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December 2012
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February 2013

January 2013

Seizures In The Grooming Environment

Here’s a quick multiple-choice test.

I place Toby, a 12-year-old golden retriever, on the table and turn on the high velocity dryer. He proceeds to pee, poop, and bark non-stop. Toby is

a. Misbehaving.

b. Poorly trained.

c. Having a seizure.

And the answer is…………..

c. Having a seizure.


  Seizure, convulsion, epilepsy, and fit are all different terms for the same condition. Something triggers abnormal electrical activity in the brain sending a scrambled message to the muscles of the body. In other words, there is a short circuit in the pet’s electrical panel. Both cats and dogs can have seizures. In Toby’s case, it was the noise of the HV dryer that induced his seizure.


There are two different categories. The first is Idiopathic or Primary Epilepsy. The second is Symptomatic or Secondary Epilepsy.

IDIOPATHIC is generally a genetic defect. Seizures begin at an early age.

Causes include:

- Specific breeds that are prone such as German Shepherds, Keeshonds, Belgium Tervurens, St. Bernards, Poodles, Beagles, Irish Setters, Cocker Spaniel, Labs, Goldens, Malamutes, and Huskies.

- Hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). Toy breeds and brachycephalic dogs (pushed in faces) are more at risk.

- Juvenile hypoglycemia (diabetes).

- Pets with genetic endocrine or metabolic disorders.

SYMPTOMATIC is caused by either a brain lesion or a specific disorder.

Causes include:

- Any of the causes of Idiopathic that is not genetic in nature.

- Plant botanicals, essential oils, chemicals typically found in topical grooming supplies such as shampoos and conditioners.

- Ingesting or inhaling poisons found in typical grooming cleaning supplies such as disinfectants, chemical sprays, and flea and tick products.

- Toxic food such as chocolate, onions, or grapes left within reach of pets.

- Infectious agents such as Lyme, Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, FLV, and FIV.

- Thiamine deficiency from certain long-term fish diets.

- Kidney disease.

- Sudden blunt force trauma.

- Stress, such as might be caused by a HV dryer.

- Vaccinations.

- Full moon. Oh wait, that’s werewolves. Never mind.

- Brain infections or tumors.

- Low thyroid.


There are four stages to a seizure and the signs can vary not only from stage to stage, but from cause to location in the brain where the short circuit occurred.

The Prodome is the period of time just prior to the seizure. There is a subtle change in the mood or behavior of the pet. In Toby’s case, he would get a little anxious when he was in the tub.

The Aura signals the start of the seizure. They may be whiny, restless, trying to hide, trembling, excessively salivating, or unusually affectionate. In Toby’s case, as soon as I put him on the table, he would dance around and start to whine.

The Ictus is the actual seizure and here is where the signs can wildly vary. They could experience muscle contractions, facial twitching, drooling, defecation, urination, barking, clamped jaws, running in place, aggression, irrational fear, and “fly-snapping”. I knew of a dog that would rear up on his hind legs and come back down stiff as a board and stay that way until the seizure passed. The most common sign is a vacant, lights are on and no one is home stare. In Toby’s case, as soon as I turned on the HV dryer, he would bark non-stop, pee, and poop all over the place.

The Post-Ictal phase is after the seizure ended. They will be very hungry and thirsty and could experience blindness, deafness, disorientation, pacing, and/or a change in behavior. I had a client who had to put down her sweet golden retriever, Penny. She would turn into Cujo for several hours following her ever-increasing seizures. In Toby’s case, he would be disoriented for a couple of hours.


- Don’t interfere unless the pet is in danger. If it is on the grooming table, then get them off.

- Move tables and workboxes away from the pet, not the other way around.

- Kick a towel under their head to protect from blunt force trauma. Do not use your hands. This pet is not in control and you may get bitten.

- Turn off the lights, clippers, and dryers. Their brain is already over stimulated. Think hangover or migraine.

- Do not wrap them in a towel to stop the thrashing. They run the risk of tearing ligaments.

- Talk to them in quiet, soothing tones with your face away from them. Remember that this pet is not in control and you may get bitten.


This groom is over. They are now in the Post-Ictal stage. They need quiet. Contact the owner for pickup and the veterinarian if warranted. Their body temperature will have risen so do not cover them in towels to comfort them. Their blood sugar will have dropped, a serious concern for diabetic pets. Be cautious if offering them food. They will be very hungry and you don’t want to lose a finger or cause aspiration pneumonia.Aspiration pneumonia can happen when food or water is gulped down too fast especially following a stressful event.


- The first time the pet goes into a seizure as you are not certain the cause. This is why it is so important to know the medical history of pets in our care. It will differentiate between a first seizure and an established medical condition.

- Status Epiliticus. This is a series of continuing seizures or one lasting more than 10 minutes.

- Cluster Seizure. Multiple seizures in a 24-hour period.

- Pale white gums are an indicator of pulmonary edema in the lungs caused by the seizure.

Contact the veterinarian first for any instructions and to give them time to prepare for your arrival. In addition to knowing what the medical history of every pet in your care, you should also have a Consent To Treat Release filled out by the owner. Knowledge is power. While seizures are life threatening, they can be managed through veterinarian care, owner awareness, and your knowledge.

I have one more multiple-choice test for you.

In order to groom Toby

a. Do all clipper and scissor work before the bath.

b. Bath and towel dry him.

c. Have dad wrap him in a blanket and lay him in front of a roaring fire.

d. All of the above. And the answer is…………………


This article originally appeared in the February 2012 Groomer To Groomer and is reprinted with permission.

Must See Websites

One of the nicest perks of writing this blog, is the other pet professionals who read it and suggest websites they think might be of interest to me. So here are some that are definitely worth a look at.

1. www.complianceand is chock full of pet fire safety info and tips. They have a poster you can embed on your website for your clients.

2. StreetZaps.comis a non-partisan initiative organized and led by Blair Sorrel to reduce the year round risk of injury and fatality from contact voltage shocking or electrocution resulting from damaged or tampered wiring. 

3. Pet Poison Helpline is more than just a poison control emergency phone service. Their website is full of owner tips, articles, apps, and preventive care.

4. Doggone Safe is a non-profit organization dedicated to dog bite prevention through education
and dog bite victim support.

5.  RedRover focuses on bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the bond between people and animals through a variety of programs, including emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education.

6. Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats.

7. Dr. Sophia Yin is a veterinarian and animal behavorist who advocates for the humane handling of cats and dogs. Her website offers educational materials and FREE webinars. Her next webinar is on February 6th on Low stress handling techniques for difficult cats. To register: click here.