In senior dogs, epilepsy is the least likely cause of seizures.
Brain tumors are common but not the sole cause of seizures in older dogs. Potential causes of seizures in senior dogs include:
- secondary to insulinoma or liver failure
- vascular issues
It can be any of those things though some of them should be easy to confirm or rule out.
Further information: Approach to New Onset Seizures in Senior Dogs and Cats
The essential thing is not to jump to conclusions. Thank you, Nicole, for sharing Maia’s story.
My girl Maia was a lab/collie mix, but if you asked her, she’d tell you she was a goddess/queen mix, through and through. Ever since we brought her home as a rambunctious 4-month-old pup, she knew how to wrap everyone around her little dewclaw, including Tasha, her German Shepherd “sister.” Tasha was only about three months older than Maia.
They didn’t just grow up together, they were so close that we practically renamed them both “TashaMaia,” as you couldn’t refer to one without mentioning the other. In fact, they practically even trained each other. Just when I was at my wit’s end trying to house train my German Shepherd, Maia came along and did it for me. True story! Maia took right to it, and Tasha wasn’t about to be shown up by her.
Throughout most of her life, Maia was an incredibly healthy and happy dog. She had a few issues here and there—a benign lump that we had removed when she was around 7, a few skin tags as a senior-but nothing catastrophic or terribly painful. In fact, even as a 14—year-old dog, she was still active and vivacious.
Everything changed when we lost Tasha
Then, we lost Tasha or rather, had to let her go. She developed significant hip problems, as Shepherds do, and letting her go the most loving thing we could do for her. We knew that Maia would be heartbroken, but we didn’t truly understand the level of grief dogs feel until the day we came home without her “sissy.”
At first, we thought Maia would be okay. She was eating, drinking, sleeping, and even playing with us. Every morning, though, Maia began her search for Tasha. She looked in every room, in the yard, in the rooms again. she would take a break, nap, play, then search. Until one morning, about two weeks later, she just stopped searching. I thought that was a good sign. Then, she had a seizure.
Something wasn’t right
At first, we didn’t realize she was having a seizure. We just thought she had something in her ear.
In the past, when any of my dogs had a bug in there, they’d kind of loll their head to the side and paw at it. That’s how she looked. As if her head was just tilted to the side a bit. Within minutes, though, I realized that something was amiss. She began panting, walking in circles, and acting totally out of sorts.
Fortunately, we live right down the street from an emergency vet clinic. Unfortunately, we learned a little too late that they don’t have the best reputation when it comes to making the right diagnosis, something that’ll be important later in the story.
Maybe stress, maybe a seizure
When we arrived at the vet, it took a good 45 minutes for them to see Maia. During that time, she walked into the glass window (thankfully, she didn’t get hurt from it) and started pacing in anxious circles, all the while lolling her head and looked dazed.
The vet examined Maia and essentially told us that she was fine. Maybe it was a small seizure, but it was probably just stress or panic attack. I get those, too, so it seemed rational enough. After all, I’m not a vet. He said that since she had no history of epilepsy, it was unlikely to happen again.
He gave us some pills to calm her down and told us to give her half of one if she ever seemed anxious again. Then he charged us a small fortune and sent us on our way. Since Maia started acting normal again, I assumed he was right. Just stress, just some random strange thing that past and would never return. Everything would be fine.
Everything was fine…for a couple of months
I’d like to say that this story has a happy ending. If you stop reading here, it does. Unlike me, you can imagine Maia as a happy, healthy, beautiful little Diva.
For the next couple of months, I watched Maia like a hawk. Thankfully, I work from home and my mother lives with me, so I never had to leave Maia alone. She seemed okay. Healthy, happy. Like her normal self. Old and a little achy, yes, but not in pain. We doted on her. Realistically, we knew that our days with her were numbered. We didn’t know how numbered.
On July 4th of that year, just four months later, Maia had another seizure, and this time there was no mistaking it for something else.
My son – 11 at the time- found her and screamed, “Something is wrong with Maia!” Still, we gave her the meds. We frantically called around to find an open vet (a different one, because the nearby one was closed for the holiday). We even got our neighbor to drive us to one because I was shaking too much to drive.
Unfortunately, Maia was braindead before we even arrived. The vet told us she was likely gone before she even hit the ground. She went to be with her sissy, a single unit once again in the doggy afterlife.
Did Maia die because I didn’t trust my instincts and push for more tests? Because I didn’t research seizures in senior dogs well enough? Was this something we could have treated? Did she just give up after she lost her best friend? Unfortunately, I’ll never know. Losing Maia did teach me to trust my instincts better and stand up for my dogs.
About the Author: Nicole is a writer and editor at AlphaTrainedDog, a site dedicated to helping both new and seasoned dog parents lead the very best lives possible with their canine companions. She’s currently a pet parent to a Pharaoh Hound dog and three cats.