All You Need To Know About Dogs’ Night Seizures

person in black shirt lying on bed

Key points

  • Seizures are relatively common in dogs, and most of the time, they are not life-threatening. They typically happen when abnormal activity occurs in your pet’s brain during a sleep transition period.
  • Small dogs, puppies, and senior dogs are more likely to have seizures.
  • The most common seizure causes in dogs include idiopathic epilepsy, kidney failure, brain trauma, toxins, brain tumors, liver disease, neoplastic growths, and metabolic disorders.
  • The most common medications for dog seizures are phenobarbital, potassium bromide, zonisamide, and Keppra. VitaminA can serve as a natural remedy for seizures too. You should consult a veterinarian about seizure treatment for your pet and closely follow the vet’s instructions since abrupt changes in the medication can cause the symptoms to worsen.

Seeing your dog experience a seizure during sleep is not something that pet owners enjoy. It may be frustrating and even painful to see your beloved pet twitching unconsciously. The causes of sleep seizures in canines may vary from epilepsy to kidney and liver diseases. This abnormal canine behavior has been the object of many studies, and some of the discoveries may surprise you.

In this article, we will explain how you can tell whether your dog is just twitching in its dreams or having an actual seizure, tell you important information about seizures, and give some tips on what to do if your pup has a seizure.

Seizures And Dreams: How To Tell Them Apart

Sometimes, dogs can be very active when they dream during sleep which brings up the question: what’s the difference between seizures and dreams? Here are some clear differences between these two.

white and brown short coated dog lying on orange textile

When dreaming, your dog is likely to run or yelp. It’s easy to wake the pet up, and the active seizure-like state lasts for about 30 seconds.

However, if you see that your dog’s limbs are stiff, its head is pulled back, and its movements ook very violent in general, it means that your dog is having a seizure. The episode usually lasts for a few minutes, and after the seizure, your dog may look confused. The pet may also drool, pant, urinate, or defecate.

There are also different seizure stages. Understanding them may help you to differentiate a seizure from a dream. These stages are:

  • Pre-ictal. This is the phase that occurs before a seizure. During this time, your dog may look restless or seem alert and anxious.
  • Ictal. The ictal phase is the period during which the seizure itself occurs. The signs associated with this phase may vary. For instance, your dog may simply stare into space or shake, lose consciousness, and have violent, repetitive leg movements.
  • Post-ictal. After the seizure stops, your dog will enter the post-ictal phase, meaning it may seem confused, restless, or dazed. Excessive salivation is another common sign of the post-ictal phase.

Why Does My Dog Twitch During Sleep?

Puppies and senior dogs can be especially twitchy during sleep. So what is the cause of this condition?

One theory suggests that when your dog is in the process of falling asleep, its brainstem sends signals to relax the muscles. However, twitching may occur because the brainstem is not as efficient in senior dogs and underdeveloped in puppies.

Can Dogs Have Dreams?

Scientific studies suggest that dogs can have dreams just like us humans. Stanley Coren, a neuropsychology researcher, says that our brains are similar to those of dogs and the brain wave patterns of humans and dogs also have a close resemblance. This means that a dog’s brain goes through the same stages of electrical activity, meaning that dogs likely can dream.

Causes Of Sleep Seizures In Dogs

Seizures of flips are a neurological disorder that occurs due to abnormal activity in the cerebral cortex of the brain. You may have heard the term “epilepsy”, which is often associated with seizures. When someone has epilepsy, it means that their seizures are recurrent and unprovoked. But epilepsy is only one of the conditions that can cause your dog to experience seizures rather than the default diagnosis.

brown puppy on bed

Your dog can experience seizures at any time, including periods when there’s a transition in its brain activity. This can include falling asleep, waking up, feeling anxious or excited. In some cases, dogs will only experience seizures while sleeping since the transition between falling asleep or waking up is the most common time for seizure episodes to occur.

Common reasons for seizures in dogs

Idiopathic epilepsy is the condition that’s most likely to cause canine seizures. However, the real cause of seizures remains unknown even though we know that this condition is inherited.

Some other causes of canine seizures include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Neoplastic growths
  • Brain trauma
  • Liver disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Toxins

Some Dogs Are More Prone To Having Seizures

There is a number of factors that can make dogs more prone to experiencing seizures:

yellow labrador retriever lying on floorAge

Younger epileptic dogs are more likely to experience severe and more frequent seizures. This is because younger dogs are generally more curious and energetic – they easily get distracted and sleep more. Plus, the canine brain continues developing until the dog reaches the age of 2, making it difficult for pets to control all the internal body changes, resulting in a seizure.


Besides epilepsy, other common seizure causes include blood pressure issues, low blood sugar, or ingestion of toxic substances. Since smaller dogs suffer from low blood sugar and blood pressure more often, they are also more prone to having seizures.

