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Common diseases in older dogs: Seizures

two veterinarians caring for a fluffy light brown dog

While seizures are indicative of canine epilepsy, the fact that an older dog can have seizures doesn't mean they are epileptic. In fact, it's uncommon for epilepsy to appear in senior dogs if they didn't already have the condition as a younger dog.

Seizures in older dogs are often symptoms or a result of other conditions:

Brain tumor

Some older dogs develop brain tumors which can put pressure on the brain as it grows, resulting in a seizure. Other symptoms to be on the lookout for include a loss of vision and motor coordination. If your vet suspects your dog has a brain tumor, he will most likely recommend diagnostic tests like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CAT (computed axial topography). Anti-convulsant medications will not control seizures caused by a tumor.

Kidney disease

Dogs that have a buildup of toxins in the blood or high levels of acidity due to kidney disease can also experience seizures.

Diabetes

If a dog with diabetes has a seizure, it's usually due to an insulin overdose not because the condition has been left untreated. Diabetes that is left untreated will cause stupor or coma, not seizures.

Cushing's Disease

While Cushing's Disease (also known as hyperadrenocorticism) is not typically a direct cause of seizures, some of the circumstances surrounding the condition can lead to seizures. In most cases, Cushing's Disease is caused by a lesion in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The majority of these tumors are microscopic in size, however there are cases where larger tumors (known as macroadenoma) can sometimes get big enough to put pressure on the brain and cause seizures. Consult your vet about treatment for Cushing's Disease in dogs.

What to do if your dog has a seizure

First and foremost, you need to prevent your dog from injuring himself. Dogs can either experience a single convulsion (usually lasting for a minute or two, and doesn't happen again for at least 24 hours) or multiple, continuous convulsions. The latter is most serious and requires immediate veterinary attention. In the case of continuous convulsions, you should gently restrain the dog so it can't injure itself by placing a towel over it. Don't put your hand on the dog or in or near its mouth - you may get bitten. Once you've restrained the dog, get to the vet immediately.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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