Myoclonic Seizures in Dogs

Posted by Lianne McLeod on

Myoclonic seizures in dogs

It’s understandable to be concerned when your dog suddenly has jerking motions in his muscles or a group of muscles. You might even panic, especially if it’s the first time you are witnessing it. However, it might help if you know why your dog is showing these symptoms so as to be in a better position to take care of him. 

The most likely reason for your dog having sudden jerking motions is because they are experiencing seizures. These seizures in dogs and other canines are often categorized in two groups - tonic-clonic seizures and myoclonus seizures

Tonic-clonic seizures are more common and occur in two stages. In the first stage, the dog loses its consciousness and in the second stage the dog exhibits sudden jerking motions. 

Myoclonic seizures are a little bit different. Myoclonus seizures are a rare condition that occur in a single stage where a fully conscious dog suddenly starts experiencing muscle contractions at a rapid speed, resembling an electric shock. 

dog seizures

The ABCs of Myoclonus 

Apart from sudden jerking motions in muscles or a group of muscles, a dog having a mycolunus seizure might also show the following symptoms

  • Spontaneous, onset rapid eye blinking 
  • Head nodding or jerking head backwards
  • Thoracic limbs twitching 
  • High-pitched vocalisation 
  • Stumbling or falling as a result of the muscle contractions 

This condition is caused by two major factors - Canine distemper or the Lafora disease. 

Canine distemper is a viral, contagious and serious disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs. It’s spread through airborne exposure or sharing of food and meals with an infected animal. When the disease affects the dog’s nervous system, it develops lifelong neurological conditions, one of them being Myoclonic seizures. 

If your dog keeps experiencing Myoclonus for a prolonged period of time, it might be because of a pre-existing, rare neurological condition called the Lafora disease.

Caused by a genetic mutation that is present at birth, the Lafora disease leads to  worsening cases of Myoclonus in dogs, and eventually, may result in the dogs having dementia or going blind.  

Although Myoclonus is brought about by two major factors, it’s majorly triggered by flashing lights, sudden sounds or startling sights that affect a part of the dog’s brain. 

Caring for a Dog with Myoclonus 

Treatment and care for a dog with Myoclonus depends on the severity of the condition. If the seizures are mild and occur after prolonged periods of time, there might be no need for a treatment plan. However, if the condition is severe, the vet might prescribe some antiepileptic medication or Hemp Oil for dogs to help control or reduce the seizures.

You should also consider buying sunglasses to protect your dog from sudden flashing lights, and putting him on a carbohydrate-free diet that slows the progression of the disorder.

Life with These Issues

Living with a dog with myoclonus requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to their care. The myoclonus in dogs life expectancy can vary greatly depending on the underlying cause, but with proper management, these dogs can still live a happy and loving life.

How to treat Myoclonic Seizures

Frequently Asked Questions

*The answers below were generated by our team and reviewed by Dr. Lianne McLeod. 

Understanding Myoclonus

Myoclonus in dogs, often described as 'dog myoclonic jerks,' is a condition where dogs experience sudden, involuntary muscle movements. These movements can range from mild spasms to severe contractions, resembling a myoclonic seizure in dogs. It's a condition that can affect dogs of all ages, but myoclonus in old dogs is more frequently observed, making age an important consideration in myoclonus dog treatment.

Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME) is a specific type of myoclonic seizures in dogs that primarily affects puppies and young dogs. The exact cause of JME isn't known, but it's believed to be genetic. Dogs with JME may show signs of sudden jerking movements, especially when they're waking up or falling asleep.

Myoclonus in Dogs: Symptoms

Myoclonus symptoms in dogs can vary, but typically include sudden jerking movements or muscle spasms. These spasms may occur in a pattern or at random, and can be triggered by light, sound, or movement. Some dogs may appear perfectly normal between episodes, while others may seem disoriented or anxious.

Myoclonus in Dogs: Causes

While the exact cause of myoclonic seizure in dogs is unknown, it is often associated with underlying neurological issues like brain tumors, encephalitis, or genetic conditions like Lafora disease.

Understanding Lafora Disease in Dogs

Lafora Disease is a type of inherited myoclonus in dogs that results in progressive neurological deterioration. It usually starts in mid to late life, and symptoms can include myoclonic jerks, blindness, and seizures.

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can result in myoclonus in dogs. Despite being preventable through vaccination, it remains a significant canine health issue worldwide.

Diagnosing & Treatment Options

Diagnosing myoclonus in dogs involves a thorough veterinary examination and potentially an MRI or CT scan. Treatment options for myoclonus in dogs are typically focused on managing the symptoms and improving quality of life.

Living with Myoclonus


Myoclonus condition might be rare and scary, but it’s possible for your dog to still live a healthy, long life with it. The trick is in keeping the triggers away from him! 


  1. Canine distemper. (n.d.). American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved August 1, 2023, from
  2. Lafora disease as a cause of visually exacerbated myoclonic attacks in a dog. (n.d.). NCBI. Retrieved August 1, 2023, from
  3. Myoclonus in older Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. (2022, March 23). NCBI. Retrieved August 1, 2023, from 

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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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