Dogs can have Epilepsy, just as humans can. Fortunately, there is treatment available for Canine Epilepsy, and Epilepsy in dogs is Not a death sentence!  

My good friend, author Dorothy Wills-Raftery became an expert on Epilepsy in dogs after her beautiful Husky, Gibson, was diagnosed at the age of three. She and Gibson had many wonderful years together, filled with love, adventure, and community. 

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs

Today I have the pleasure of turning the blog over to Dorothy so she can share the experience of living with her Epi-dog Gibson and dealing with his illness, which she did brilliantly. She turned her experience with Gibson's Epilepsy into an opportunity to educate dog parents about Dogs with Epilepsy, and show them that life with an Epi-dog can still be filled with love and adventures!  Take it away, Dorothy!!

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and dogs can have seizures, too. My heart dog, Gibson, had his first seizure shortly after his third birthday in 2009. It was one of the most frightening experiences I have ever witnessed with one of my dogs. I did not know what happened and, at the time, I never saw a person or dog have a seizure, nor was there much information available about seizures in dogs. 

After he was rushed to the ER hospital while having cluster seizures, our veterinarian conducting testing, and Gibson was diagnosed with idiopathic Epilepsy, meaning no known cause.

At that time, there was not much information out on caring for a dog with seizures, so that began my journey to discover everything I could about Canine Epilepsy to give him the best life possible. 

At one time, the recommendation for dogs diagnosed with Epilepsy was euthanasia. That is so NOT the case anymore. Gibson and I became advocates for dogs with Epilepsy (Epi-dogs). Gibson had a real zest for life, and he never let Epilepsy stop him from having a great life. He was so inspirational, that I thought, there must be other dogs and families out there going through something similar and that maybe we could help them not feel so alone and know there is information available.

As a career photojournalist, I embarked upon gathering all the information I could from reliable sources on everything from medications to nutrition to alternative therapies, (some to help with side effects of the medications) and combined what I learned into our #FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library, a place where families and caregivers of dogs with Epilepsy could go to in order to gather information and learn about what was happening to their dog(s) in order to have a conversation with their own vet to discuss the best possible treatment plan for their Epi-dog.


Your Dog is Having a Seizure. What Do You Do?


πŸ’œ First, try to remain calm. Not easy to do, but important for both you and your seizing dog.

πŸ’œ If you have other pets, keep them in another room as a seizing dog can confuse even the most mild-mannered dogs and they could try and attack the seizing dog.

πŸ’œ Time and if you can, videotape, the seizure. This is important information to share with your vet.

πŸ’œ Cool your dog. While having a seizure, a dog’s temperature can rise to dangerous levels. (See my chart below for where to place the cool packs).

πŸ’œ Keep area safe by moving all lamps and knick-knacks out of the way so they do not fall down on a dog if s/he bumps an end table while seizing. Make sure no electric cords or wires are near your dog.

πŸ’œ If you are home, stay with your dog, gently petting his/her side, talking softly, reassuring your dog.

πŸ’œ Keep your fingers out of your dog’s mouth while seizing. (They could clamp down unknowingly while seizing).

πŸ’œ Call your vet!

πŸ’œ Be prepared to transport your dog, if needed.

πŸ’œ Keep stairs blocked off as a dog may experience temporary blindness after a seizure.

πŸ’œ Give a little bit of natural vanilla ice cream (to help raise blood sugar levels, which can drop after a seizure). I always had a pint on hand as a staple in our fridge for Gibson. If no ice cream is available, a little corn syrup. Then follow it with a few sips of water, and then a little protein such as boiled chicken, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, etc. to help stabilize their blood sugar levels.

πŸ’œ Create an Epi First Aid Kit. (A list of suggested items can be found on my blog HERE.)


As part of my partnership with Purple Day® Every Day/The Anita Kaufmann Foundation, (the first human Epilepsy organization to welcome our Canine Epilepsy initiatives), we have created beautiful bookmarks available for FREE! (A donation is always welcome to AKF, but not necessary). 

These informational bookmarks are great for posting on a fridge, and also great handouts to share with your vet office, veterinary ER hospital, shelters, rescues, groomers, doggy daycare centers, dog wardens, animal control officers, etc. To request a free supply, simply Email Debra Josephs at, and put #LiveGibStrong Paws4Purple Bookmarks in Subject Line.

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs,  Canine Epilepsy
Dog Epilepsy Bookmark

Is Canine Epilepsy Breed Specific?