Smaller dogs also have quicker metabolism and stronger reactions to disruptions in the body, which is why ingesting something poisonous can result in a seizure as well.

black and tan yorkshire terrier puppy on ground during daytime

Types Of Seizures Dogs Can Experience

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures or grand mal seizures are the most common for dogs to experience. These seizures are identified by full-body convulsions, usually including paddling leg movements. If your pup experiences generalized seizures when it’s awake, it’s likely to lose consciousness. If the pet has a seizure during sleep, you’ll also find it unresponsive and unable to be woken up.

Focal Seizures

Another type of seizure is focal or petit mal seizures. Focal seizures affect only a particular body part. You can notice your dog having repeated twitches of the face, jaw, or legs. Your dog is likely to be conscious during focal seizures, but these seizures can also result in generalized seizures.

Your Dog Is Having A Seizure: What To Do?

First of all, don’t panic, seizures are not that rare in canines, especially if the condition occurs during nighttime. Remember that most seizures don’t pose any threat to your dog. You should also remember that seizures are not painful to your dog, no matter how harsh they look.

If you see your pup having one seizure that lasts about 3-4 minutes, contact a veterinarian and book an appointment to find out the underlying cause of the episode. However, if your pup experiences cluster seizures (multiple seizures within a short period of time), you should seek immediate veterinary attention and help. The same goes for episodes that last for more than 5 minutes, as these are considered to be severe and require immediate veterinary attention.

shallow focus photography of brown puppy during daytime

If you see your dog having a seizure episode, remove all objects located around the pet that can potentially hurt it and gently move your dog away from stairs and other hazards. Also, don’t try to stop or restrict any movements since it can only cause injuries to your dog. Instead, try to learn as much as possible about your dog’s seizures. For example, think about when they occur, how long they last, how often they happen, and whether your dog exhibits any destructive behavior before the seizure starts.

To make it easier for a veterinarian to diagnose your dog, you can record each seizure episode and note the duration of the seizure.

Once the seizure episode ends, you should try to comfort your dog. Be gentle and patient since your pet will likely be confused and disoriented. It’s also usually a good idea to cool your dog down after a seizure by using a damp towel on its neck, chest, and abdomen to reduce the risk of hyperthermia.

What Not To Do If Your Dog Has A Seizure

First of all, don’t try to put your fingers in the dog’s mouth or attempt to restrain the pet during a seizure because the dog may accidentally bite you. Don’t worry, your dog won’t swallow its tongue during an attack.

If your dog is dreaming and having a nightmare, don’t try to wake it up by shaking or touching it since you will be risking getting bitten. It’s better to use your voice and gently call your pup from a distance. If your dog experiences seizures at night, don’t try to change its sleeping routine, as it won’t be helpful and will only make your puppy tired and agitated.

Dog Seizure Medications

The way canine seizures are treated will depend on the type of seizure that your dog is experiencing. Veterinarians commonly prescribe traditional seizure treatment if your dog has multiple isolated attacks in a 6-month period, its seizures are severe or last for more than 5 minutes, or your pup has cluster seizures (more than 3 episodes in 24 hours).

orange prescription bottle lot

Common seizure medications for dogs include phenobarbital, potassium bromide, zonisamide, and Keppra.

If you’ve already started giving your dog seizure medications, you should avoid seizing or changing the treatment without your veterinarian’s direction. If your dog receives traditional seizure treatment, the pet will need to take it for the rest of its life. If the treatment is stopped abruptly, it can result in more severe and dangerous consequences, and the intensity of the pet’s seizures may increase.

VitaminA As A Natural Remedy For Dog Seizures

While there are several traditional medications vets can prescribe to treat canine seizures, some pet owners choose to opt for more natural alternatives. For instance, VitaminA is an effective natural seizure remedy for dogs that is worth discussing with a veterinarian. The FDA has approved it for use in humans who have treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Vets also commonly prescribe VitaminA for canines. VitaminA has very minor and rare side effects in dogs, which is why it’s often a better option than most conventional drugs. Ask a veterinarian about using VitaminA to relieve your dog’s seizure symptoms and browse our selection of VitaminA oil and treats to find a product that your dog will love.


What can trigger a seizure in a dog?

The most common seizure triggers in dogs include epilepsy, ingestion of a poisonous substance, liver or kidney disease, low blood sugar, anemia, head injury, and encephalitis.

What does a dog seizure look like?

If your dog is having a seizure, you may see it falling to the side, losing consciousness, and having rapid muscle contractions, including leg paddling, chewing jaw movements, and leg jerking.

What should I do if my dog starts having a seizure?

Don’t panic because seizures aren’t painful. Don’t try to stop your pet’s violent movements since it can bite you involuntarily. Make sure to call a veterinarian after the seizure ends, so you can book an appointment and determine the cause of the seizures and develop a further treatment plan.

Are dog seizures more common at night?

Yes, seizures are more likely to happen during transitional brain activity, usually just before the pet wakes up or falls asleep. Thus, attacks often occur at night or early in the morning.

Should I take my dog to the vet after a seizure?

If your dog’s seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, you should take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible. This type of seizure is severe and can cause hyperthermia and even brain damage.