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Tanner’s First Seizure (Here)

Last night, while we were watching telly, Tanner was lying on the back of the couch on which I was lying with Abby on my chest. Rather abruptly, Tanner stood up on the back of the couch and one hind foot slipped off. I reached over to stabilize him and was putting his foot back up on the back when I noticed that he had a very strange look on his face. Not knowing if he was scared of something or not, I pulled him down off the back of the couch and nestled him between me and the back with my arms around him.

Less than 10 seconds later, he started seizing! Well, Barbara and I have dealt with seizure dogs plenty of times before (including our rescued seizure girl, Amina, who had seizures every few weeks for the entire time we had her), so we weren’t frightened or panicked. Instead, Barbara rushed off to get a towel so that, if Tanner threw up, I wouldn’t be puke-covered and I could wipe his mouth off before he inhaled any vomit.

This was the strangest seizure I’ve ever witnessed. First, his head was jerking sideways, and in only one direction (left); I’m more used to seeing the head pulled back, but sideways isn’t unknown. Second, his eyes were not as glazed over…disconnected … as I’m used to seeing; it seemed like he was still "there" to some degree. Finally, when the seizure ended at least 45 to 60 seconds after it started (moderately long), Tanner was instantly back. There was no delay between the stoppage of the grand mal shaking, etc., and his alertness. None. He continued having milder and milder tremors for at least another five or eight minutes, including some ataxia in his legs (mostly, it seemed, on the left size of his body), but his mind was there and alert. Happily, he did not seem frightened.

Barbara immediately prepared a tablet of phenobarbitol for Tanner to take, and we also gave him a Valium to help stop the tremors more rapidly. We had to be real careful so we didn’t risk overdosing him, but we needed to be sure that the synchronous firing of the neurons in his brain was stopped to avoid damage.

In a strange way, this was a bonding experience. I think he trusts me even more now. I know that he’s sticking to me like velcro :)

Next time this happens — and there will undoubtedly be a next time — we’re going to try to grab a camera so we can take some video of the event. That might help a veterinary neurologist figure out more about what’s really going on.

Oh, and here’s a picture of Tanner. Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous?

Tanner's Beautiful Face

On this day..

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17 comments to Tanner’s First Seizure (Here)

  • Tanner is lucky to have someone as trained as yourself caring for him. It’s normal that he trusts you more now; he probably feels as though you saved his life.

  • Well, I know that this probably an odd word to describe my reaction to your post, but “interesting” is the first thing that pops in to my head. I find it very interesting that he seems aware during the seizure and that there isn’t a period of “fogginess” (for lack of better word) after the seizure either. That seems really unusual to me. My nephew had seizures for a brief (thank goodness) time when he was young. I’d be interested to hear what a neurologist thinks.

  • Sounds almost exactly like the seizures that my Bonnie had for the last 5 or so years of her life. She had no fogginess after either, she always seemed surprised that we were down on the floor with her. But she was always ready to play immediately after.

  • Dawn, I’d be interested to hear more about Bonnie’s seizures. Was she ever diagnosed with anything specific (as opposed to “epilepsy”, which describes symptoms and not disease). Tanner wasn’t ready to play for at least 15 or 20 minutes, and he was definitely a little bit tired, but he was clearly alert.

  • SheltieJim: One day when we got home from work we found Bonnie confused and unable to stand up. She had thrown up several times. We took her into the emergency vet and they kept her. She was dizzy, you could tell because her eyes were rapidly moving back and forth, and when she tried to walk she walked as though she was on a ship at sea, or was very drunk. The emergency vet place said it might be a tumor on the brain. They said we could do a cat scan to see, but that would be $1000 and if it was a tumor then we’d need to operate and maybe they could get it out. She was already 10 years old. We didn’t want to put her through surgery, nor did we have the money to spend thousands on brain surgery. We left her at the vet, they gave her an IV for fluids. We debated all night whether or not to put her to sleep. We decided to at least do the cat scan so that we’d know for sure if there was something in her brain, rather than just put her to sleep and always wonder if she would get better. When we went back to the vet in the morning she was all better! They hadn’t given her any meds, just fluids. So we took her home.

    But ever after that she had periodic seizures, similar to what you described. Her head would twist to the left (I think it was always the left) and her eyes would roll back in her head and she’d fall over and jerk her feet and legs. They only lasted for a few seconds. Then her eyes would come back and she’d wag her tail to see us with her on the floor. I’m sure she had some when we weren’t home as well. She also had a heart murmur and eventually she had a larger, longer seizure and died, probably of heart failure. We were lucky to both be home when that happened, and we held her as she died. We knew when the seizure went on longer that it would probably kill her. She was almost 15.

    We never got a formal diagnosis. But today, when Katie (our new dog, now 2) turns her head to look at me at a certain angle I brace myself for a seizure…:) Will always have Bonnie in my heart.

  • PS: Tanner is absolutely beautiful! Such expressive eyes!

  • Yes, Tanner is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m glad he had the two of your by his side when it happened… I would have panicked so bet I’d have done more harm than good. Thanks for describing it all to us so at least now I know what it looks like and what needs to be done. He’s a sweet boy, your Tanner.

  • Harleysmom

    It might be prudent for us to educate ourselves on the types of seizures there are and most particularly in people to help us recognize the types of seizures in dogs. I believe Rusty has what would be categorized as “partial complex” type of seizure which in people would look like staring, lip smacking, picking at one’s own clothes while doing the other described things. This can help find the right medication or treatment for the dogs just as it does for people. In Rusty’s case, after doing some research, he is fed a kidney diet food which manages his seizures quite well. His kidney values are fine, but there is a study on this and I certainly found it to be the case for Rusty Bear that the kidney diet was very effective in helping control his seizures.

