Our pets are a cherished part of our family, and we want to make sure we're feeding them a healthy and hearty diet. But could the commercialized kibble we feed our dogs actually be harmful in causing seizures?
Unfortunately the answer isn't as easy as yes or no - but there definitely is truth to knowing what is going into your pup's body and why immediate 'convenience' of dry dog food might be actually harming them in the long run.
Anyone who's experienced their dog undergoing a seizure knows all too well the overwhelming sense of helplessness that arises while witnessing the distressing event - knowing more about potential causes, triggers, and being informed on how to handle them for your pup will help alleviate some of that stress and prepare you should another one arise.
Signs of a Seizure in Dogs
Witnessing a seizure in your dog can be a scary thing - especially if it's never happened before. They can arise suddenly and without warning, but there are a few signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Sudden loss of balance or immediate fall
- Erratic jerking or twitching
- Running or pacing in circles
- Stiff muscles
- Signs of confusion, glazed eyes or blank staring
- Uncontrolled urination or defecation
We know it can be stressing and scary while your dog undergoes a seizure, but staying calm and reassuring them as they recover is the best thing you can do to help them.
Common Causes of Canine Seizures
There are numerous causes of seizures in dogs - the most common being idiopathic epilepsy, an inherited condition that has no known exact cause.
Seizures generally occur when abnormal brain activity arises due to underlying medical conditions either inside of the brain such as tumors, damage, and infections, or outside of the brain such as liver disease, kidney failure, or other conditions that can trigger neurological damage.
Other contributing outside factors such as ingesting poison or toxins could trigger a seizure in your dog. Whether it's through a medication or treatment, the food they eat, or other household items they may get into, identifying ingredients that are known to cause seizures can help prevent the likelihood of it happening again.
What Ingredients Can Contribute to Seizures?
You may tend to think of obscure ingredients or chemicals that your pet could be getting into thats making them sick - but could the 'natural' ingredients included in dog foods actually be the culprit? Knowing what toxins or ingredients can cause seizures in dogs and what is included in your pup's next meal is the first step to identifying their triggers and preventing future episodes.
Toxic Levels of Added Nutrients
We all need a steady intake of nutrients to keep ourselves happy and healthy but just like us, our pets can suffer from excessive amounts of added nutrients.
Upper levels of nutrient or mineral intake risk leading to adverse effects on the body, including seizures.
Vitamin D Poisoning
Even essential nutrients such as vitamin D can have lasting harmful effects if consumed in extremely high levels. Vitamin D helps dogs build and maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in their body, similarly to humans.
Although it is essential, too much can be harmful and even deadly when amounts get too high. Vitamin D is fat-soluble rather than water-soluble, meaning it won't break down and be disposed of through urine or other bodily fluids. Excess is instead stored in either fat tissue or the liver, which can poison the body and lead to dangers of kidney failure and death.
Dogs' bodies were not evolved to be able to digest most of what is packed into marketed, generic dog food. A lot of them come with food additives that are hard for their bodies to digest and absorb, especially on a day-to-day basis.
Here are a few risky ingredients and substances to look out for:
- BHA/BHT - used primarily as a food preservative in highly processed foods for both human and dogs. Small doses of BHA and BHT are approved in animal food, however chronic use has been linked to some developments of cancer. Because many studies are inconclusive on whether or not it is safe for your pet, it may be best to avoid such ingredients altogether.
- Artificial colors - strictly for aesthetic purposes, artificial colors make foods more visually appealing for us, but are completely unnecessary for our dogs. Food dyes such as red dye 40 have also been linked to cause seizures, especially in small dogs.
- Glutamate - functioning as the main neurotransmitter in the brain, glutamate is also an amino acid that can be found in many grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, dairy products (from cows), etc. While important for memory and development, seizures tend to draw out glutamate from brain tissue cells and damage them - avoiding foods high in this substance may help lower seizure frequencies and risks.
- Any foods with added chemicals - these are all processed preservatives, color dyes, antioxidants, or other taste enhancers that are not natural to your dog's diet and may be a risk to their long term health.
Other Causes for Seizures in Dogs
Make sure there aren't any other environmental toxins in your control that could be contributing to your dog's seizures. Pests like killer bees and even some house plants such as sago palms are known to cause seizures.
Indigestion of many household products such as cleaning supplies or pesticides, smoke inhalation, alcohols, or even human delectables such as caffeine, dark chocolate, or salts are all harmful to dogs. Be sure to keep them stashed away and out of reach from curious noses!
Breed's that are Predisposed to Seizures
Big or small, some types of dogs tend to be more susceptible to seizure occurrences or an epileptic diagnosis than others - thanks to genetics.
Common breeds prone to seizures include Golden/Labrador retrievers, Australian/German Shepards, Border Collies, Beagles, Terriers, Spaniels, Vizslas, Jack Russels, Irish Setters, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, Saint Bernards, and Standard Poodles, but of course, seizures may appear in any breed, mixed or purebred.
Existing Conditions and Seizures in Dogs
Genetics can play a big part in whether your dog experiences episodic seizures. Both parents need to carry a recessive gene to pass it on to their pups. Alternatively, some existing medical conditions such as hydrocephalus, brain tumors, strokes, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, or heart/liver/kidney disease may trigger seizures to occur.
What NOT to Feed a Dog Who Has Seizures
If your dog is prone to seizures, you'll want to stay away from certain dietary ingredients to reduce risk of triggering another episode.
Avoid foods that promote inflammation (allergen triggers such as dairy/gluten), cause fluctuations in blood sugar (high in sugar or carbohydrates), contain glutamate, aspartate, rosemary, or oregano.
Raw Dog Food and Seizures
Is a raw dog food diet really much better for your pup?
Absolutely! Raw dog food has exceptionally less additives and preservatives. Just like we see in our own human foods, consuming heavily processed foods day after day can lead to more health risks down the road.
Plus, you know exactly what your dog is eating, and a raw diet can help reduce the risk for food-ingredient caused seizures.
Dog Seizures Are Common, but Always Consult with Your Vet
Yes, seizures are common but that doesn't mean they're any less scary! If your beloved pet is experiencing seizures, notify your vet and talk with them about what might be causing them so any heath concerns may be attended to right away.
Here at Raw Bistro, we're all about making sure your four-legged friends are fed a healthy and hearty diet, just as they were intended - without all that risky business.