What do I need to ask the vet about my puppy's seizures?
September 28, 2011 11:00 PM   Subscribe

My puppy had a seizure (her second, I think), what questions do I need to ask the vet when I take her to the appointment on Friday? Short version: 7month old mini daschund/min-pin mix, has had all shots, currently has worms (suspected tapeworm). Had a seizure when she was about 6 weeks but the vet at the time said it was nothing to worry about. Second seizure happened this weekend, over 5 months later. Internet research points to low blood sugar/crash as the most likely culprit but I want to be sure she's getting the right treatment. Other than describing both incidents to the new vet, I have no idea what to say during the appointment, or what questions I should make a point of asking? (story/details on both seizures below)

Saturday morning at about 430am River woke me up twitching violently. I jumped to the light and pulled back the blanket to find her laying in a puddle of urine, her entire body shaking and twitching, her neck twisted at an odd angle (sort of bent back and to one side, I honestly thought I'd rolled over in my sleep and broken her neck at first), then she started screaming and her body went stiff. A minute later she was limp and unresponsive, glassy eyed. After a few minutes she started to show awareness. Less than 15 min after I woke, she was active, bouncy, covering me in puppy kisses and wanting to snuggle.

I made her get up and walk around for a few minutes while I remade the bed, then she curled up and went back to sleep. I was the one who stayed awake until sunrise crying, heh.

I have no idea how long it went on before I woke, though I sleep poorly and wake easily so probably not long.

I believe this is actually the second time this has happened, however the first time I did not actually witness a seizure. At that time I was still with my ex, and he insisted she be kept in her crate at night. She was about six weeks old and had just started her first round of vaccinations the week before.

As in the more recent episode, I woke around 4am to her screaming. Not just puppy cries, but loud, high pitch wails of pain or fear.

I rolled out of bed and opened the crate to see her laying limp on the floor of her crate. There was a hard black bit of feces stuck and I gently removed it before bringing her out of the crate and taking her into another room where I could turn on the light.

She lay limp in my arms, completely unresponsive, her eyes blank and glassy. I tried to stand her up but her legs immediately crumpled and she fell to the floor. Another piece of feces came out, less dark, more rubbery in texture this time. She cried when it came, and after it was done... more came. Each time moving toward normal color and texture. I held her so that she was standing until it finally stopped. I really didn't want to have to put her through bathtime after all of that.

A few minutes after that was over her eyes started to clear and she seemed confused by my holding her in the middle of the night, started giving me frantic puppy kizzes and nuzzles. Within minutes she was up, bouncing around, wanting to play fetch with her favorite rope.

So while I never saw the seizure the first time, much of her behavior in this recent incident matches up with how she was that first time.

We did take her to the vet shortly after the first incident for the second round of vaccinations and I described what had happened. The vet assured me it wasn't a seizure and insisted it was nothing to worry about. The vet told us all that happened was she probably had an impacted bowel and when the constipation finally resolved it hurt at first, and thats why she behaved so oddly.

I was willing to believe this at the time, as I did a lot of research based on what she told us and found that many puppies in their first few months are prone to dehydration and constipation because they don't drink enough, so I switched her to food designed for small breed puppies with sensitive stomachs (Nutro Natural Choice) and when she occasionally showed signs of constipation would give her a bit of canned pumpkin as a treat.

However with this second incident 5 months later I'm inclined to believe that the vet blew us off, and will be taking her to a different vet the day after payday. She has worms, I suspect a tapeworm (little wriggly rice looking worms), and while she's in for treatment on that I'll discuss both incidents with the new vet and see what they think the best course of action is.