  • Tanner is definitely lovely.

    Strange he seemd to come around instantly. Our Dog that used to have similar episodes was always out of it for a while afterwards.

  • Cindy

    Molly had alot of seizures her last few years. She always came out of them alert and ready to go again, no fogginess or weakness at all. The seizure that she died from was the longest one she had ever had and the worst, I knew immediately that she would not survive that one. Molly had a liver ailment and expereinced alot of muscle weakness in her last few weeks. Don’t know if that helps much. I still miss Molly she was a sheltie at heart, someone forgot to tell her she was a border collie or perhaps Candy told her she was a sheltie.

  • Julene (Harleysmom to the rest of you), you’re absolutely right. As much experience as I flatter myself that I’ve had, there’s an infinite amount still left to learn. And I value your experience greatly…you’ve been heavily involved in Shelties for a goodly time and have seen just about everything. Hey, might this be a good subject for an educational presentation at a Sheltie club meeting some time?

  • Oh, Cindy, I know you miss Molly. She was a great girl and I know you miss her. Every now and then, I stumble across that photo you sent me of Merlin, Ellie, and Candy sitting in front of your apartment, and it really makes me feel good. Merlin and Candy sure spent a lot of time together at shows and trials!

  • Dawn, thanks for sharing Bonnie’s story with us.

    I know exactly what you mean about bracing yourself for a seizure.

    My first Sheltie, OTCh Merlin, was about 11½ years old. One day, I was getting dressed to go to work (back in the bad old days when I had to go to an office) and Merlin was standing with me, as usual, in my closet. When I’d grabbed a shirt, I said “OK, let’s go” and he didn’t move. OK, maybe he didn’t hear me, so I said it again. Nothing. He was frozen. No eye movement, no ear twitches, nothing. Completely unresponsive.

    I knew right then that my precious boy, my best friend in the world, my obedience partner, was dead. Sure, he was still breathing, and in fewer than 10 seconds, he was alert and hadn’t a clue that anything had happened. But I knew that it was a cataleptic seizure and that something very, very wrong was going on.

    I found a vet up in Denver (I lived in Colorado Springs at the time) who was both knowledgeable about canine neurology and sensitive to my own emotional situation. (My own local vet responded to my urgent phone call with “Well, what do you want us to do?” I fired them on the spot!) My new vet did everything humanly possible, but Merlin started having grand mal seizures, more and more violent, more and more frequently. Phenobarbitol was not helping and we were at the maximum dose.

    It was obvious to Roger (the vet) that Merlin had a serious brain tumor, almost certainly inoperable, and he scheduled an MRI — back then, 20-odd years ago, that meant bribing some technician at a hospital that had an MRI machine to let us sneak in about 4:00 AM. But we never managed to get that scan done. Three days after Merlin’s 12th birthday, I had to let him go. The seizures were taking so much out of him that I knew he wouldn’t “be” Merlin for much longer.

    For years after that, every time one of my Shelties failed to respond instantly to me, I broke down and cried. I just knew that it was happening again.

    But, several years ago, we got our first seizure dog in rescue, and I’ve learned a lot more about dealing with the situation. But it’s still heartbreaking.

  • Faxless Payday Loans

    what a beautiful dog I am so sorry about the seizure i hope Tanner gets better and never has to go through them again.

  • I’ve a seizure story that may provide some comfort for those of you with animals that seizure. Darlin’ was a border collie. At 5 years old, she suffered her first gran mal, that is, the first we witnessed. The vet put her on phenobarb. but that nearly killed her. She was seizuring even more. In doing additional tests, he discovered that her liver was undeveloped. She simply could not metabolize chemicals from prepared dog food or even the chemicals her own body produced when she was stressed – like doing a thunderstorm. He had us put her on a kidney diet. Her kidneys were functioning just fine, but the food apparently was easier for her to metabolize. As the vet put it, she had to become a vegetarian. Not even dog treats. We’d take a can of the K-D and slice into tiny pieces, spread them on an aluminum foiled covered cookie sheet and baked them. We called these treats “crispy critters.” She LOVED them. Darlin still seizured but not as frequently, definitely not as frequently. The diet helped tremendously.

    Darlin lived until 14! Nine years on K-D made me a believer.

    I do think there is a link between liver function and seizures. I have two Shelties now and Rob has begun in his older age (he’s 10) to suffer petit mals. Just as described in Tanner’s case, he starts/startles and then goes into the cramped position. I know the seizure is ending when he begins to shiver. During the seizure I massaged his back along the spine. He comes out of it quickly and is, as described above, alert.

    But here’s the common denominator between Robbie and Darlin’ – the LIVER. Rob has a very low functioning liver and takes a pill for it. I’m considering putting him on K-D. My vet had me try I-D (indigestion diet) and Rob’s seizures are very infrequently, making once every two or three months.

    So those of you with dogs who may have this symptom of seizure, ask your vet to look at their liver.


    I now have a sheltie named Robbie. He

  • The only time I’ve ever seen a seizure is my parents dog, Oliver. Very scary to me. I’m glad you knew what do to. And I hope he’s still doing well!

  • My friend will use cold water to bring her poodle out of a seizure, but the relief is not permenant unfortunately, but it is a good mitigation technique for a seizure that lasts 15minutes+. And it helps her (my friend) relax some too to see the trick sooth the dog for just a little bit. 

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