Can Food Cause Seizures in Dogs?

Posted by Lianne McLeod on

Can Food Cause Seizures in Dogs?

Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from seizures. While many seizures are idiopathic [1], there's evidence that they can be triggered by chemicals in the dog food.

In this guide, we are going to demystify this nerve-wracking topic for pet owners.

Table of Contents

  • What Can Cause Dog Seizures?
  • How Can Dog Food Cause Seizures?
  • Signs of Seizures in Dogs
  • Can Dog Seizures be Treated?
  • Wrapping Up

What Causes Dog Seizures?

According to research [2], seizures are the most common neurological disorder in dogs. They are characterized by convulsions, loss of consciousness, and stiffness. However, certain dog breeds seem to be more predisposed to seizures than others but seizures may appear in any dog whether mixed or purebred [3].

Underlying medical conditions such as brain tumors, infections, diabetes, or other organ failures can trigger seizures. Apart from this, certain toxins which are ingredients in medication, cleaning products, insecticides, or even dog food can cause them to have bouts.

two dogs next to one another

How Could Dog Food Contribute to Seizures? 

The ingredients used in dog food [artificial preservatives and coloring] and even the condition of dog food can cause canine seizures. It might come as a surprise that nutrients are both beneficial and harmful to your dog [4] when consumed in large amounts, triggering seizures.

For example, fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D, which are essential for your dog to build and maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in their bodies, can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. Be careful to check the percentage contained in dog food and the amounts per serving.

Some food additives contained in dog food are not easily digested and absorbed by dogs' bodies, especially on a day-to-day basis [4]. These may include preservatives such as BHA/BHT, artificial colors, or even foods rich in glutamate. Minimize foods with these components in their diet.

Moldy food can also cause allergic reactions in your dog. Mold can occur during manufacture or due to poor storage. Dry foods should be stored in airtight containers that deter moisture, while wet food should be refrigerated but consumed within 7 days after opening.

The Signs of Seizures in Dogs

Witnessing your pup have a seizure can be quite scary especially if it has never happened before and you have no idea what’s going on. Here are a few signs to look out for:

  • Confusion, glazed eyes, or blank staring
  • Stiff muscles
  • Uncontrolled urination or defecation
  • Involuntary convulsions (erratic jerking or twitching)
  • Sudden loss of balance or consciousness
  • Uncontrolled drooling or foaming in the mouth

After experiencing a seizure your dog may or may not go into a postictal state characterized by confusion or disorientation.

Can You Treat Dog Seizures?

The primary treatment for dogs experiencing seizures is antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide. These medications don't cure seizures but reduce their frequency and severity. Dietary changes have also proven effective in minimizing canine seizures.

dogs next to one another

Frequently Asked Questions

The following answers were generated by the Lolahemp team and reviewed by Dr. Lianne McLeod D.V.M. 

The Link Between Dog Food and Seizures

Pet owners often underestimate the role diet plays in their dogs' health. Certain elements in dog food can trigger seizures, including molds, food allergies, unhealthy ingredients, or toxic substances.

Foods That May Induce Seizures in Dogs

Certain foods are more likely to trigger seizures in dogs, including grains, cow milk-based dairy products, beans, peanuts, and meats from grain-fed animals. Foods high in chemicals or glutamate, and those that contain artificial flavors and colors could also be implicated in causing seizures.

Other Potential Causes of Canine Seizures

Apart from food, other substances that could trigger seizures include alcohols, food toxins like methylxanthines, excessive salt, certain medications, pesticides, vitamin D, and common household cleaning supplies.

What Do I Do If My Dog Ingests Something Toxic?

Immediate action is crucial if your dog has ingested a toxic substance. Contact your local poison control center and get your pet to a vet immediately. The quicker they receive medical attention, the better their chances of recovery.

How to Detect Seizures in Dogs

Recognizing the signs of a seizure in your dog can be a daunting task. Some of the signs to look out for include sudden jerking movements, muscle stiffening, drooling, loss of consciousness, chomping, tongue chewing, or even sudden defecation or urination.

Different Types of Canine Seizures

Seizures in dogs can fall into several categories, including grand mal seizures, focal seizures, psychomotor seizures, and idiopathic epilepsy. Knowing the type of seizure can help your vet formulate the best treatment plan.

Are There Diets for Dogs With Seizures? 

For dogs prone to seizures, a ketogenic diet supplemented with raw foods, DHA, vitamins B and E, and other beneficial nutrients can help manage the condition.

Foods to Avoid if Your Dog is Seizure-Prone

Certain foods, especially those promoting inflammation or causing blood sugar fluctuations, should be avoided. This includes foods high in sugar or carbohydrates, as well as those containing glutamate, aspartate, rosemary, or oregano.

How to Prevent Seizures

Certain breeds are more prone to seizures than others. Regular vet check-ups, a balanced diet supplemented with omega fatty acids, and maintaining a stress-free environment can help reduce the likelihood of seizures in dogs.

How to Prevent Dog Toxicity

Being aware of potential hazards in your environment, such as certain plants and household products, can help prevent accidental ingestion by your pet.

Speak With Your Vet About Seizures

If your dog is experiencing seizures, seek veterinary help immediately. A professional can help identify potential triggers and outline a comprehensive treatment plan.

Wrapping Up

Seizures can be extremely daunting for pet owners to witness. However, with adequate knowledge and understanding your dog can live happily with appropriate seizure management. Prompt diagnosis and careful antiepileptic medication management with your vet can prove fruitful.

References:

  1. Brauer, Christina, Melanie Jambroszyk, and Andrea Tipold. "Metabolic and toxic causes of canine seizure disorders: a retrospective study of 96 cases." The Veterinary Journal 187.2 (2011): 272-275.
  2. Masino, Susan A., et al. "Dietary intervention for canine epilepsy: two case reports." Epilepsia Open 4.1 (2019): 193-199.
  3. Erlen, Alexander, et al. "Seizure occurrence in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK: prevalence and risk factors." Journal of veterinary internal medicine 32.5 (2018): 1665-1676.
  4. Pike, Vanessa, and Stanley Zlotkin. "Excess micronutrient intake: Defining toxic effects and upper limits in vulnerable populations." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1446.1 (2019): 21-43.

 

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Author

Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a former writer for The Spruce Pets, contributing articles for 11 years. Before Dr. McLeod began writing about pet care, she worked several years in small animal practice. She has written extensively about the care and keeping of exotic pets and pet health care. She now researches water quality and chronic disease at the University of Saskatchewan. Lianne McLeod earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Simon Fraser University. She continued her education and received a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Now, she splits her time between her family, research and writing about pet health for all the animal lovers out there.
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