No two dogs are identical, and that goes for Chihuahuas. Every dog is a unique animal. Yet sometimes people seem to talk about an entire breed of dogs as though they were all identical clones of each other. Yes, they may look similar and even difficult to tell apart, but each Chihuahua is unique.
Based on a 2009 health survey by the Chihuahua Club of America, what is true for Chihuahuas was that 49% of those surveyed had either been the owner or breeder of Chihuahuas had Idiopathic epilepsy. Which means “seizures of unknown origin.”
With that information, it seems a good idea to suggest a Chihuahua owner’s guide to seizure disorders, which might be useful for those owners who may have some concerns about the subject.
If you have ever witnessed a Chihuahua seizure, I don’t need to tell you how terrifying it is to see your Chihuahua incapacitated by one. Until it’s over, and that can take from a few seconds to a few minutes, there’s nothing you can do. You are helpless.
What Does A Chihuahua Seizure Look Like?
What Is A Seizure?
A seizure is a short uncontrolled break in normal brain functions. It can occur one time because of a specific illness or accident and will never happen again. However, epilepsy attacks are seizures that occur regularly over time. There are two types of epileptic seizures primary and secondary. Primary epilepsy has no known cause and is idiopathic. In contrast, secondary epilepsy has a known medical cause and is symptomatic. For several reasons, Chihuahuas can have many types of seizures.
At first, it might not seem as though a dog is having a seizure; they seem to be acting strangely. The dog is looking off into the distance and might seem confused. You speak to the dog, and he doesn’t seem to hear your words. They might even be a little unsteady on their legs, even swaying slightly.
Then the actual seizure occurs; the dog may collapse, body jerking, or twitching. Drooling, and the tongue is lolling out of the mouth, maybe even foaming at the mouth. The dog’s legs take on a motion as if doing the doggy paddle in the air. Pooping and peeing is not uncommon in seizures.
When the seizure is over, it’s common for a dog to be unaware of his surroundings, very unsteady, and temporarily blind – walking around in circles, walking into things as though they aren’t there. Drooling excessively and may even try to find somewhere to be alone.
What Can Cause A Seizure In A Chihuahua?
There may be several medical issues that can cause symptomatic epilepsy, such as:
- The dog has eaten poison of some sort
- He is suffering from acute liver disease
- Blood pressure, either too low or too high
- Severe anemia
- A recent head injury
- He is suffering from a stroke
- Brain cancer
- Imbalance of electrolytes
The Most Common Causes Of Seizure In Chihuahuas
1. Hydrocephalus In Chihuahuas
This disease is a brain disorder and is present from the birth of the Chihuahua puppy. It’s recognizable by a domed shape and a larger head than is typical. Unfortunately, the disease is nearly always fatal.
The head’s swelling is a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid, which applies pressure on the Chihuahua puppy’s brain. The pressure on the brain can create more neurological issues, such as epilepsy. The disease is genetic, either already there when the puppy is born or later from brain tumors. The puppy may suffer head trauma at some point in the birth.
The disease has varying degrees of severity. So a puppy with a mild case may survive with careful medical attention. However, the puppy will not develop s well as others of a similar age.
2. Hypoglycemia In Chihuahuas
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar affects many toy breed puppies, including the Chihuahua. Many puppies grow out of it as they get older and more robust, but it can remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Because the brain gets its energy from glucose, any drop in glucose levels can give Chihuahuas neurological symptoms. These symptoms are lack of coordination, muscle spasms, seizures, and disorientation. Chihuahuas with hypoglycemia have difficulty walking; often, even standing is a problem. Touch a Chihuahua in this condition, and he feels cold and he trembles.
The dog will go off his food, and he will become tired, weak, and very lazy. If a dog has these symptoms, check his gums and skin for a blue or other color discoloration. Taking everything into consideration, they signify hypoglycemic shock.
