Senior dog safety during seizures


If your dog has a history of epilepsy or another condition that causes seizures, he or she is probably already under a veterinarian’s care and is receiving one or more medications to reduce the number and severity of the episodes. Whether your veterinarian prescribes anti-seizure medication depends on the underlying cause of your dog’s seizures, how often they happen, how long they last, and how severe they are. Your veterinarian may also recommend that you feed your dog a veterinary therapeutic diet or nutritional supplement formulated to support dogs who have seizures. 

I won’t review the many reasons why senior dogs can have seizures or the tests and treatments that dogs may need, but here are tips to help you keep your grey muzzle friend (or furry family member of any age!) as safe and comfortable as possible during and after a seizure. 

Stay steady

Keep your veterinarian’s instructions handy (posted on the fridge, in your wallet) so you can quickly review crucial points about your dog’s care when a seizure does occur. Seizures are typically unpredictable, and you may be frightened and distressed during your dog’s seizure. It’s important to keep calm so you can most effectively help your dog. 

Dodge dangers

If your dog has a seizure next to a stairway, a swimming pool, a fireplace, a sharp cabinet corner, the edge of a bed, or another spot where they’re in peril from a tumble or other injury, try to carefully slide your dog away from the hazard. Or place a soft, sturdy barrier such as a pillow, a cushion, or a rolled up blanket or big beach towel between your dog and the danger. 

It’s a good idea to separate other pet family members from your dog during a seizure and until after your dog fully recovers. Even the best of your dog’s fur friends may perceive the twitching, paddling, and other strange behavior as threats and attack their ailing buddy. 

Likewise, when your pets are unsupervised, keep them separated—by a closed door, crate, or pet gate—in case your dog has a seizure while you’re away or asleep. Keep in mind that if another pet’s aggressive behavior occurs, it may continue for hours or days after your ailing dog has recovered from a seizure. In that case, keep your pets separated, and use barriers, leashes, and positive reinforcement to slowly and gradually reintroduce your pets—as if they’re meeting for the first time.

Track time and recall your notes

Note the time that your dog’s seizure started. Review your veterinarian’s instructions (that you’ve kept handy!) so you know whether you need to give your dog an additional emergency medication (that your veterinarian may have prescribed for you to use in specific situations), when to notify your veterinarian, and when to go in for emergency treatment. (Emergency veterinary care is needed when a seizure lasts five minutes or longer, or when two or more seizures occur in a row and before your dog regains awareness, or when three or more seizures occur within 24 hours.)

Soothe with words

You can quietly talk to your dog during a seizure, but avoid hugging your dog, and keep in mind that petting isn’t necessarily helpful. Dogs are unaware and don’t respond appropriately during a seizure, so attempts to comfort them with pats or kisses can go awry. Take extra care and stay clear of your dog’s head and mouth to avoid an inadvertent bite. 

Try not to fret about your dog’s tongue

Dogs won’t swallow their tongue during a seizure, but they often bite it. In any case, don’t try to hold their tongue! 

If your dog’s tongue is bleeding after a seizure, it’s usually best to simply leave it alone. Attempting to apply direct pressure or a cold compress to the tongue can upset your dog, which raises your dog’s blood pressure and causes more bleeding. You can offer cold water to try to constrict the blood vessels and slow the bleeding, but tongue movement may also promote bleeding. It may look like a lot of blood, but the bleeding often stops on its own within a few minutes. The injury usually isn’t serious unless the tongue is badly lacerated or your dog has a condition that prevents normal blood clot formation. 

If the bleeding continues for more than 15 minutes, you can try to apply direct pressure with a clean, cold cloth—if your dog will safely tolerate it. If the bleeding continues, contact your veterinary team to ask whether your dog needs to be seen. 

Rest and take notes 

Note the time that your dog’s seizure stopped. Afterward your dog will probably be restless and disoriented and may stumble or bump into things, so let your dog rest quietly in a safe, confined area until full recovery. Gently help your dog get cleaned up if needed—dogs often drool a lot and they may urinate or defecate during a seizure. Gentle air flow from a fan can help an anxious or  panting dog relax and cool down. 

Over time and with good journaling to track your dog’s medication schedule, the dates and times your dog’s seizures occur, how long each seizure lasts, what it looks like (videos are especially helpful for your veterinarian), and the events surrounding an episode, you can work with your veterinarian to better assess your dog’s seizure control and whether medication adjustments are needed. 

Journaling also helps you discover patterns and learn whether certain situations seem to be associated with your dog’s seizures—situations that you may be able to avoid. People who have epilepsy report that their seizures can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, flickering lights, drinking alcohol, infections, and menstrual cycle hormonal influences. These triggers may occur up to 24 hours before a seizure. Similarly, for dogs with epilepsy, pet parents have reported triggers that include altered sleep patterns, weather extremes (hot or cold), stress (having visitors in the home, going to unfamiliar places, altered daily routine, major life change), and hormonal influences (in female dogs who aren’t spayed). (Forsgård 2019) Keep these and similar circumstances in mind when you journal, and you may identify potential seizure triggers to avoid.

Keep up with veterinary visits

Anti-seizure medication may not prevent your dog from having seizures, but they should help reduce the number and seriousness of the episodes. To support a good quality of life for your dog, frequent veterinary visits may be needed to assess which medications and doses best control the seizures while limiting the medication’s side effects. Partner with your veterinarian to talk about your goals of care for your dog and identify the options that work best for your grey muzzle friend and you.


Forsgård JA, Metsähonkala L, Kiviranta AM, Cizinauskas S, Junnila JJT, Laitinen-Vapaavuori O, Jokinen TS. Seizure-precipitating factors in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. J Vet Intern Med. 2019 Mar;33(2):701-707. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15402. Epub 2018 Dec 21. PMID: 30576009; PMCID: PMC6430923.