sp?). It had been 2 weeks since the last episode. They seem to be lasting longer with longer recovery times

Anyone else with this experience and info to share? Input is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
So sorry about Althea. It's very tough watching our loved ones go through those episodes.

i had a cat who started having seizures at five-years-old. We put him on phenobarbital and it dramatically decreased the frequency and severity of his seizures. Personally, i would not wait for another seizure. i would get her on medication now.
We had a bassett hound name Otis who had seizures. We came home from the vet one time after his rabies shot and he started with "clusters" of seizures. I am convinced it was from the rabies shot, but that's another thread.....

We had to give him phenobarbital. It was the human kind - had to go to the Kroger pharmacy to fill it. He had to take it twice a day. The clusters got worse and worse. The vet kept upping the dose. After nearly a year they were so bad he was blind for days after a cluster, then it was to the point that he was either stoned out of his mind or having seizures. We had to put him to sleep. He was 4 years old.

Sorry for the sad story, but that's the experience we had.

Edited to add: Our youngest daughter was in early elementary school at the time and she said he smelled like metal or tin foil. Later, I read that epileptics can have a metal smell to them.
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i found that the vets that initially evaluated my cat were not very knowledgeable about epilepsy. All kinds of tests were run. i was sent to a teaching hospital. No one had any answers. After watching my cat have these seizures for months, my sister suggested it could be epilepsy. i asked my doctor if that could be it, and he said yes, that might be it (duh). So basically my sister was the one who came up with the proper diagnosis.

It could be that your vet thought other factors could be causing the seizures, so didn't want to rush into prescribing medication, hoping they would subside. But at this point, i think it's important to get the medication onboard to limit the seizures. The more seizures your dog has the more they will tend to have. It's called "kindling" where the repeated stimulation to the brain can basically teach the brain to have more seizures, turning into a chronic condition.

PS - Blondie, i have read that vaccinations can cause a whole host of very serious health problems. So sorry about Otis.
We have 3 lab mixes that have them periodically. I have not put them on pheno as I don't feel they are frequent enough to warrant it. Do you notice if there are any triggers to set them off? Sometimes during the heat or when they haven't taken in enough water they will have one. Other times I don't know why. You can always get diazepam in a prefilled syringe (not with needle) and you can give it to them rectally. This usually will stop the seizure but this is used for seizures that are 7 mins + . When ours usualy have theirs we sit with them, hold them, and wipe their head with a cool damp cloth. They seem comforted by this. When it seems like they are through it I will let them get up and immediately they have to go to the bathroom. Once they are stable then we give them fresh water and food it they are interested.
Good luck with Althea. Maybe you could see if the diazepam would be an option and if not then definately use the phenobarbital.
My Leo has seizures. He has had quite a few grand mals. His is caused by two small pockets of fluid in his brain. Most vets cannot diagnose the exact cause of seizures and diagnose it as idiopathic epilepsy. It sounds like a diagnoses, but the name just means that they don't know the cause. If you can get the dog to a specialist (doggie neurologist) they can do tests to determine the exact cause. After our regular vet couldn't find the cause for Leo's seizures, I researched and found a specialist. It saved his life. The brain scans and eeg found the cause. His seizures are completely under control with medication that treats the actual cause, rather than just the symptoms. Most state universities with a veterinary program have specialty diagnostic equipment. We were fortunate with Leo. A large local vet practice was started by an animal neurologist. He is retired but comes in to do diagnostic work for seizure patients. There is a younger vet there too that is studying neurology that Leo sees for all of his other veterinary needs. The medicine he takes is cheap. The diagnostics were a bit expensive. Leo has health insurance so it wasn't an issue for us, but I would have still taken him to the specialist without the insurance. It's well worth the one time cost of diagnostics. His meds to treat the brain problems are only $6 per month. It may actually be cheaper for you to see the neurologist one time and have cheaper meds than it would be to buy the expensive anti-seizure meds over a long period of time.

Leo has been completely seizure free for over 5 months. Watch your barometer too. Seizures (especially if they are triggered by fluid on the brain) can be triggered by low barometric pressure. The vet advised us to watch the barometer to determine Leo's comfort zones. The only days that his meds can be reduced are when the barometer is at 30 or higher, which it rarely is. Anything below 29.7 is an absolute danger zone.

Also there are good online groups and information.



There is also a Yahoo group for people with epileptic dogs.
Another thing that is helpful for a dog having a grand mal seizure is to always have one of those flexible ice packs frozen and ready. The energy they expend during a seizure is incredible. It's like running a marathon in 2 minutes. Their muscles get so tense and work so hard that their temperature can rise incredibly. As soon as the seizure starts, run quickly to get the ice pack... The fexible ones work the best. Apply it to the dog's back, right in front of his tail. Hold it there and comfort the dog until he stops thrashing and you can see him relax. Also, talk to him and comfort him during the seizure. DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE OR HANDS NEAR HIS FACE. Right after the seizure, it's common for a dog to be confused or even temporally blind. Sometimes they won't even recognize you. Using the ice pack on Leo shortened his recovery time greatly. He went from being blind for 5 minutes and disoriented for an hour to only being disoriented for a few minutes.

Do not let other pets or children near a dog that is having a seizure or that has just come out of a seizure. Their senses can be terribly disrupted, and they are often afraid. Your loving dog may or may not recognize his family members and might lash out in fear.

If your dog is having grand mals, also look for other small seizures that are often called focal seizures. The dog may twitch his face, snap at imaginary flies, spin in circles chasing his tail like he is stressed for no reason, act confused, make a lip smacking noise or many other wierd behaviors. Leo used to do the lip smacking thing. It's sometimes called phantom gum chewing and is a pretty common one. He also would demontrate OCD eating behavior. That's pretty common too. For a bit he would try to eat grass uncontrollably, not like a dog eating grass to sooth his tummy, but grazing like a starving cow. He once tried eating the carpet during a focal seizure. I talked to one woman whose dog would eat rocks during his seizures. One time Leo jumped up from a dead sleep and ran through the house blindly in an absolute panic.

Good luck.
Thanks for all the responses.
HorseJody - that barometric pressure thing is pretty interesting - certainly makes sense in the case of fluid in the brain. The barometer has dropped in the last 24 hours here. Our vets are very good, but not sure if they can do an eeg. I'll look into finding someone who can. My DH just lost his job, so things are VERY tight right now, financially speaking. Believe me, money would not be an object if it wasn't! RFortunately, my daughter gets a pretty significant discount for some diagnostics.
I know it's very hard on Althea. I can only imagine having every muscle fully maxed for a couple minutes, not to mention any bruising from thrashing against walls and objects
. Her seizures almost always occur between midnight and 5 am. so we never see them coming. It's very sad
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From my experiencing seizures are way worse on the ones watching than the one having them. My last one left me looking like I went ten rounds with Mike Tyson but I was fine. Also if they cant give you a real reason then I wouldn't medicate unless I had to.

Even if I was having them once a week I would refuse meds if it was not for having to driving. No way I would medicate a dog unless there constant. Those meds mess you up.

Also make sure that you are not using any flea, tick or other other poisons around or on them that may have something to do with it. Flea products are bad about that. Also try changing feed.

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