Seeing your dog have a seizure can be pretty scary, especially the first time this happens. If the seizure is caused by diabetes complications, the good news is that future seizures can be prevented by controlling the dog's diabetes.
Why Seizures Happen
Any seizure—in a dog or a human—is caused by a kind of electrical storm in the brain. If a dog has diabetes, her body doesn't produce the right amount of insulin for control of blood sugar levels. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, and diabetes can be caused by too much or too little. Very low blood sugar levels can interrupt the normal functioning of the brain, leading to a diabetic seizure.
Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia
Problems relating to diabetes in dogs usually stem from a state of either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. A hypoglycemic dog has very low blood sugar and may experience a seizure as a result. In diabetic dogs, hypoglycemia commonly occurs when an insulin dose is given without sufficient food for the dog's body to utilize the insulin properly. The opposite diabetic state, hyperglycemia, occurs when the dog's blood sugar levels are extremely high. Although hyperglycemia does not typically cause seizures, this is a serious state in which the dog may become depressed, weak and anorexic. Hyperglycemia can cause a dog to become comatose.
If your dog is diabetic, seizure prevention primarily involves preventing a state of hypoglycemia. Use insulin that is formulated specifically for dogs—Novolin, Vetsulin and Caninsulin are some of the most commonly used forms of canine insulin. Monitor your dog's blood glucose regularly to make sure the insulin dosage is correct and having the desired effect. Monitor your dog's feeding and exercise patterns, if possible with a regular daily schedule. If hypoglycemia starts to manifest, provide a quick source of sugar for your dog. You can feed the dog a glucose solution, honey from a squeeze bottle, or a limited quantity of vanilla ice cream to increase blood sugar levels. Humans with diabetes may use chocolate to prevent hypoglycemia, but chocolate is toxic to dogs. Do not feed chocolate to your dog under any circumstances.
If your dog does have a diabetic seizure, you can help out by remaining as calm as possible. Seizures often look worse or more frightening than they really are. Your dog may fall to the ground and experience convulsions or stiff jerking movements—typically these symptoms will resolve within approximately 5 minutes. Call a veterinarian if your dog is seizing for more than five minutes without regaining consciousness. Meantime, keep your dog safe by removing it from any immediate physical hazards such as a swimming pool or open fire. Move furniture away from your dog to reduce the risk of injury from the seizure convulsions. Keep other pets away from your dog until recovery from the seizure is complete. Remove other sources of stress from the dog's environment—turn off the TV or any loud music and provide a soft, quiet bed for your dog to recover in after the seizure has stopped.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.