Epilepsy in Labrador Retrievers: What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of canine epilepsy vary depending upon the breed. Some breeds have no known history of seizures while others may exhibit some form of convulsion when they experience one or several episodes. There are many different types of epilepsy in dogs including, but not limited to, temporal lobe epileptic encephalopathy (TLE), generalized tonic clonic seizures (GTCS) and grand mal seizures.
There are two main types of epilepsy in dogs: TLE and GTCS. These terms refer to different types of seizures which can occur in any dog type. The term “convulsions” refers to all forms of seizures.
Labrador Retriever Types Affected by Epilepsy:
1) Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE): This is the most common form of epilepsy found in Labs.
It is characterized by sudden onset of convulsive behavior followed by cessation of activity within 2-3 minutes. The duration of these seizures can last anywhere between 5-15 minutes. They are often preceded by a period of restlessness, hyperactivity and excessive salivation. Most Labradors with TLE will show signs such as loss of balance, drooling, tremors and rapid breathing.
Some dogs may even lose consciousness during these events. These events can happen multiple times per day or they can go for years without one of these attacks. There is no known cause for TLE but some forms of brain tumors, heredity and head trauma have been linked to them.
2) Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizures (GTCS): These are the most common type of convulsions in dogs.
Like TLE, they are most often seen in Labs. They can also occur in the following breeds: German Shepherd, Beagle, Basset Hound, Doberman Pinscher, Saint Bernard, English Setter and other breeds. These types of seizures are often confused with epilepsy since symptoms can be almost indistinguishable. Even a veterinarian may have a hard time differentiating between them.
The main difference between GTCS and other types of epilepsy is that these do not typically have any sort of pre-seizure symptoms. They often just occur unexpectedly. These types of attacks also last longer than TLE events. After the seizure, there is no rest or diminished mental awareness like in TLE events.
Within these two categories there are many different types of specific seizures which can occur. The following are some of the most common ones seen in Labs.
3) Febrile Seizures: These are the most common type of seizure in children under five years old.
They can occur in younger or older children as well but this is much less common. The cause of these events is not typically the fever itself but a virus which triggered the initial fever. These events can also be caused by severe dehydration. These events can also happen in pets, especially dogs.
These events are more common between the months of September and April. There is also some evidence that they may be more common during a full moon.
4) Complex Partial Seizures: These occur when epileptic activity occurs only in one part of the brain, in this case the temporal lobe.
This is also known as an “aura.” They most often present with symptoms such as blinking or chewing motions with no other outward signs of a seizure occurring. They can also present with a change in behavior. For example, a dog who is typically outgoing and playful may become less interested in playing with other dogs or people during an event.
Once the seizure activity ends, the dog will not display any memory of the event and will act completely normal.
This type of seizure will usually only last a few minutes and then end all by itself. If left untreated, the seizure will stop on its own after 5-15 minutes.
5) Myoclonic Seizures: These events are characterized by sudden muscle jerks in one or more parts of the body.
They most often occur in puppies between the ages of 4-12 months and display the following symptoms:
“Snap” or “twitching” of the head, neck or back, a “jerk” of a leg, or paddling of a foot may be seen. They most often occur when the dog is asleep but can also occur when they are awake. This type of seizure will sometimes cause the dog to fall or otherwise hurt themselves if it involves their limbs.
After the seizure has passed, the dog will not display any signs of memory of it nor will they be in any pain or discomfit. These events will not cause any long-term problems but they can lead to more serious seizures such as the ones listed below.
6) Tonic Seizures: These events are also known as “Drop Attacks” and tend to selectively involve the muscles of the limbs, throat and trunk.
These seizures are also most often seen in young to middle-aged dogs who have a history of other types of seizures. They can occur at any time but especially when the dog is asleep.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Epileptic brain damage in dogs and cats: myth or reality? (L Poncelet – Veterinary record, 2011 – veterinaryrecord.bmj.com)
- Investigating epilepsy in dogs (K Stalin – Veterinary Record, 2012 – veterinaryrecord.bmj.com)
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- Aetiology and long-term outcome of juvenile epilepsy in 136 dogs (L Arrol, J Penderis, L Garosi, P Cripps… – Veterinary …, 2012 – veterinaryrecord.bmj.com)
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- Familial Epilepsy in the Belgian Tervueren & Groenendael in Denmark ACVIM 2008 (M Berendt, C Gulloev, M Fredholm – vin.com)
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