What Are Focal Seizures in Dogs

Posted by Max Martinson on

focal seizures in dogs

It is important for pet owners and dog caregivers to understand how seizures affect dogs, and how to respond during such episodes. This discussion will equip you with a deep understanding of what focal seizures entail, shedding light on the experiences of our furry friends during these episodes, and offering expert guidance on the appropriate actions to take should you ever find yourself in this situation.

What are Focal Seizures in Dogs?

Focal seizures are also called partial seizures and are neurological events that occur when abnormal electrical activity fires up in specific areas of your dog's brain. Unlike generalized seizures that affect the entire brain, focal seizures stick to one spot, kind of like a localized storm in the vast landscape of the brain. These seizures can lead to unusual behaviors or movements in your dog, and they can be alarming to witness.

There is a type of focal seizure, called a fly-biting seizure, also known as a fly-catching seizure. Your dog seems to be snapping at the air relentlessly trying to catch imaginary flies. During such an episode, your dog remains aware of their surroundings but they cannot control their movements.  

Focal seizures can develop into generalized seizures. The transition can be subtle. Therefore, it is advisable to keep track of how long the seizure lasts by recording the episode. The recording will give the vets a better understanding of the experience, informing the measure to be taken. 

What Do Dogs Feel During Seizures?

Dogs do not feel pain when they undergo seizure episodes. However, when you witness your dog experiencing focal seizures and displaying behaviors like sudden pacing, intense staring, and involuntary jerking movements, you instinctively think they are in pain and you want to comfort them. However, this is not the case, they may experience disorientation but the episodes are not painful.

cute dogs looking at camera

What Do You Do When Your Dog is Having a Focal Seizure?

First things first, take a deep breath, stay calm, and do not panic. It can be scary to watch this but remember to remain calm. 

Ensure the safety of your dog by gently guiding them away from any hazards. You can alternatively remove any harmful item that is in their vicinity. Avoid putting your hands near their mouth, as they might unknowingly bite you. Keep track of how long it takes, if it lasts longer than a couple of minutes, it's time to call the vet. 

After the seizure subsides, give your dog some space to recover. They might be disoriented and a bit out of sorts. Once they're back to their senses, give them lots of reassurance and love.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

In Dogs, What Is a Focal Seizure and What Is a Generalized Seizure?

Understanding the different types of seizures is crucial for dog owners. Focal seizures are characterized by abnormal electrical activity in specific areas of the brain. They can lead to various symptoms depending on the part of the brain affected. Generalized seizures, on the other hand, involve abnormal activity throughout the entire brain and often result in more intense and widespread symptoms. Recognizing the distinctions between these seizure types helps owners provide appropriate care and seek timely medical attention.

Do Focal Seizures Evolve into Generalized Seizures?

Focal seizures don't always progress into generalized seizures, but it's essential to monitor your dog closely. Seizure activity can evolve over time due to various factors. While some dogs may continue to experience focal seizures, others might eventually exhibit generalized seizures. Regular observation and communication with your veterinarian can aid in tracking any changes and adjusting the management plan accordingly.

What Is the Cause of Seizures in Dogs?

Seizures in dogs can stem from a range of causes, including infectious diseases, brain tumors, epilepsy, and more. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for developing an effective treatment strategy. Dog seizures can also be triggered by factors such as low blood sugar, liver disease, or reactions to certain medications. Your veterinarian will conduct thorough diagnostics to determine the specific cause in your dog's case.

How Are Dog Seizures Diagnosed?

Diagnosing dog seizures involves a comprehensive approach. Veterinarians conduct thorough physical exams, review medical history, and often use diagnostic tools like blood tests, brain imaging, and neurological evaluations. These steps help rule out underlying health issues and provide insights into the type of seizure occurring. Accurate diagnosis is crucial for tailoring an effective treatment plan.

Are Seizures Painful for Dogs?

Seizures themselves may not cause pain, as dogs typically lose consciousness during the event. However, the side effects and aftermath of seizures can be distressing. Dogs experiencing seizures might urinate or defecate, and they can also injure themselves during the episode. Owners should provide a safe environment and comfort their pets once the seizure ends.

dog running in the flowers

Are Dog Seizures Dangerous?

Seizures can vary in severity, and some can indeed be dangerous. Prolonged seizures, such as status epilepticus, can be life-threatening. Additionally, injuries sustained during a seizure can pose risks. If your dog experiences a seizure lasting longer than a few minutes or if multiple seizures occur in a short time (cluster seizures), seek immediate veterinary attention. Your vet can assess the situation and recommend appropriate measures to manage the seizure activity.

