After a Seizure
Some dogs will be perfectly normal as soon as their seizure ends but it is more common for a dog to show some abnormal behavior for anywhere from ten minutes to a week or more after the seizure ends. This is called the post-ictal phase and is NOT part of the seizure. During a seizure there are tremendous changes in electrical and chemical activity of the brain. The brain and other organs have been deprived of oxygen and there has been extreme stress placed on the body. Once the seizure stops, it may take some time for everything to return to normal.
Some common post-ictal abnormalities are pacing, whining, extreme hunger, blindness, disorientation and rarely aggression. Some dogs have difficulty walking, they bump in to furniture, get stuck in corners, try to eat anything they can get their mouth on and cry pitifully. Many people find it more difficult to watch their pup go through the post ictal phase than it is to watch a seizure. In many ways, I agree.
During a seizure your dog's body temperature may rise (hyperthermia), however temperatures usually return to normal shortly after the seizure is over. When a dog has had prolonged seizures, it may be necessary to actively bring the temperature back to normal, however, this should only be done with your veterinarian's supervision.
To determine if your dog has a temperature, lubricate a (human) rectal thermometer with KY Jelly or other water soluble lubricant and gently insert the thermometer until half of it's length is in the rectum. Wait two minutes and read the thermometer. A normal temperature is between 100.5 degrees and 102.5 degrees. Please note that warm skin on the head or stomach does not reliably indicate fever in a dog.
If your dog's temperature is over 103 degrees call your veterinarian. DO NOT attempt to cool your dog without direct supervision from your veterinarian because there are risks involved with bringing a dog's temperature down.
Seizures may affect blood sugar levels temporarily. The muscles burn up all available sugar from the extreme muscle movements that seizures cause. At the same time the body produces a burst of adrenalin in response to the seizures. The adrenalin rush stimulates the liver to release more sugar into the bloodstream and can sometimes drive the blood sugar levels above normal. Insulin is not directly affected by the seizure, however, the pancreas will respond to the blood sugar that is there by increasing or decreasing insulin production in an effort to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Although most dogs have a normal blood sugar level by the time the seizure ends, occasionally there will be a rebound effect resulting in hypoglycemia. Because of this rare possibility an internet legend was started and people are advised to give their dogs ice cream after a seizure. Please note that giving a dog sugar will only help if your dog is hypoglycemic and giving sugar to a dog after a seizure can actually increase the risk of brain damage in some types of seizures. Please consult with your veterinarian before following any internet legends as they may do more harm than good.
Most dogs are extremely hungry after a seizure. Feeding them small amounts of food, frequently may help to stabilize their blood sugar levels and calm them down. Be sure that your dog is able to swallow before feeding them anything or they may aspirate food into their lungs causing pneumonia.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that is effective at treating the post ictal phase of a seizure other than supportive care. Sedatives and tranquilizers (both chemical and natural) may help, but many times they can make things worse. Heavy anesthesia type sedatives may be used in the hospital, but they require monitoring and can not be used at home.
Berendt, M, Clinical
Neurology in Small Animals-Localization, Diagnosis and Treatment
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Last Updated August 2009