Saturday, January 17, 2009

Anatomy of a Seizure

As I'm always completely unaware of what is happening when I have a seizure I thought I'd get dad to write up what actually happens when I have one. It may be useful for others to know just what to expect from someone who's actually there when someone experiences one.

There are different types of seizure, classed depending upon the affect they have on regions of the body. The type of seizure that I generally suffer is called tonic clonic, or as it used to be called a grand mal.

Dad sees me going through the typical stages of the seizure, aura, tonic then clonic and the pattern is clearly identifiable. It is very scary to watch and definitely extremely distressing on family who can do little but watch and wait. But what has to be remembered is that the sufferer is totally unaware and will have no memory of the events - and is therefore in no pain.


For me there is no behavioural identifier until the seizure hits. I go into a very trance like state, pupils dilated and appear to intensely stare at an object that isn't there. Often accompanied by an uncomfortable twisting of the head and neck to stare at something behind me.

If I'm standing my legs will be frozen in place. This is the point where I need to be really looked after and moved away from anything that I could cause to fall or hurt myself on.

I also start drooling heavily and saliva runs in streams from my jowls. Then my jaws will go into a snapping motion, causing the saliva to froth.

This phase which dad refers to as "chomping" only lasts between 20 and 30 seconds.

At this stage I've usually begun to fall into the next phase, tonic, but just recently the seizure has stopped here and I begin to return to consciousness.


I fall over as my muscles start to contract uncontrollably. Muscles all over distort my body into what looks like very uncomfortable positions.

This stage is very brief and is only a few seconds.


There are two distinct phases within the clonic stage. Firstly the falling over and spasming.

The muscles tense and go rigid and wildly convulse. Dad tries hard to keep my head from banging on the floor. My legs lash out and claw wildly so anything in range (usually dads feet) can get nastily clawed.

My whole body jerks uncontrollably with legs flailing and jaws gnashing. Dad makes sure that nothing gets in the way of my teeth!

During the convulsions it's not unusual for me to wee all over the place, so mum makes sure there's a big towel handy for dad to put under me.

The second phase of this dad calls "paddling". The convulsions have calmed and the muscle rigidity has relaxed to the point where I am lying down and seeming to swim.

The whole clonic phase lasts around a minute to two minutes, and is by far the scariest and disturbing part of the whole seizure.


The postictal stage is the point at which the seizure has come to an end. However, the effects are still noticeable. For me I can now get up to walk, but initially I appear completely blind, thankfully the blindness doesn't last that long.

Dad tries to make sure I don't go bumping into things, which is difficult because I'm so big and so driven to go to the bathroom, eat and drink, and pace backwards and forwards at speed as if my paws are on fire. All this not necessarily in that order.

The pacing and hunger at this stage can last as long as an hour. During which I may be so tired I have to lie down, but then every so often frustratedly get up and pace and eat some more. I'm also very confused, so there's no point using commands, as I have no clue what is being said.

At this point mum or dad makes sure I've got something to eat. I'll devour a whole bowl of food like I haven't eaten for a week!

The more seizures I have in one day, the more the period of disorientation lasts. Dad also thinks I must get headaches as I'm often lying panting and moaning for a while afterwards. Not so different from when dad has a migraine.

So that's what happens to me. I hope it makes others realise that you're not alone. Yes, it's not pleasant, but with understanding the seizure can be managed without panic. The next steps are to get the balance of treatment correct to minimise their occurrence/frequency.

Epilepsy isn't curable, but hopefully it is manageable.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those seizures sound pretty scary. I bet your dad get scared by it too. Your sure lucky to have such a good caring family to help take care of you. Especially when the seizures come. Sounds like you've been doing a lot of research on your Epilepsy. That's good, because the more you know about it the better you can deal with it. I was wondering, I heard humans have treated Epilepsy with a change in diet, is there anything about that in your research for K-9 Epilepsy.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.