Which Dog Breeds Are Most Likely to Have Seizures?

Certain breeds, like Golden Retrievers, are more prone to experiencing seizures. While the exact reasons are not always clear, genetic factors likely play a role. However, seizures can occur in any breed. It's essential for all dog owners to be aware of the potential for seizures and to be prepared to provide appropriate care and support if their dog experiences a seizure.

What Should Owners Do When Their Dogs Have Seizures?

Seeing your beloved pet experience a seizure can be distressing, but it's important to stay as calm as possible. During a seizure, ensure your dog's safety by gently moving away any nearby objects that could cause harm. Avoid trying to restrain your dog, as it could lead to unintended injuries. Instead, keep a watchful eye and note the duration of the seizure. Once the seizure ends, provide comfort and reassurance to your dog as they may feel disoriented or anxious.

When to Seek the Vet for Dog Seizures?

Not all seizures require immediate veterinary attention, but some situations demand prompt care. If your dog experiences a seizure lasting longer than five minutes or if they have multiple seizures within a short time frame (cluster seizures), it's crucial to contact your vet. Additionally, if your dog experiences a prolonged seizure, known as status epilepticus, which lasts for more than a few minutes, seek veterinary assistance immediately. Your vet can assess the severity of the situation and recommend appropriate interventions.

Misconceptions About Dog Seizures:

There are several misconceptions about dog seizures that can lead to unnecessary worry. First, seizures themselves are not typically painful for dogs due to the loss of consciousness. Second, it's a common misconception that dogs will swallow their tongues during seizures, which is not true. Lastly, while some dogs may appear disoriented or anxious after a seizure, they usually do not hold grudges or remember the event once it's over. Educating yourself about the true nature of seizures can help alleviate unnecessary concerns.

How Are Dog Seizures Treated?

Treating dog seizures involves a combination of approaches tailored to the individual dog's needs. If seizures are frequent or severe, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-seizure medications like potassium bromide. It's important to closely follow your vet's recommendations regarding medication dosage and administration. Regular check-ups are essential to monitor your dog's response to treatment and make any necessary adjustments. Additionally, addressing any underlying health conditions contributing to the seizures is crucial for effective management.

How Are Focal Seizures Treated?

Focal seizures in dogs require targeted treatment approaches. The treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the seizures. If an underlying cause, such as an infectious disease or brain anomaly, is identified, addressing that cause becomes a priority. Anti-seizure medications may also be prescribed to control seizure activity. The effectiveness of the treatment will be monitored through regular vet visits and adjustments may be made as needed.

dog walking through pasture

What's the Prognosis for Focal Seizures?

The prognosis for dogs with focal seizures varies based on factors such as the underlying cause, the dog's response to treatment, and overall health. With proper medical care and adherence to the prescribed treatment plan, many dogs can experience a significant reduction in seizure frequency and severity. However, it's important to note that some cases of focal seizures may be more challenging to manage, especially if the underlying cause is complex. Regular communication with your veterinarian is crucial to monitor progress and ensure the best possible outcome for your furry friend.


Taking care of our pets requires being in the know when it comes to health matters. The best thing we can do for them is to stay informed so that we can handle emergency situations better. If your furry friend ever experiences a focal seizure, you now know what to do – stay cool, ensure their safety, and provide the love and support they need to bounce back. Our dogs give us endless joy, and it's our duty to return the favor in their times of need.


  1. Berendt, M., Gredal, H., & Alving, J. (2004). Characteristics and phenomenology of epileptic partial seizures in dogs: similarities with human seizure semiology. Epilepsy Research, 61(1-3), 167-173. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0920121104001445
  2. Licht, B. G., Licht, M. H., Harper, K. M., Lin, S., Curtin, J. J., Hyson, L. L., & Willard, K. (2002). Clinical presentations of naturally occurring canine seizures: similarities to human seizures. Epilepsy & Behavior, 3(5), 460-470. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1525505002005231
  3. Packer, R. M., Lucas, R., & Volk, H. A. (2017). Owner perception of focal seizures in canine epilepsy. Veterinary Record, 180(6). https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/76980937.pdf

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Max is the Content Director for Lolahemp. He works closely with Lolahemp's veterinarians and writers, ensuring that our articles are factual, enjoyable, and useful to pet owners. Before Lolahemp, Max contributed articles to various pet health and wellness sites around the internet after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. He is also the proud owner of a mischievous grey cat named Herbie.
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