Epilepsy is a generalized term for neurologic conditions that cause seizures. In pets, epilepsy is generally considered idiopathic, meaning that we don’t know why it occurs. It is most often diagnosed in young dogs, although it can be seen in older to middle-aged dogs and cats.


Seizures are the most recognizable symptom of epilepsy. They can either be generalized, also called grand mal, in which case the seizure involves the entire body, or localized, also called petit mal, where only a certain part of the body is involved.

Generalized seizures are relatively straightforward to identify but can be similar to other collapse episodes, such as syncope, a cardiac event, or a vasovagal episode, similar to fainting. They can be quite distressing to witness as pets will experience convulsions and thrashing, yelps and cries, and sometimes excessive drooling, urination, and pooping. Seizures are also often accompanied by a pre-ictal and post-ictal period, during which your pet may seem particularly disoriented, quiet, or “dull”.

Localized seizures, on the other hand, can be much more challenging to identify. They may be as subtle as a repeated eye twitch or jaw chattering.


Epilepsy is a diagnosis of rule-outs, meaning that all other possible causes have to be ruled out prior to making a diagnosis. In order to diagnose epilepsy, your veterinarian will likely recommend:


Treatment for epilepsy is generally initiated once seizures start occurring every 4 – 6 weeks or sooner and consist of oral anticonvulsant medication. There is also a veterinary therapeutic diet for dogs that can be helpful in reducing seizure frequency. Most pets are well managed on a single anticonvulsant, but some do require multiple medications for adequate control. Anticonvulsants generally require regular lab work to ensure appropriate dosing.