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LennyDVM, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
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Experience:  30 years as owner of a mobile practice treating dogs, cats, horses and other pets.
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We have an 11 year old female boxer. She is has begun having

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We have an 11 year old female boxer. She is has begun having siezures, with Vomitting, diareah, and urinating, either before or after an episode. In addtion, she is out of it for the rest of the day, and doesn't respond to anything. She seems to be herself within 24 to 48 hours later. Blood tests have ruled out a lot of things. X-rays have only showed a "probable" mass near her liver......what could be causing the seizures? A brain tumor?

It sounds like your dog is having gran mal seizures. The reaction after the seizure (postictal stage) is typical, but lasting longer than normal.


Idiopathic (unknown cause) epilepsy is usually first seen between 4-8 years of age and is not likely to be the problem in this case.


Causes of seizures in older dogs include:

  • Functional pancreatic tumors. The tumor produces insulin, which lowers the blood glucose (sugar) and seizures occur. The body counters the low blood glucose by signaling the liver to produce more and the seizure stops. Routine blood tests will not pick up this cause of seizures unless the blood is taken during the seizure. If you give sugar water (karo syrup, honey or other sweet liquid) directly before or during the seizure, the seizure stop more rapidly. This is an immediate treatment as well as a way to support this as a possible diagnosis. Ultrasound can also support the diagnosis. Prednisolone is one treatment option because it increases glucose production.
  • Encephalitis. Diagnosis includes MRI that can detect inflammation and spinal fluid analysis.
  • Brain tumor. X'rays of the head can sometimes help in diagnosis. MRI does a better job of imaging soft tissue brain tumors.Prednisone (corticosteroids) reduce inflammation can be used to treat encephalitis and brain tumors.
  • Brain abscesses are not age specific, but can affect older dogs.
  • Severe liver disease (hepatoencephalopathy) - blood tests indicate liver damage
  • Low blood calcium - should be evident on routine blood chemistry screen
  • Lead poisoning - occurs most often in young dogs who eat lead based paint.

Let me know if you have follow up questions.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
All of her blood tests came back normal, glucose was fine, x-rays of her head were normal. She does show some liver diasese, but it was "normal" for a dog her age. Anything else?

The main differentials seem to be functional pancreatic tumor (glucose while acting normal does not rule this out), brain tumors that do not show up on x'ray (we see air, soft tissue and bone on film. A small tumor may not change the radiograph), encephalitis, other brain disorders, and toxoplasmosis, encysted parasites... that I didn't put in the first message.


As an aside... I saw a neurologic horse that had at least one seizure. Liver enzymes were surprisingly OK, but the final diagnosis was hepatic encephalopathy secondary to hepatic lymphosarcoma.


Also.... there is a lot that we don't know and many causes that we never figure out. You can treat empirically while you continue to look for the cause.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
The first siezure was proceeded by vomitting and diareah, the second one the vomitting and diareah came afterwards. She has not been losing weight. The siezures have been about 17 days apart. The vet we saw thought she saw a softball size mass next to her liver, but couldn't be for sure because it may have been food, although it had been 4 hours, since she had 1 cup of dry dog food. She is an indoor dog, so I am wondering what the parasites could be?

The parasites I mentioned are ones that migrate to the brain. Toxoplasma, Ascarids (roundworm larva) and Neospora are examples of common parasites that can encyst in the brain. The parasites could have been there for years (since puppyhood) or from a more recent infection. They are widely distributed in places animals live including woods, sidewalks and parks. They are usually picked up from infected feces or places where infected feces have been (sidewalks). Parasites can cause seizures. That does not mean that they caused your pupper's seizures.


If the softball sized mass was food, it would be not be there if another image was done. Usually, a cup of food has moved out of the stomach in well under 4 hours. However, a liver mass should not be causing seizures because it does not affect enough of the liver to interfere with the normal function. Seizures from liver damage require the liver to be severely affected so that it is not able to function.


Seizures have preictal and postictal phases. Vomiting, diarrhea and urination can occur in any of the phases including during the seizure.


Seizures always originate in the brain. The cause must be something that affects brain function. Masses (tumor, encysted parasites), inflammation (encephalitis), lack of needed nutrients (glucose, calcium, oxygen) are major known causes.


Seizures by themselves do not cause weight loss. If they interfere with eating, they can.


Have you and your vet treated the seizures with anything yet?

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
No, we haven't treated her siezures just yet. She was going to perscribe phenabarbital(sp?). But with only 2, we wanted to see if there was more of a pattern. The script is waiting for us, if another one should occur. We live in the Southwest desert, if that helps any. She has tumors(subeceous cysts, on the outside of her body...all benine), so this is what has the doc thinking, it was not food near her liver. We have to take her to a different vet, to have her x-rayed after fasting.

Seeing if there is more of a pattern makes sense and is a good reason to wait before treating her.


I often give clients valium to use at the time of a seizure when waiting to figure out if there is a pattern or for dogs that seizure infrequently. It is given intrarectally using a preloaded syringe without a needle. It is absorbed better from the rectum than by injection and is easy for clients to do although most grimace when I tell them how I want it given.


There are some not much fun diseases in the SW desert area, but nothing that I can link to seizures in an indoor dog.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
I haven't seen and worms in her vomit of feces, that is why I think we are leaning more towards brain tumor. The vet did also reccomend valium. We are just waiting to see I guess. We have had a problem with skunks recently....but like I said she is indoors almost all day. And all the things I ready just link racoons as carriers. Anything else you can think of, please let me know...thanks. We just don't have the $ for a MRI or a CT scan, otherwise I would have this done. Thanks for you help!

I doubt she has intestinal worms. The worms I mentioned would be in her brain. They damage the cells around them very much like a tumor does. Your girl probably doesn't have these, but they are a reason some dogs develop seizures.


I'll let you know if I think of anything else.

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Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Thanks so much! We are just trying to prepare ourselves in case we have to put her to sleep. I like to know up front and not beat around the bush, so to speak.

You may get to that point, but it doesn't sound like it is time yet. Even if it is a brain tumor, you treat what you can for as long as you can so long as she is happy and love her until it is time. You will know when it is time.


I've been a vet for a bunch of years and have followed many of my patients from puppyhood to old age. I also have my own critterkids. It's one day at a time from smiling at the puppy antics through a lot of happy and sometimes not happy days to the sadness of having them leave. Overall, I smile more than I cry....I try to help that happen for my clients also.


Smile at your girl and give her a hug!