Psychomotor Seizures in Dogs

By Tess Thompson

Epilepsy in its own right is not truly a disease. It is in fact a group of concurrent symptoms that are related to recurrent seizures, fits or convulsions. True or primary epilepsy does not have an identifiable cause and is considered to be hereditary. Secondary or symptomatic epilepsy on the other hand is acquired. It has an identifiable organic cause like brain tumor, head trauma or brain damage due to deficient supply of oxygen to the brain.

Canine and feline epilepsy may be the most common cause of seizures but they are definitely not the only cause. Convulsions and seizures may also occur due to environmental poisoning or food poisoning, low levels of sugar or calcium in the blood, accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, brain injury or infection and liver or kidney disease.

All forms of seizures do not involve convulsions or loss of consciousness. Some may be limited to behavioral changes only. Seizures are actually caused due to an over stimulation of the nerve cells. Excess electrical discharge in the neurons in the central nervous system confuses nerve signals that lead to abnormal behavior. A seizure is thus any period during which such disturbances occur. These disturbances may be minor, major or partial. In dogs, most seizures occur for the first time during the first two years of age.

Psychomotor seizures or focal seizures are a common form of feline and canine seizures. They derive their name from the specific region of the brain responsible for movement and behaviors. Usually the side of the body opposite to the affected side of the brain shows the symptoms produced by psychomotor seizures. These symptoms are known as contralateral symptoms. Psychomotor seizures are also known as Complex Partial Seizures, which are characterized by distortion of the thought process in humans. In dogs these are translated into lip smacking, hysterical running and abdominal distress among other symptoms.

During this type of a seizure, although the dog is conscious he may not be fully aware of his surroundings and is therefore likely to display unusual behaviors. Symptoms may include muscle twitching and other repeated behaviors like:

  • Aggression
  • Fly catching when none exist or imaginary biting
  • Almost non-stop tail chasing or flank sucking

Two typical symptoms of a psychomotor seizure that cause the maximum frustration to owners are flank chewing and tail chasing.

Minor (petit mal) and major (grand mal) seizures normally have distinguishable pre-seizure symptoms known as an aura and post seizure symptoms that may last for a reasonable period after the seizure is over. But in psychomotor seizures the aura and the post seizure phase is not easily distinguishable.

A psychomotor seizure may be followed by abnormal behaviors that last for minutes or hours as well as generalized seizure. Mindless dog behavior should be taken seriously and attended to with the same vigor as you would any other physical disease.


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