But I'm scared.
posted by myShanon to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
Witnessing seizures is always a scary thing, so I completely understand your fear. Know that it can be all right--growing up, we had an epileptic old beagle, who lived to a very ripe old age. I'd avoid the googles right now (both because you're not really qualified to diagnose what's going on, and because it's likely to make you even more freaked out), get poor River to the vet as soon as possible, and try to stay calm. Give her lots of puppy kisses, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:36 PM on September 28, 2011

Our puppy Bailey -- who is now a middle-aged doggie! -- has epilepsy and has roughly a seizure a month. Seizures are very upsetting to watch, but according to our vet, not terribly dangerous, so long as they don't last too long or come one after another. Bailey is not on medication (as that actually can be dangerous) except for a Xanex after each seizure to prevent another one from starting. Another thing to keep in mind is that River is not aware of her surroundings while she is seizing, so if you make sure she is in a safe place (ie, not at the top of a staircase) it's okay to leave the room for a minute to calm yourself down. This helps me!

Best of luck to you and River.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:58 PM on September 28, 2011

PhoBWanKenobi & i_am_a_fiesta Thank you :)

I came across low blood sugar as a suggestion after describing the seizures on a dog forum, then did my google searches based on what types of seizure issues a small breed dog, specifically of either of her breeds are most prone to. Not looking for information to diagnose her by, but looking for information on what I might expect if it continues, and looking for ideas on what I should ask the vet so that I have a panic attack during her appointment if they say it might be bad.

Also, I watch too much House, and in the 2 episodes I've seen that involve tapeworms have shown seizures as one of the signs that its almost time for Dr House to do his random association thing to magically know whats wrong *grin*

Google did originally terrify me, but once I had some things to specifically look for (instead of just running across sad stories that for some reason primarily involved brain tumors) its actually helped me calm down.

The ex is going with me (we've decided he has puppy visitation rights because he misses her, and he also helps take care of her... when I wasn't working he picked up food and such when I needed it) and is better at asking questions and such. I was ready to run to the nearest vet and demand full body scans and allsuch just to be sure she wasn't about to die :)

This pup is my baby (the only kind I want) so I worry about her pretty much all the time. I even wanted to rush to the vet when one of her puppy playmates passed away of parvo, even though she hadn't been near him in over a month and has been fully vaccinated :)

Payday is tomorrow (today, technically), and I'm calling to set up an appointment at the vet tomorrow to evict the tapeworm and discuss the seizures and whether they want to start testing immediately or how to proceed.
posted by myShanon at 12:16 AM on September 29, 2011

Just n'thing that life with a (medicated) epileptic cat is full and happy, just occasionally spectacular. And perhaps a little messy on occasion. Her seizures are identical to how you described those of your dog, by the way, but after an exhaustive set of blood work, neuro exams and an MRI are so far without cause. Comparisons between cat and dog are limited so I'll stop there, other than to say "stop watching House and put down the Google".
posted by cromagnon at 4:59 AM on September 29, 2011

Cake was diagnosed with epilepsy 2 months ago, after a year of seizures. After the 1st seizure we asked what to watch for and how long we should let one go on before dragging her to the emergency vet. I also started using the TimeJot app to document how long the seizures were and make notes about before & after behavior, and I set up a dog-cam to make sure I didn't miss any seizures.

After a year of this, we noticed from the log that the seizures were getting longer and happening more frequently, and the vet used our log to diagnose epilepsy. Unfortunately, Cake has to take meds for it (her seizures were getting long enough to possibly cause brain damage), but luckily, she has had no side-effects from the meds and loves pill-time ("oh boy! cheese!").

I agree that seizures can be incredibly scary for the one not having them. Usually one of us will lightly hold Cake during the seizure so she doesn't bang her head against anything, but I believe it's true that she doesn't know what's going on. One of her first seizures happened just as I was giving her a piece of chicken jerky. She didn't get it in her mouth before seizing, and I held on to it until the seizure was over (because despite the shaking and complete loss of leg movement, she was desperate to eat that chicken). It was clear that she was confused and mad that I wouldn't give her the chicken that was so rightfully hers. When Bean (the other dog) wandered by to see what was going on, Cake managed a growl at her in the middle of the seizure, lest Bean try to steal the chicken. It definitely made a scary situation almost funny- Cake was still Cake underneath the shaking. After that, we stopped freaking out when she had a seizure.
posted by dogmom at 5:46 AM on September 29, 2011

Ask for a referral to an internal medicine specialist.
posted by TheBones at 6:31 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

See if you can rule out something in her system that may be causing seizures: bacteria, toxins, etc.

