Epilepsy in French Bulldogs: Causes and Treatment

epilepsy in french bulldogs

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects many dog breeds, including the French Bulldog. This condition can cause seizures and other health problems that can greatly impact a dog’s quality of life. As a French Bulldog owner or potential owner, it’s important to understand the risks of epilepsy and how to identify the symptoms. In this blog post, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatments of epilepsy in French Bulldogs to help you provide the best possible care for your furry companion.

What do you need to know about epilepsy in French bulldogs?

Dogs with epilepsy can have their disease managed effectively. It’s important to learn about the potential side effects and what your pet’s treatment plan entails.It can be extremely upsetting to witness your dog having an epileptic seizure, but not all seizures in Frenchies are necessarily an emergency situation caused by epilepsy. Understanding the underlying causes of seizures in Frenchies and what steps to take can help you be better prepared to care for your pet. By learning more about epilepsy in dogs, you can also better prepare yourself emotionally for the challenges of living with a dog with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a complex condition that involves recurring, unprovoked seizures due to abnormalities in the brain. It can manifest in various ways, including hereditary or genetic epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, and symptomatic epilepsy caused by structural issues in the brain or an unknown origin.

When it comes to treating epilepsy in French bulldogs, it’s crucial to accurately diagnose the type and cause of seizures. Once this information is gathered, a tailored treatment plan can be developed and implemented.

What are the common symptoms of epilepsy in French bulldogs?

When a dog experiences abnormal activity in the brain, it can lead to an epileptic seizure characterized by sudden, but temporary changes in behavior and/or movement. Epilepsy symptoms in dogs can include vomiting, full-body convulsions with uncontrolled stiffening, head tossing, and foaming at the mouth. Additionally, urination or defecation may occur during or immediately following the seizure.

Loss of consciousness may also be present and dogs may appear dazed, unsteady, or confused just prior to a seizure. After the seizure, temporary blindness and disorientation may be experienced. If your dog has had at least two epileptic seizures within 24 hours, your veterinarian may suspect epilepsy. However, distinguishing seizures from other health issues can be challenging, so providing a detailed description of the seizure or a video recording can aid in the diagnosis. French bulldogs experiencing epileptic seizures typically display three key characteristics:

  • Loss of control over their body, resulting in convulsions (muscle contractions and relaxation).
  • Seizures that begin and end rapidly.
  • Seizures that are very similar in appearance each time, with a repetitive pattern.
Epileptic seizures in dogs are divided into three phases:

The preictal phase, also known as the aura, is a period of altered behavior where the dog may hide or seem nervous. Signs include restlessness, agitation, whimpering, trembling, or drooling. This phase may last from a few seconds to several hours and typically precedes the seizure.

The ictal phase, lasting from several seconds to several minutes, may vary in appearance. It can range from mild changes in mental awareness, such as a blank stare, slight tremors, or aimless staring, to complete loss of consciousness. If the dog loses consciousness, it will fall to the side, paddle its legs, and often pull its head backward. Urination, defecation, and foaming at the mouth may also occur. Seizures lasting more than five minutes are called status epilepticus.

The postictal phase is the period immediately after the seizure when confusion, disorientation, salivation, restlessness, or temporary blindness may occur in the dog.

epilepsy in french bulldogs

What causes epilepsy in French Bulldogs?

Seizures that lead to epilepsy in dogs can be caused by various underlying diseases and factors. This condition can be categorized into symptomatic epilepsy, where the root cause is identifiable in the brain, or idiopathic epilepsy, where the underlying cause is unknown, and genetic predisposition or an unknown factor is often suspected. Other causes may include liver disease, kidney failure, brain tumors, head trauma, or exposure to toxins.

Idiopathic epilepsy in French bulldogs

Idiopathic epilepsy commonly affects dogs that are young to middle-aged, typically between 6 months and 6 years old, for which no underlying cause of recurring seizures can be found. It is often believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

To diagnose idiopathic epilepsy in dogs, veterinarians first need to rule out known causes such as certain diseases. Diagnosis should be based on your dog’s medical history, neurological examination, and laboratory tests such as blood and/or urine tests.

Further assessments, such as brain imaging and analysis of your dog’s cerebrospinal fluid, may be recommended by your veterinarian to detect abnormalities that could cause seizures.

Symptomatic epilepsy in French bulldogs

When it comes to dogs experiencing seizures, the root cause of epilepsy may lie in the brain. This can involve bleeding, inflammation, infections, brain tumors, and degenerative brain diseases, all of which can be detected through magnetic resonance imaging and/or analysis of cerebrospinal fluid. Aside from these structural factors, metabolic disorders of the brain can bring about changes in its structure and lead to neuronal degeneration.

Reactive seizures, which involve temporary changes in brain function, usually arise as a response to a transient issue in the brain, often as a result of metabolic changes or poisoning.