Should the Chihuahua’s brain be without glucose for long enough, the dog will become weaker and weaker. At this point, convulsions and seizures will occur. He will no longer control his muscles, and they will spasm. He will not be able to stand and probably be unable to control his bowels or bladder. Finally, he will slip into a coma. If the blood sugar level drops so quickly without being rectified, the dog’s most likely outcome is death.
Before it gets anywhere near this point, the owner needs to take action. If you have plain ice cream, rub some on his gums; if not, try syrup, honey or make up some sugar water. The Chihuahua needs to go to the vet or clinic immediately. He will likely need to be on an intravenous drip, or the vet may decide to inject dextrose into the Chihuahua’s bloodstream.
If a Chihuahua is hypoglycemic, his diet mustn’t give him constant high and low blood sugar levels. To help with this, feed him frequently, at least three times daily, and only small meals each time. A Chihuahua has a tiny tummy and cannot eat big meals. Avoid sugar in his treats. So many cheap dog treats have excess sugar and salt for added taste.
3. Portosystemic Shunt In Chihuahuas
A healthy liver is crucial for all animals; the liver filters toxins from the body. Some dogs, especially some Chihuahuas, have a defect called a portosystemic shunt that prevents blood from traveling to the liver in the way it should. Most portosystemic shunts are congenital, which means the Chihuahua was born with the shunt.
A portosystemic shunt is bypassing the liver with unfiltered blood, thereby creating a build-up of toxins. This problem is made worse by eating a high-protein meal.
One particular byproduct of protein digestion is ammonia, and because of the portosystemic shunt, this accumulates and can set off strange behavior and neurological abnormalities in the Chihuahua. These behaviors can occur within 15 to 45 minutes after a Chihuahua has eaten his food.
These strange neurological behaviors may see a Chihuahua looking confused, unaware of his surroundings, staring at nothing, head pressing against a solid object, such as a wall, even seizures.
4. Idiopathic Epilepsy In Chihuahuas
Idiopathic or hereditary epilepsy is in the genes of the Chihuahua. Some Chihuahuas are prone to this, and there is no known health condition linking it to the Chihuahua.
5. GME In Chihuahuas
GME (Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis) is a disease affecting the brain and spinal cord (most small breeds), usually in middle age and more frequently in females. It can appear in Chihuahuas as young as six months, but it is more common in middle age. The cause is as yet unknown.
6. What Is Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis?
Meningoencephalomyelitis is inflammation of the brain, spinal cord, and the meninges (three layers of membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord). The body’s immune system tries to fight off the inflammation and, in doing so, forms granulomas – which are immune cells in the shape of a ball. These can be just in one area, many areas, or dispersed.
While GME is exceptionally serious, a vet cannot positively diagnose it without a biopsy of the affected brain tissue!
Should your Chihuahua have any indication of inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, or your vet has told you he has GME, you should consult with a veterinary neurologist.
What are the signs you might expect to see with this inflammatory brain disease? First, it will depend on where in the nervous system the problem is occurring. There are many symptoms, for example, seizures, facial abnormalities, circular walking, severe neck pain, blindness, tremors, to name a few.
Diagnostic Testing For Chihuahuas
To discover the cause of a Chihuahua’s seizures is not easy and will start with the dog’s full history and a physical examination. The Chihuahua’s history will include how many seizures they often encounter, and there is a common factor with each episode. Plus details of all other health issues, if there are any.
For example, if we’re discussing a puppy who is underweight, stunted growth, and has seizures following a meal, he may be suffering from a portosystemic shunt; we did talk about that earlier in the article. If a nursing Chihuahua mommy is having seizures, it might be symptoms of hypocalcemia ( low calcium) because her puppies are taking so much of her milk. Hypocalcemia might typically affect a Chihuahua having a larger than average litter.
The vet will perform a complete physical by checking the entire Chihuahua and listening to the heart and lungs, feeling through the abdomen for the internal organs. The vet needs to see if the heartbeat is irregular or any abnormal signs in the stomach and organs.
