Status epilepticus is defined by the International Classification of Seizures as "a condition characterized by an epileptic seizure that is so frequent or so prolonged as to create a fixed and lasting condition". In other words the seizure terminating mechanisms fail to stop a seizure or cluster of individual seizures. A more useful definition for owners of epileptic dogs is any time a dog has prolonged seizures or does not fully recover between seizures. A note of caution - if your dog typically has a severe post ictal phase, it may be difficult to determine whether or not he has "fully recovered" between seizures.
The amount of time in a prolonged seizure that must pass before a dog should be diagnosed with status epilepticus is a subject of debate, however most veterinarians now diagnose status epilepticus if a dog has been in a prolonged seizure for 5 minutes or has two or more discrete seizures without full recovery in between. If you have any doubt about whether or not your dog is in status
CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY.
Prompt treatment could make the difference between life and death for your beloved pup. While most seizures do not require emergency medical treatment, a dog in status needs veterinary care immediately. It is important to treat a dog with status epilepticus as soon as possible. One study in people showed that 80% of people in status who received medication within 30 minutes of seizure onset eventually stopped having seizures, whereas only 40% of people recovered if two hours had passed before they received medication. Veterinarians can treat status with several different drugs and can undertake emergency life saving measures if necessary.
Please note that the term status epilepticus may be used to describe any continuing seizure. Although convulsive seizures are more worrisome, non-convulsive seizures can also be life threatening. If your dog has prolonged or repeated seizures of any type, please talk to your vet so that you know when your pup may require emergency care.
Status epilepticus untreated may lead to death from hyperthermia (high body temperature), circulatory and respiratory collapse, acidosis (acidic blood) and hypoxia (reduction of oxygen supply to the body organs). When in doubt CALL YOUR VET OR EMERGENCY CLINIC.
For information about treating cluster seizures at home to prevent status, please see the section on valium.
Berendt, M, Clinical
Neurology in Small Animals-Localization, Diagnosis and Treatment
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Last Updated August 2009