Epilepsy: A Cause of Seizures in Danes

In dogs, epilepsy is often an inherited condition. The incidence of epilepsy/seizures in the general dog population is estimated at between 0.5% and 5.7% in certain breeds, such as the German Shepherd varieties, the incidence may be much higher.


There are three types of epilepsy in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive epileptic seizures are caused by metabolic issues, such as low blood sugar or kidney or liver failure. Epilepsy caused by problems such as brain tumor, stroke, or other trauma is known as secondary, or symptomatic, epilepsy.

In primary, or idiopathic, epilepsy, there is no known cause. This type of epilepsy is diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes for the seizures. Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy experience their first seizure between the ages of one and three. However, the age of diagnosis is only one factor in diagnosing canine epilepsy. One study found a cause for the seizures in one-third of dogs between the ages of one and three, indicating secondary or reactive rather than primary epilepsy.

When an animal who has suffered a seizure is presented to a veterinarian, the veterinarian will do an initial work-up. This work-up may include a physical and neurological exam, and complete blood count, serum chemistry profile, urinalysis, bile tests, and thyroid function tests. These tests will help the veterinarian determine whether the animal is in fact experiencing seizures, and may help determine a cause for the seizures if there is one. Veterinarians may also request that dog owners keep a "seizure log" documenting the timing, length, severity, and recovery of each seizure, as well as any other factors that might be helpful, such as dietary or environmental changes.