Can dogs have different kinds of seizures?

Reggie had a seizure a week ago, and this one was different. It was evening and he was laying on my bed. I heard this rustling sound and I assumed he was rubbing his muzzle on the duvet. I looked over and to my surprise he was shaking. He was in a curled position, not tightly but curled nonetheless. At first I thought he was dreaming but then I realized his whole body was shaking.

His legs were twitching, his hindquarters were spasming. He was straining his head and neck forward and trying to open his eyes (they were only open halfway) and his head was wobbling. It was not the typical convulsing; the twitching and wobbling had the appearance of an individual with Parkinson’s disease, a slow consistent movement versus the violent spasming of a grand mal seizure.

Regardless, this was not his normal seizure and had the appearance more of a grand mal seizure than his psychomotor seizures. Every time Reggie has a seizure his vet gets a phone call to keep record so that’s what I did. This also prompted the question and discussion, can seizures change type over time?

Reggie has always had, been diagnosed with, idiopathic epilepsy with psychomotor seizures. Note that the term “psychomotor seizures” is now outdated and they are classified as partial complex seizures. Also the term “grand mal seizures” is outdated and they are referred to as generalized seizures.

This change in classification actually clarifies and answers my question. Seizures are classified by the source of seizure in the brain. Generalized seizures (formerly grand mal seizures) are widespread and involve a loss of consciousness. Partial (simple or complex) and focal onset seizures are limited to a specific area of the brain and do not cause a loss of consciousness but may cause a change in consciousness.

Reggie has complex partial seizures which are sourced in the temporal lobe of the brain. Many functions occur in the temporal lobe, which is why the seizure cycle begins with the howling, blank stares (temporary blindness), running, hiding, and loss of bowel/bladder in severe instances. A generalized seizure has most nerve cells firing at the same time resulting in a loss of consciousness, and the stiff limbs and convulsing, and meaning almost the whole brain is engaged.

The conclusion? Unless there is a brain injury, illness/infection, tumor or some other outside force it is highly unlikely that you will have more than one naturally occurring type of seizure. Reggie’s seizure was determined to be a symptom variant of a complex partial seizure.

Like with any medical condition, keep good notes and log any changes. Some things could change over time, some things could be a big deal, some things could be nothing.

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