The epilepsy of unknown cause

When a structural cause is suspected but not identified through diagnostic evaluation, epilepsy of unknown cause in dogs is often used to describe the condition.

epilepsy in french bulldogs

What can you do to help your French bulldog during a seizure?

If your Frenchie has an epileptic seizure, it is important that you do the following:

  • Stay calm and composed. Most seizures are short and dogs are usually unaware of them. Dogs affected by seizures will not suffer during the seizure;
  • Ensure that your pooch cannot be hurt during the seizure. Move objects out of your pet’s surroundings that it could bump into during the seizure, such as furniture;
  • Never put anything in your French bulldog’s mouth during the seizure. Animals can bite during or after a seizure because they may not recognize you;
  • Observe the seizure in your French bulldog. Specifically: What were the first signs? Was one side of the body affected first? What movements did your pet exhibit? Recording these observations, along with your seizure log, will be valuable information for your veterinarian;

Record the duration, frequency, and severity of seizures.

Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if:

  • your pet has a seizure lasting more than two minutes,
  • your pet has more than two seizures within a 24-hour period, or
  • your pet exhibits periodic jerking/twitching.


Can a French bulldog get hurt or be in danger during a seizure?

Even though seizures can look scary and violent, they are not usually painful for our pets, although they may feel confused and panicked. It’s important to avoid putting your fingers or any objects in their mouth during a seizure, as this won’t help and may result in injury.

During a seizure, it’s crucial to prevent the dog from falling or hitting objects around them, but as long as they are on the floor or ground, the risk of injury is low.

While a single seizure is rarely dangerous for a dog, if they have multiple seizures within a short period of time (known as cluster seizures), if a seizure lasts longer than a few minutes, or if they experience an elevated body temperature during a seizure, you should seek veterinary attention right away.

Epilepsy in French bulldogs is a severe and life-threatening condition. It occurs when a seizure lasts more than five minutes. If intravenous anticonvulsants are not administered immediately to stop the seizure, the dog may die or experience permanent brain damage. If your dog experiences epileptic status, seek veterinary help immediately.

epilepsy in french bulldogs

How to treat epilepsy in French bulldogs?

When it comes to treating epilepsy in French bulldogs, the standard protocol typically involves starting medical intervention once the animal experiences more than one seizure per month, when seizures occur back to back, or if a grand mal seizure takes place. Unfortunately, canine epilepsy is rarely curable, so the primary aim of anti-epileptic drug (AED) therapy is to maintain a seizure-free state for the dog.

The goal of AED therapy is to enhance the dog’s quality of life by decreasing the frequency and severity of seizures. It’s crucial to choose drugs that don’t cause significant side effects. If your veterinarian recommends AED therapy, it’s vital to have an in-depth conversation with them to understand the importance of this treatment and why it’s necessary.

Your veterinarian can guide you through treating your dog’s epilepsy, and you should schedule regular check-ups to monitor any side effects from the medication or the condition itself. Once you begin AED therapy, it typically continues for the rest of your dog’s life, with periodic health check-ups and blood tests to ensure appropriate dosing, treatment efficacy, and minimal adverse reactions.

To ensure successful treatment, it’s crucial to administer medication at the same time each day, provide the correct dosage, and maintain consistent treatment without discontinuing it without first consulting your veterinarian.

What type of drugs will my Frenchie need to take?

Your veterinarian will provide guidance on the most suitable antiepileptic drug for treating your Frenchie’s epilepsy. The decision may be influenced by factors such as the type and frequency of seizures, as well as any kidney or liver problems.

It’s crucial not to administer any medication to your dog without a prescription and instructions from your veterinarian. Maintain a consistent diet for your dog as dietary changes can affect drug levels in their blood. Moreover, new diets are currently being developed to further enhance seizure control.

Are there any side effects to these drugs?

Your dog may experience side effects from AED treatment, which can manifest shortly after starting a treatment or after increasing the dosage. Typically, these effects wane or decrease in the following weeks as your dog’s body builds a tolerance to the medication.

In some cases, the unwanted effects persist and require monitoring to prevent compromising your dog’s quality of life. Common potential side effects of AED treatment include drowsiness, increased appetite and thirst, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, hind leg weakness, weight gain, and changes in behavior.

If your dog no longer experiences seizures or develops life-threatening side effects, your veterinarian may suggest discontinuing AED treatment. Abruptly stopping the medication can trigger seizures and an epileptic state. It’s best to seek advice from your veterinarian before switching medications.

French bulldogs with epilepsy usually require life-long therapy and the unwavering commitment of their pet owners. Living with a dog who has epilepsy can be a significant emotional and financial burden, as the continuous medication is necessary. As a result, many dogs with this insidious disease are euthanized. Therefore, it’s up to the dog owner to decide how much they love their pet and whether they’re willing to fully support their furry friend in their battle against this condition.


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