A physical examination can only tell a vet so much. He will need to order screening tests, where blood and urine samples will be taken and sent to a lab for analysis. They will look for any diseases responsible for seizures.
My Chihuahua Is Having A Seizure – What Can I Do?
What can you usefully do for the dog while he’s amid a seizure? Try to remain calm, it’s not easy to see your Chihuahua having an attack, but you need to try for his sake.
Make sure he’s in a safe area. He might move his body quite violently, so if anything close can harm him, move him gently out of harm’s way if you have the presence of mind, time his seizure or seizures if there’s more than one. Better yet, take your smartphone and video the whole episode; this will come in handy for your vet.
A seizure shouldn’t last for longer than two to three minutes. If it goes on longer, you need to contact your vet. If it’s his first seizure, you should be in touch with the vet anyway.
Never put your fingers or any other object inside your dog’s mouth in the middle of a seizure. Your Chihuahua is not going to swallow his tongue. Dogs bite down exceptionally hard when they’re seizing, and you do not want your hand or finger in there when he does.
Stay by your Chihuahua through the seizure, talk to him gently, and stroke him. He might not be aware of you doing any of that, but it will make you feel better. And when he comes out of it, you’ll be the first person he’ll see.
The seizure will disorient you, Chihuahua, and he won’t know what’s been happening to him. Stay with him, continue to talk calmly and quietly to him. Dim the lights because even though you can’t know this, he may have an unbearable headache.
When he’s ready himself, he’ll get up and move around, let him. But guide him away from stairs; he may still be a little unsteady on his feet. You can try to give him a little water, but don’t be surprised if he vomits it back up.
Chihuahua Seizure FAQ
Is it common for Chihuahuas to have seizures?
The health survey in 2009 found 45% of Chihuahua owners and breeders owned dogs that had seizures and were not aware of any medical reason for the attacks.
What can I do to help my Chihuahua when he’s having a seizure?
Try to remain as calm as you can. It’s not easy to do so, of course. But it will help your dog if you do. Time the seizure, and if possible, use your smartphone and video the episode. Stay with your Chihuahua until he has fully recovered, and then call your vet for advice.
Are there medications to treat Chihuahua seizures?
Seek your vet’s advice. There are medications, but it depends on the source of the seizures. There may be other help your vet can advise.
Why do Chihuahuas have seizures?
The most common reason for seizures in Chihuahuas is idiopathic. It’s in the Chihuahua’s genes, and there’s no medical explanation. There are medical reasons for other episodes, such as liver disease, inflammatory brain disease, hypoglycemia, and brain injuries.
As a kid, I grew up with lots of dogs in my family. My earliest recollection was a Labrador mix called Bruce, and I must have only been about three years old.
When I was around seven, we began to move around frequently, so having a dog was very difficult until we adopted a baby long-haired Dachshund. I was thirteen by then. We called him Pepe; I have no idea why; all I can say was it wasn’t my idea. But he did seem to grow into the name.
I’ve personally been the parent of a Great Dane called Lady, a French Bulldog we called Spike. I have also had the privilege of being the parent of one of the gorgeous cats on the planet; a British Blue Shorthair called Ellie. Right now, we have an amazing little Havanese in our family; we call Biscuit; he’s four years old.
I pride myself on being the very best dog-parent I can be. I refuse to bring a dog into my life without investing as much time as possible to understand that dog’s particular needs. Every dog I have parented has been an experience, and they are all different with incredible personalities.
To understand dogs as much as possible, I have taken several courses regarding dog care and training. The most recent course is The Truth About Cats And Dogs, offered by The University Of Edinburgh.
My dogs and cat have been the funniest and most unique animals I have ever been privileged to spend my life with. They can teach human beings so much if we take the time to watch and listen to them. My ambition is to share what I have learned with other passionate dog lovers.
I am obsessed with writing and researching everything I can about dog health, care, psychology, and finding the best dog products available to help ensure a dog’s life is as happy and contented as possible.