While there are some breeds of dogs that have a genetic predisposition to epilepsy, Canine Epilepsy can affect dogs of any breed or mix breeds across the globe. “Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder in dogs,” states Dr. Karen MuΓ±ana, a professor of neurology at the North Carolina State University-College of Veterinary Medicine (NCSU-CVM) and The Companion Animal Epilepsy Research Lab, and member of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force.

NCSU-CVM is also the home of the Nationwide Database of Pets with Epilepsy by Dr. MuΓ±ana and registered veterinary technician, research specialist, and the 2020 American Humane Hero Veterinary Nurse, Julie Nettifee. These lists help them gather information on “Specific breeds or characteristics needed for a particular study.” You can submit your Epi-dog’s information to be on file. All information is kept confidential within the research lab.

According to Dr. MuΓ±ana, “The term Epilepsy is used to describe recurrent seizures that arise due to an abnormality in the brain. The most common cause of recurrent seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy.”

To help a dog diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy, it’s important to have an in-depth conversation with your vet and agree on a treatment method.

What Are Some Possible Seizure Triggers in Dogs?

Not all seizures are Canine Epilepsy. The most important thing to do if your dog has a seizure, is call the vet immediately! While Canine Epilepsy can be deemed “idiopathic” or no known cause like in Gibson’s case, a good tip is to try and rule out any possible causes/triggers, starting with a vet work-up to rule out any illness or injury. 

Then, with your vet’s guidance, work on eliminating any possible triggers from your dog’s diet and environment. For my Gibson, stress and heat were triggers, and I removed gluten and rosemary from his diet, as well as rawhide bones (he had one seizure right after eating one, coincidence or trigger? I can’t be sure, but after reading just how many chemicals are in them, I stopped giving them to all five of my dogs). Below is a link to a list of Possible Triggers For Seizures in Dogs ~ some may even surprise you.

To read a list of seizure triggers, please visit What Triggered a Seizure in My Dog on the FiveSibes blog.

Cooling a Dog After a Seizure

During a seizure, a dog’s body temperature will rise, and it is very important to get the body temperature down to avoid a serious health danger. Application of cold packs can aid in cooling down a dog that has just had a seizure.

“Normal body temperature is 102°F and often after a seizure, it will go over 105°F or 106°F,” informs Dr. Arnold Rugg, founder of Kingston Animal Hospital in Kingston, New York, and Gibson’s lead vet. “It is vet recommended to do ice packs until temperature drops to 103°F, then remove ice packs and keep dog in a dry blanket. If it drops too quickly, the dog can go into shock. Take temperature every few minutes and if seizure persists, go to the vet immediately.”

Where Do I Put the Cold Packs?

There are several places to put the cool packs on a dog. Please refer to my vetted poster Cooling Down an Epi-Dog: Where Do I Put Cold Packs?” 

Note: If you do not have a cold pack, you can make one by putting crushed iced into a locking zipper bag. If you cannot get ice, you can also use a bag of frozen peas or veggies in a pinch! *If your dog has a single coat or fur is short or shaved, it is recommended that you wrap the cold pack in a towel before applying to avoid any injury to the dog’s skin.

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs,   k9 Epilepsy, How to cool down a dog after seizure
Cooling Down a Dog With Epilepsy

Having an Epi-dog does mean some changes. Medications need to be specifically timed. There is also costs from periodic bloodwork to keep an eye on many things, including if their medications are at therapeutic levels, medications, the vet visits, and sometimes neurological testing. 

If a family is struggling financially, they can contact The Wally Foundation-Canine Epilepsy through their Facebook page and apply for possible financial assistance for medications and certain medical expenses (submission requires a vet diagnosis). 

Says Rick Selwood, director, “Our belief is that no human should have to choose between food on the table and affording medication or treatments for their epileptic dog. We also believe that no family should have to euthanize their beloved dog due to a lack of understanding of the disease, or a lack of resources. We will also provide support and information on Canine Epilepsy, a database of specialists and treatment centers, and how and where to obtain the lowest possible priced medications.”


For links to important Canine Epilepsy resources, including the Chalkboards (see sample topics below), please visit #FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong Online K9 Epilepsy Resource Library.

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs   Canine Epilepsy. What is Epilepsy in dogs. Seizures in dogs
Dog Epilepsy Resource Library

The important message here is that dogs diagnosed with Epilepsy can—and do—live happy, full lives for however long we are blessed to have them. They can also do everything a non-Epi can do—from mushing to skijoring, biking to hiking, dock diving to showing, and just relaxing on the sofa with family. 

