Golden Retrievers Speak: Seizures

Since Josh and Alanis have never experienced a seizure, I am turning this blog post over to Jeter, who has experienced two.

Jeter:    The night was going innocently enough.  I was curled in a ball on the couch with my Mommy petting me as they were watching Jeopardy.  This house is a night owl house, so the time was after 3:00AM on a Saturday morning.      Before I continue on, let me flash back to my puppy days.  When I was a puppy, I used to love to play with my food dish.  I would push it around, tap at it, etc.  It was a fun way for me to pass the time!   One night (early morning!), I hit the bowl so hard that it tipped over, sending me in a tailspin.   I started running around the house like a lunatic (my parents thought it was just a case of the “zooomies” – but it was far more than that!   I eventually ran downstairs, went under the couch, and refused to come out.   I was so terrified for hours that they called the emergency vet and I was kept overnight for observation.   The first diagnosis was “focal” seizures – which aren’t all-out seizures, but are still scary and often lead to full seizures.  From that fateful night forward, I was always afraid of noises, and to this day, I can spook my parents by randomly looking at the ceiling.  I guess I just like to mess with them!   Anyway, to get back to my seizure episode, it was during Final Jeopardy, as the theme song was playing, that I went into an all-out seizure.  My parents had no idea what was going on, and my daddy (unfortunately for him) got way too close to me during my episode.  When I broke out of it, I was so terrified that I guess I went into “primitive animal” mode and started lashing out at my daddy, who I know was only trying to help.   Suffice to say, I nearly broke his thumb with my teeth (the blood squirting around the house, which he thought was MINE at first, ended up being his!) and started growling and hissing.   Given my normal sweet temperament, it was obvious this was not normal behavior.  I eventually ran into a dark room as my parents frantically tried to call the Emergency vet.    This time, it was no doubt that I was having a grand mal seizure.    I eventually did calm down, though I was whining uncontrollably, as my parents took me into the vet.  The vet ran some basic tests and came to a preliminary conclusion that my episode was idiopathic, with no obvious cause behind it.     They offered my parents medication, but I am glad they said “No”, as it was only my first seizure.   They did send us home with some shots that can be used if I have a seizure that lasts for several minutes.    I slowly started to regain my personality through the night, though my mommy wanted to make sure my daddy was with us .    It was a very nerve-wrecking night.

My second seizure came months later – again at around 3:00AM during Final Jeopardy!   This time, my parents were more ready.  My daddy stayed a safe distance from me but talked to me in soft, gentle tones.   He had my mommy shut off all lights and the television.    Alanis was placed outside to further reduce the noise, as she started barking hysterically when she saw me shaking.   I broke out of it quickly this time, and was much calmer when I did come out of it.  I was a bit disoriented, but I allowed my family to come near me without any growling or aggressive behavior.  I think their calmness helped me this time – last time, they were so frantic, and I picked up on that.

That seizure was now a few years ago, and I haven’t had one since.  My mommy and daddy still watch Jeopardy…but they mute the Final Jeopardy theme song, as that was the common theme between the two seizures (Interestingly, I was enthralled by that theme song dating back to when I was a puppy – is there a connection?  Only my brain knows).   Since I have two seizures in my history, I am always at risk – but I am not on medication and I am living a normal doggie life without restriction!  Well, I guess I can’t say that – after all, if there weren’t any restrictions, I would eat 24/7 and still not be full!

Josh:   These incidents were scary, but I was my usual calm, mostly oblivious, self.  I just laid down quietly in one of my usual spots….

Alanis:   Seizures scare the shit out of me, and I was so concerned for my brother that I was going crazy with my barking.  My parents had to put me outside.   It wasn’t fun seeing my playmate in distress.

If your dog has a seizure, the number one rule for you is to NOT PANIC!  Panic can actually make the situation worse.   Stay calm.  Let the dog get through the episode.   If you can, time the episode as the doctor will likely ask you about how long it lasted.   If your dog is seizing, you have to protect the dog while not getting too close.  Move any objects that can potentially hurt the dog – if that means pushing away a coffee table, do it!  If the dog is on a bed or couch, just be ready to rush in and break a fall.  Shut down the lights and the television.   Do not go near your dog until it is safe to do so (obviously, if there is an emergency, you may have to get close – juts be careful if you do!).   Your dog may come out of it disoriented – this is not alarming, but just make sure the dog doesn’t hurt himself.   Some dogs break out of a seizure quickly – some dogs take a while to regain their personalities.   Just be patient.   Try to avoid medications unless your dog is having clusters of seizures that are close in time frame.   Even in that case, there is a chance your dog will break out of it.  My dog trainer told me the story of a dog who had multiple seizures in the span of a short period – but never had another one.    This can be frightening, but most dogs can live normal, happy lives even if the seizures are a lifetime problem.