A seizure is also known as a fit or convulsion. These neurological events can cause a range of symptoms including sudden collapse and leg paddling. Oftentimes, they occur suddenly and last just a minute or two. Idiopathic epilepsy (epilepsy for no known reason) is the most common cause of fits in dogs.
Boxers are prone to primary epilepsy as well as brain tumors, which can cause seizures, and they suffer from more fits than the average dog. Epilepsy can be genetic so always consider the parents’ health when purchasing a Boxer puppy.
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What Is a Canine Seizure?
A seizure occurs when there is a disruption in normal brain function. A surge in electrical activity within the brain causes convulsions. Signs vary and there are several types of fits, which are discussed later in this article.
A neurological disorder, there are many reasons why a seizure can occur in a Boxer. Dogs will sometimes experience altered behavior before (pre-ictal)and after (post-ictal) a seizure. These signs can include lethargy, an increased appetite, and confusion.
Read on to learn more about seizures and your Boxer.
Are Boxers Dogs Prone To Seizures?
Sadly, the Boxer breed is prone to a large number of medical conditions. We know that they, along with breeds such as the Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd, are more prone to developing idiopathic epilepsy. Epilepsy is a disorder that causes ongoing seizures. However, epilepsy is not the only cause of seizures in the Boxer dog.
Boxers are also prone to certain cancers, some of which can occur within the brain. Brain tumors, especially in their later stages, can lead to seizure activity in the Boxer dog.
Types of Seizures a Boxer Dog Can Hve
- Generalised / Grand Mal Seizures. For most people, this is the type of seizure that first comes to mind. This is the ‘classic’ presentation of a dog who falls to their side, salivates and paddles their limbs. As both sides of the brains are affected, signs occur all over the body.
- Cluster Seizures. When the electrical activity in the brain continues to surge, dogs can experience more than one seizure in a 24 hour period. Up to 50% of epileptic dogs will experience cluster seizures at least once.
- Partial Seizures. Only a small part of the brain is affected during a partial seizure. We may see signs affecting e.g. only one limb or one side of the face.
Additional info from VCA Hospitals: Source
Causes Of Seizures
As epilepsy is the most common reason a Boxer has seizures, many assume that a dog who has a fit also has epilepsy. This is not always the case. In fact, there is a wide range of medical conditions that can cause seizures.
Considerations in a Boxer dog include:
This is a diagnosis of exclusion. If your Boxer has been having fits and we have ruled out all of the potential causes, they will likely be diagnosed with epilepsy. Dogs develop epilepsy between the ages of about one and six years old. An elderly dog who has a seizure for the first time almost certainly does not have epilepsy.
Boxers are a curious and energetic breed that regularly get themselves into mischief. While Boxers of any age may ingest a toxin, puppies are most susceptible. This is because they are inquisitive and get into everything. Toxins including rat bait, weed killer, and certain plants can all cause seizures.
If you are concerned your Boxer has eaten something they shouldn’t have, have them seen by their vet immediately. Time is of the essence and the sooner we intervene the better the prognosis. Often, the vet will induce vomiting. They may also feed an activated charcoal meal and start intravenous fluids to reduce toxin absorption.
The lungworm parasite can cause seizures when present within the brain. They also impair the blood’s ability to clot, which can lead to bleeding on the brain. Other signs of lungworm include bloodshot eyes, coughing, and weight loss. We can prevent lungworm in our Boxers by limiting their contact with slugs and snails and by keeping them up to date with their lungworm prevention.
Abnormal blood sugar levels
Sugar levels that are too high or too low can result in seizure activity. Diabetic Boxers are most at risk, but glucose levels can vary in any dog. We can see low blood sugar in Boxer puppies who are not eating well or who are vomiting or have diarrhea.
Toxoplasma and Neospora
These protozoal infections can lead to both neurological and muscular symptoms and serology can aid in their diagnosis. Avoid these parasites by not raw feeding your Boxer and try to keep them away from cat feces.
Viral and bacterial Infections within the central nervous system
Distemper virus is just one example of a virus that can affect the brain and lead to seizures. Ensure your Boxer is kept up to date with their vaccines and try to prevent contact with unwell dogs.
A head injury, especially a high impact injury such as a car accident or fall from a height, can potentially cause brain swelling and bleeding. As well as other signs, we may see seizures occurring. The priority will be to stabilize the patient, which may include starting them on intravenous fluids, providing oxygen, and administering strong pain relief.
When the liver is unable to function as it should, the toxins that build up can lead to neurological signs, including fits. For example, puppies who have portosystemic shunts may display signs including poor growth, vomiting, and seizures.
Dogs who overheat can develop signs including panting, drooling, collapse and seizures. Boxers are less able to regulate their body temperature as they are a snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breed. Take care to keep them cool during the warmer months.
Signs Of Seizures
It is not always easy to tell when a dog is having seizures and signs can vary greatly. If unsure if your Boxer is experiencing a seizure or not, try to capture the event on video. While it will not be the first thing you think of doing, taking a quick video can really help the vet make their diagnosis.
Signs to watch out for include:
- Muscle tremors and twitches
- Stiff muscles
- Limb paddling
- Urination and/or defecation
- Drooling and foaming at the mouth
What To Do If Your Boxer Has a Seizure & When To Seek Help
It can be alarming to witness a seizure and it is important to try and maintain a level head. Firstly, do not put yourself in any danger. It is NOT advised to put your hand in your dog’s mouth, this is unsafe. A dog having a seizure can clamp their jaw down and cause serious harm to their owner without meaning to.
The best thing you can do is to keep the environment calm and quiet. Turn lights down and reduce stimulation as much as you can. Try to time the seizure as any fit that lasts for more than 5 minutes requires urgent veterinary attention.
Most seizures last 1-3 minutes. When the seizure lasts longer than this, there is risk of long-term damage. Similarly, if seizures happen back-to-back (cluster seizures), this warrants urgent veterinary attention.
At the vet clinic, intravenous medicine can be given to stop the seizure and dogs may also be given fluids through their drip line. Oxygen will likely be provided. As seizures elevate body temperature, dogs should also be passively cooled if they are hyperthermic.
Your vet will examine your Boxer and try to determine why they are having a fit. This may entail a full physical exam, blood, and urine testing, and some imaging. A neurological exam should not occur until a day or so after the seizure when neurological activity has returned to normal.
Can Seizures Be Cured?
The treatment and prognosis of seizures will ultimately depend on their cause. Determining why your Boxer is having fits is the key. As discussed, this can involve extensive testing which can be cost-prohibitive for some owners, especially if uninsured.
If there is an infectious agent causing the seizures (perhaps a lungworm infestation or bacterial infection), treating this promptly may mean a dog does not have any further seizures. Similarly, a dog who has a fit due to heatstroke is unlikely to have another fit going forward once recovered.
Epilepsy, on the other hand, cannot be cured. However, it can usually be well managed medically. While dogs on daily medicine may still have infrequent seizures, we aim to ensure they do not have more than one seizure a month and that these seizures are not overly long.
The Bottom Line
Seizures are not uncommon in the Boxer dog. There are many potential causes and treatment will depend on what is going on. Any seizure warrants immediate investigation by your dog’s vet.
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