With some specifically timed medications, plus nutrition and environmental cautions, these dogs can lead wonderful lives. Epi-dogs are warriors, dogs who live life, but just happen to have Epilepsy. They truly are amazing.


In honor of November being Epilepsy Awareness Month I am offering a 25% discount on my EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy, a beautiful large coffee table book about 124 amazing Epi-dogs from across the globe whose stories were told to me by the families who loved them. Plus, 20% of sales I will donate for Canine Epilepsy research. 

Visit the ArcticHouse Books & Gifts Shoppe for more info, and if interested in purchasing, Email ArcticHousePublishing(at)gmail(dot)com for an invoice, and put November’s discount code, FIVESIBESGIBSON in subject line. There is a limited supply. (Offer ends December 31, 2022).

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs    Dogs with seizures. Dog Epilepsy
Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy

For more information, podcasts, videos, articles, clinical trials, how to purchase Dorothy’s books, and much more on Canine Epilepsy, please visit the FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong Online K-9 Epilepsy Resource Library 

Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs    Dog is having seizures, Dogs with Epilepsy
K-9 Epilepsy Awareness; Live GibStrong!

 About the Author: Dorothy Wills-Raftery is an award-winning author, blogger, photojournalist and “FiveSibesMom” to her five now-furangel Siberian Huskies known as the FiveSibes. Inspired by her wooly Siberian Husky, Gibson, who was diagnosed with idiopathic Epilepsy, she has been a Purple Day® for Epilepsy Ambassador since 2012, and creator/writer of the internationally top-ranked FiveSibes™️ blog. She created the #LiveGibStrong K9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library and partnered with the non-profit Purple Day® Every Day/The Anita Kaufmann Foundation in 2018 for her #LiveGibStrong  #Paws4Purple educational initiative.

Dorothy has authored many articles on various topics, including Canine Epilepsy, and authored two books on the topic: What’s Wrong With Gibson? Learning About K-9 Epilepsy, an award-winning illustrated children’s book, and EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy, that received the NYC Big Book Award and the Independent Press Award for Excellence. She also authored Getting Healthy With Harley and Buddy, the Christmas Husky~Based on a True Holiday Miracle books, and all four of her canine books have been selected as “Best in Print” by AmericanPet Magazine, and listed as “Top Books” at Talent Hounds.

Dorothy is a three-time recipient of the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion for Excellence. She absolutely loves animals, especially dogs and horses, and was Women in the Pet Industry’s Network 2017 Pet Woman of the Year finalist and the Hudson Valley Magazine’s “Best Author” for 2015 and 2016

Dorothy is also a fiction author for Woman’s World magazine and her true stories have appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul and Rosie the Riveter book series, and she was a featured Dog Family Mom in American Dog magazine and has been a contributing author/photographer to, AmericanPet Magazine, Hudson Valley Pet Magazine, Sled Dog Magazine, Ruff Drafts, Wedding Journal, Ulster Magazine, and In Focus Magazine. She is a long-time member of the Dog Writers of America Association and a volunteer case manager for the nonprofit The Wally Foundation~Canine Epilepsy. She is also the author/administrator for the Facebook page FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews.

I want to thank Dorothy for sharing the wealth of knowledge and expertise she has acquired in her years advocating for dogs with Epilepsy. She has shown us that seizures and Epilepsy in dogs can be managed, and that dogs with Epilepsy can lead wonderful lives filled with love and adventure, just like every other dog.  Her work is truly inspiring!

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FiveSibesMom said...

Cathy, thank you so very much for inviting me to write a guest post on your wonderful website about Canine Epilepsy, a subject near and dear to my heart. I hope my information can help others who find themselves on this journey with their beloved dogs and to not be afraid because they are not alone and help is just a keyboard click away. Thank you for your support! #Epidogs, like my Gibson, are warriors and show us they can live a full live with epilepsy. πŸ’œ

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

It is my pleasure Dorothy, thank you for allowing me to help share all this vital information! You've become such an authority on Canine Epilepsy, I hope this wonderful, informative post helps a lot of people.

Tail Wag Wisdom said...

Such an important subject by a warrior dog mom keeping her amazing dog's legacy live! Thank you this post!

So much great information on what to do if you have an Epi-Dog. I especially love how you included information on how to get financial help from The Wally Foundation-Canine Epilepsy. I know having an Epi-Dog must be heartbreaking and also scaring if you don't have a lot of money in the bank.

Excellent post! I'm sharing with all my dog parents.

LaylasWoof said...

Cathy fantastic post and as I follow Dorothy I have learned so much about this terrible illness, it is so important to draw attention for all pet owners to be aware of

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