After our dog had a seizure, we were afraid he was developing epilepsy. The vet ran tests for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lime Disease, since we regularly go hiking where ticks are. Those came back negative.

I had started him on Comfortis (a once a month flea pill) the month before. I can't prove it, but I think in my dog's case he was having a bad reaction to Comfortis. Seizures are a reported (but rare) side effect of the drug. Once we stopped giving him that, he didn't have any more episodes.
posted by kongg at 8:51 AM on September 29, 2011

Ask your vet if he/she feels that a spread-out feeding schedule would help (if the seizures are caused by low blood sugar). Small dogs tend to have this issue, and sometimes it can be alleviated by spreading their meals out to 3 or 4 over the course of a day. My small dogs throw up when their blood sugar drops, but this almost never happens because they eat 4 smaller meals a day.

Also ask what you can do if this happens again. I think if he/she sets you up with a course of action, you will know what to do and it will be a little less scary.

If it makes you feel better, you may want to take the dog to a neurologist.

Good luck!
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:23 AM on September 29, 2011

GOOGLE IS MY FRIEND! *grin* As mentioned in a previous response, I'm not trying to self diagnose, my google research is purely so that I can try and figure out if there are specific questions I need to ask the vet during tomorrow's appointment :)

One person I talked to online who claimed to be a vet said that the tapeworm could be a factor as it may be causing dehydration, and that once its gone she may not have other problems.

One of the rommmates says that the pup has been nibbling on her peppermint plant, but I haven't found anything online that says it could cause seizures. I know we also have poison ivy and/or poison oak out in the yard somewhere but she hasn't seemed itchy or brought me any itchies.

Plus the episode that happened 5 months ago... So I dunno.

Just in case, I've started giving her the bedtime treat of peanutbutter again.

I already have a 5 compartment auto-feeder that is set to turn every 3-4 hours, although I keep that in the bedroom because the roommate's chi comes running when he hears it, and will eat everythign before she can get there. I also keep a dish that stays on a table in the livingroom where she can get to it from the couch... She ends up sharing that with the roommate's cat, but he's not as greedy as the dog, lol.... also the roommate free-feeds his animals so their dish is always full. I encourage her to eat only from her own food, but can't do anything about whether or not she gets into theirs while I'm at work.

Kongg I had her on the Sentinel pill for heartworm and fleas, but was unemployed for a couple of months and she hasn't gotten it lately, and hadn't started on it yet when the first seizure happened.
posted by myShanon at 12:31 PM on September 29, 2011

Quick update after today's appointment...

I'm not sure if its a statement about me, or the people in Oklahoma... but my vet was genuinely surprised that I brought the pup in and was concerned about only one confirmed seizure. Apparently she's used to people letting their pets go for years before they think to ask if maybe this is something that should be treated.

She confirmed that most likely its hypoglycemia, suggested I keep some syrup near the bed in case it happens again, give the pup a bedtime treat and make sure she's eating at least twice a day (if not four smaller meals). she said if it happens again, put some syrup on the pup's gums after the actual seizure stops and if the sweetness doesnt' help her come out of it quickly then its not hypoglycemia... and I need to track how frequently seizures happen if they come back, and how long they last... but its also possible that it was just a one time thing and I might never see it again (especially if it was hypoglycemia and I keep her well fed and indulge in the bedtime treat regularly).

I walked away from it pretty much feeling like she thought I was the pet equivelent of the new parent who rushes to the emergency room every time baby sneezes.
posted by myShanon at 2:29 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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