Maltese dogs are known for their thick, white fur and lively dispositions. Although the Maltese breed is generally hardy, they are somewhat susceptible to seizures and epilepsy.
What is a Seizure?
Seizures are caused by a kind of electrical storm in the brain. As in humans, seizures cause a range of symptoms that may include losing consciousness, sensory hallucinations, uncontrollable drooling, urinary or bowel incontinence, physical rigidity, falling down and jerking or convulsions. Seizures can occur with or without a loss of consciousness -- a partial seizure in which the dog remains conscious may not be noticeable to you, as your Maltese may not have a way to communicate symptoms such as auras or hallucinations.
What You Should Do
Call a veterinarian the first time you see your Maltese having a seizure. You should also call for emergency veterinary assistance if your dog has a seizure that lasts longer than normal, without regaining consciousness. For many dogs, seizures don't normally last longer than 5 minutes, so you should call a vet after 5 minutes if your dog hasn't come back to consciousness. Unless your dog is in immediate physical danger -- drowning, falling or burning, for example -- don't try to move her. Provide soft blankets around her body, and provide cushioning for her head and neck if possible. Do not put your hand, or any other object, in or near your dog's mouth during a seizure. The chance of choking on a foreign object is greater than the risk of choking on her own tongue.
Maltese Dogs and Seizures
Maltese are slightly more prone to seizures, as a breed, than some other types of dog. Epilepsy -- a recurring pattern of seizures -- can be hereditary, meaning it is passed from parent dog to puppy through genetic material. Because Maltese dogs have a relatively low body weight, they can be at greater risk of hypoglycemic seizures. A hypoglycemic seizure is caused by low blood sugar levels -- Maltese have little muscle mass to process and regulate glucose, which makes them more likely to have low blood sugar.
Seizure Prevention and Treatment
Environmental factors can cause or contribute to seizures. Keep your Maltese physically active to increase the dog's general health and reduce her stress levels. Feed her little and often to prevent dips and spikes in blood sugar. Do not allow access to toxic houseplants, chemicals or chocolate -- ingestion of any of these items can cause a seizure. If your Maltese is diagnosed with epilepsy and prescribed anti-seizure medication, make sure she takes the correct dosage of this medicine on a regular basis.
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.