What Is A Tonic-Clonic Seizure In Dogs?

Aug 28, 2022 | Pet Health, Pets

Happy Monday everyone!  On the blog today…What Is Tonic-Clonic Seizures In Dogs?  In a tonic-clonic seizure, the first, very short phase is the tonic. The dog will suddenly stiffen and collapse if standing. Next is the clonic phase, in which the muscles contract and relax rapidly. This is the type of seizure with which most people are familiar. It is often called a convulsion and represents the most common, generalized seizure type in dogs.
Several years ago I came home to find my puppy convulsing on the basement floor.  As I picked her up, I scanned the room for what it was that she might have gotten in to.  That’s when I saw the rat poisoning that my ex-husband had put out for her to easily find.  I had no idea how much she had consumed but told the vet to do whatever it took to save her.  With a $1,000 vet bill, a full blood panel, a stomach full of activated charcoal making her throw up, and a very exhausted puppy several hours later, I was able to take her home.  She was going to be fine but had suffered a seizure due to consuming poison.  Bella lived to be 13 years old and fortunately never had another seizure.  I had found her in time and yes, I got us out of that terrible situation.  Here is a great resource on activated charcoal for dogs – https://betterpet.com/activated-charcoal-for-dogs/

Jake And Maggie relaxing at home!

Jake has had some surgery (more on that later in a separate post) so we have been resting at home per doctor’s orders!  He is doing well and Maggie has been watching over him.  

I bought new rugs and blankets at Walmart and, of course, they had to check them out 🙂

Tonic-clonic seizures - www.twoadorablelabs.com
What are the symptoms of tonic-clonic seizure?
A tonic seizure is usually brief (less than one minute) and involves a sudden stiffening of the muscles. This is a less common manifestation of a seizure disorder. A clonic seizure is rhythmic muscle jerking that generally starts in one area of the body. It is very rare and often associated with canine distemper virus. Both a tonic seizure and a clonic seizure can be generalized or focal.
What are the different types of seizures in dogs?
  • Generalized seizure or grand mal seizure. These are the most common types of seizures in dogs
  • Focal or partial seizures
  • Psychomotor seizure
  • Idiopathic epilepsy

What Can Cause Seizures in Dogs?

  • Eating poison
  • Liver disease
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • Kidney disease
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Anemia
  • Head injury
  • Encephalitis
  • Strokes
  • Brain cancer
What Are the Symptoms of Seizures?

Symptoms can include collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. Dogs can fall to the side and make paddling motions with their legs. They sometimes poop or pee during the seizure. They are also not aware of their surroundings.
Tonic-clonic seizures - www.twoadorablelabs.com
What Should I Do if My Dog Has a Seizure?

First, try to stay calm. If your dog is near something that could hurt them, like a piece of furniture or the stairs, gently slide them away.

Stay away from your dog’s mouth and head; they could bite you. Don’t put anything in their mouth. Dogs cannot choke on their tongues. If you can, time it.

If the seizure lasts for more than a couple of minutes, your dog is at risk of overheating. Turn a fan on your dog and put cold water on their paws to cool them down.

Talk to your dog softly to reassure them. Avoid touching them – they may unknowingly bite. Call your vet when the seizure ends.
If dogs have a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes or  have several in a row while they are unconscious, take them to a vet as soon as possible. The longer a seizure goes on, the higher a dog’s body temperature can rise, and they may have problems breathing. This can raise their risk of brain damage. Your vet may give your dog IV Valium to stop the seizure.
Seizures can last from seconds to hours. When a seizure doesn’t stop after a few minutes, it is called status epilepticus. In this scenario, the body temperature will start to go up due to the repeated muscle contraction, and heat stroke can result. A dog’s body temperature can elevate to as high as 110 degrees or more if the seizure is not interrupted. Prolonged hypoxia (low oxygen) to the brain due to seizures can also cause damage. Status epilepticus is always an emergency.
Tonic-clonic seizures - www.twoadorablelabs.com
What Should You Expect When You Take My Dog to the Vet?

Your vet will want to do a thorough physical exam and get some lab work to look for the causes of your dog’s seizures. Diagnostic imaging like MRI can help detect brain lesions. 

Your vet may prescribe medicines to control seizures. Always follow your vet’s instructions when you give your dog medicine. Don’t let them miss a dose.
Medications for dogs with seizures:
If the seizures are becoming a problem, medication is the first step. There are four commonly used AEDs in veterinary medicine.

The most commonly prescribed first-line medication is phenobarbital.
Historically, potassium bromide has been the next drug of choice.

The two newest AEDs are levetiracetam (Keppra) and zonisamide (Zonegran).

Tonic-clonic seizures - www.twoadorablelabs.com

I’m Bobbi Jo, a lab-lover who took my passion for animals and dogs and turned it into something bigger.  When I adopted Jake and Maggie, my love for them became the driving force behind Two Adorable Labs, and my blog was born.  My hope is to not only share them with the world, but to help educate others on the importance of animal health and well-being. 

I love hearing from all of you and do my best to respond to each and every one of you.  I always enjoy your comments, feedback, and suggestions so keep them coming!  If I’ve posted a recipe (for our human and our furry friends) and you try it, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @twoadorablelabs and use #twoadorablelabs​.

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  1. Rochelle

    Enjoyed reading your blog on first aid, for dogs. As you know I have had my Rottweiler grand dog having seizures. He was placed on Keppra . Many hours of researching I was surprised to learn how common it is in dogs, particularly large breeds. Great information you have provided. Always a joy to read and learn! Glad Jake is on the mend! They looked like they enjoyed Tennessee!!

    • Two Adorable Labs

      Thank you! Glad I’m able to help you.

      Yes, Jake and Maggie really enjoyed Tennessee. It was so nice to experience our vacation with them.


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