Seizures in pets are not uncommon, although these episodes can be extremely upsetting to witness your own pet experiencing. As a manifestation of abnormal brain activity, seizures occur for a variety of reasons. Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common cause, and other causes include electrolyte imbalances, toxicity, hypoglycemia, brain tumors, head trauma, metabolic disease, or severe anemia.

Whether you know the cause of your pet’s seizures, or if they are experiencing their first episode, you can take several precautions during an active seizure to keep you and your furry pal safe. Follow our University Veterinary Hospital team’s do’s and don’ts list to learn how to comfort your pet safely through a seizure.

DO remain calm when your pet is having a seizure

When your pet is having a seizure—particularly if they are experiencing a grand mal seizure during which they become unaware of their surroundings—you may have difficulty remaining calm. However, keeping a cool head is the best way to help your pet through their episode. Speak in a low, quiet voice to soothe your pet, and refrain from raising your voice in fear. Move slowly to avoid startling your pet, and focus on simply being there for them when the episode has ended.

DON’T try to restrain your pet

Although you may be tempted to wrap your pet in your arms when they are having a seizure, do not restrain them, because they may panic, resulting in an injury to themselves or you. The notion that a pet can swallow their tongue while having a seizure is a myth, so do not reach in their mouth, because you will likely be bitten. In rare cases, pets bite their tongue during a seizure, but they will not swallow it or choke.

Rather than restraining your pet in an attempt to control their flailing and paddling limbs, sit next to them and speak in a soothing tone to let them know you are there. You may place a hand on them if you can do so safely, but pets can easily become startled or may bite and scratch inadvertently during a seizure, so avoiding contact is the best strategy.

DO record the seizure

While checking the time is the last thing on your mind when your pet begins having a seizure, try to record the time or take a phone video. Documenting the event—creating a phone record of the episode’s date and time span—helps your veterinarian correctly diagnose your pet’s condition. Pets who have seizures lasting longer than two or three minutes are at risk of hyperthermia, so monitoring the period is important for determining whether your pet needs veterinary care immediately afterward.

DON’T try to make your pet snap out of it

Wanting your pet’s seizure to end as soon as possible is natural, but you cannot simply snap them out of it. Your pet will return to full awareness in their own time, so do not shout their name, jostle them, or attempt to make them pay attention to you during a seizure, which can be dangerous for you and your pet.

DO provide a quiet, dark, safe environment

If your pet starts having a seizure while the TV is blaring, every light is on, and the kids are jumping on the couch, act immediately to provide a quiet environment. A loud, bright, chaotic environment can be detrimental to a pet who is going through or recovering from a seizure. Dim the lights, turn off noisy electronics, and keep people out of the room to help your pet recover calmly from a seizure.

DO let your veterinarian know if your pet has had a seizure

Any time your pet has a seizure, notify our University Veterinary Hospital team, so we can add a notation to their medical history. If your pet’s seizure activity changes, they experience a long seizure, or if it is their first seizure, let us know so we can provide the best treatment and care. Your pet may need a physical exam and diagnostic testing to assess their health status, or they may require post-seizure treatment.

Witnessing your pet in the throes of a grand mal seizure can be terrifying, but keeping your cool is the best way to help your furry friend. If your pet has a seizure, contact our University Veterinary Hospital team to schedule an evaluation.