woman researches beagle epilepsy

Epilepsy in Beagles and Other Dogs: How to Help


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Beagles are a breed with a high prevalence of seizures. And judging from how many Kiwis are researching Beagle epilepsy online we gather there’s a growing concern. In recent times, nearly 100 New Zealanders have been searching Google every month for info on Beagle epilepsy.

If you’re a Beagle fan or a Beagle mum or dad, that’s understandable.

If your furkid develops epilepsy and experiences seizures it can be scary. Seizures can quite literally seem to come out of nowhere and there’s not a lot you can do during one besides stay with your dog and try not to panic.

With any challenge life throws you, understanding the problem can prove immensely helpful. That’s why we’ve put together this article to help grow your epilepsy awareness and understanding.

What causes Beagle epilepsy?

There isn’t always a known cause behind seizures and epilepsy. Often when the cause can’t be decided, we refer to the type of epilepsy as idiopathic (primary) epilepsy. This tends to be the most common form of Beagle epilepsy, although not always.

Primary epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy sometimes affects more than one family member. This points to the condition being a genetic one, something purebred dogs are most prone to. Why? Because while all dogs are essentially the same, breeding within the same families (or at the very least in limited gene pools) is how we ‘make’ breeds.

This continuous narrowing of a breed’s gene pool often throws up serious genetic consequences. Like for example, hip dysplasia in dogs, IVDD in Dachshunds and epilepsy.

Secondary epilepsy

This form of epilepsy has a known cause. Secondary epilepsy can be caused by things like brain tumours, brain injuries, hypoglycaemia or poisoning.

Your pup’s vet will be the one to drill down into possible triggers for your Beagle’s seizures and uncover the root cause.

Beagle dog

Different types of seizures with Beagle epilepsy

Epilepsy in pets (and people) is a spillover of electrical energy from one area of the brain to another. This doesn’t always cause severe seizures. It can even cause symptoms that aren’t typically seen as a seizure, like confusion and uncoordinated blinking.

Seizures can be grouped into three levels of severity:

  • Grand Mal. Grand mal is the most intense of seizures (usually the type represented in films). This type of seizure is the result of spillover of electrical energy on both sides of the brain. It causes convulsions and unconsciousness.
  • Petit Mal. This is a petit (or smaller) seizure, meaning it’s milder. If your Beagle has this type of seizure it may look dazed or like it’s daydreaming and it might become a bit floppy.
  • Focal or Partial Seizures. This type of seizure happens only on one side of the brain. It can cause unusual repetitive behaviour like lip smacking or moaning. It may also cause symptoms like twitching and can develop into a grand mal seizure.

Beagle epilepsy symptoms

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of Beagle epilepsy symptoms that can occur during a seizure:

  • Biting their own tongue
  • Blinking uncoordinatedly
  • Collapsing
  • Convulsing
  • Drooling
  • Falling unconscious
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Incontinence
  • Wobbling
  • Stiffening
  • Twitching
  • Paddling at the air
Beagle has epilepsy

What to do if your dog has a seizure?

Stay with your Beagle during a seizure. Don’t touch them except to move them to somewhere safe if they’re in a dangerous place, like the edge of a balcony or stairwell.

Time the seizure – if it lasts longer than five minutes, or happens more than once in a 24-hour cycle it’s an emergency. You need to get your Beagle to the vet right away. In any case, contact your vet as soon as the seizure is over to discuss next steps.

Regardless of whether the seizure is on the milder side or more severe or in-between it’s draining and disorienting for your pup. Your dog will be confused and tired afterwards. Comfort them, wrap them up warmly and let them sleep.

If your dog has a once-off seizure without reoccurrence it’s still important to see a vet. Any seizure can indicate serious underlying issues your vet can help address. Your vet will diagnose your Beagle’s epilepsy using various diagnostic tools, for example bloodwork or an MRI.

Beagle epilepsy means having your vet on speed dial and making sure to have regular check-ups. The more you speak to your vet about your Beagle having epilepsy the better you and they can become at identifying triggers.

beagle with epilepsy sleeps after a seizure

Epilepsy in dogs

Epilepsy can happen to any dog, not just Beagles, but Beagles are among the breeds with a greater tendency for it. Other dog breeds prone to epilepsy include:

This list may seem long but don’t despair. If you have your heart set on one of the dog breeds do your homework by finding an ethical dog breeder. Good breeders do routine health checks on both parents and won’t breed parents with known health conditions.

This doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to buy a pup without any health issues, just that the chances are reduced.

Another option is choosing a mongrel, who’s likely to have fewer genetic conditions thanks to its broader genetic pool. Why not consider bringing home an adopted dog, after you’ve read our dog adoption checklist of course! Be sure to also read about reasons why terriers shake.

Beagle with epilepsy walking on the beach

Beagle epilepsy treatment

More often than not, Beagles develop epilepsy between 18 months and five years old. However, although it’s less common, they can develop late-onset epilepsy as late as nine years old.

Epileptic seizures have an underlying cause. Once your vet gets to the root of it, they can treat the real issue. In cases of idiopathic epilepsy, which is hereditary, your vet may prescribe an anti-convulsant medication. It may hearten you to know that well-managed Beagle epilepsy can result in fairly normal living.

Another piece of good news is that if you get pet insurance early in your pet’s journey – before any genetic conditions surface – treatment costs can be covered. This is just another big reason to get dog insurance when your pooch is still a young pup!

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