Epilepsy in French Bulldogs

Epilepsy in French Bulldogs

Very few things can be as scary as watching your dog have a seizure. Seizures are however a common ailment for Frenchies. When these seizures become too regular, they may be due to an underlying disorder called Epilepsy. Epilepsy in French Bulldogs may sometimes be referred to by terms like 'fits' or 'funny turns.' Whatever name it is called, it’s a chronic condition that causes repeated seizures – and is, in fact, the most common chronic neurological disorder in dogs.

Epileptic seizures in the Frenchie breed are usually characterized by:

  • Involuntary convulsions or fits, mere twitches, or mild shaking due to loss of muscle control as a result of an interference in normal brain function.
  • Irregular attacks that may start and finish in under a couple of seconds.
  • Loss of consciousness.

In most cases however, the seizures may not be that obvious or severe. The duration of the attacks may also vary from just a few seconds to several minutes.

Regardless of the form, epilepsy can be scary to witness especially when watching it happen to your little Frenchie furbaby. When your dog has a seizure (however mild it is), it can be a sign of worse things to come. You must seek the help of professionals and veterinarians that can help you identify the cause of epilepsy and recommend possible treatment.

Symptoms of seizures in dogs

Identifying the symptoms of seizures or epilepsy can be tricky. This is because these symptoms generally vary in duration and severity. Here are some of the prevalent symptoms you should look out for if your Frenchie looks like he or she is having one:

  • Jerking, stiffening, or twitching of muscles
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Disorientation, wobbliness, or temporary blindness after the episode
  • Vocalization
  • Tongue chewing
  • Foaming mouth
  • Defecation or urination
  • Paddling the legs
  • Staring or looking dazed before or after the episode
  • Walking in circles after the episode
  • Drool or blood from the mouth after the episode
  • Hiding after the episode.

Here’s how to distinguish between a seizure and a fainting spell in French Bulldogs. In a fainting spell, dogs generally don’t stare off or look dazed before it happens. Also, your Frenchie will quickly recover from a faint.

You should also note that the symptoms listed above vary depending on the type of seizure. In aGeneralized or grand mal, the seizure occurs because of abnormal electrical activity in the entire brain of the Frenchie. As such, the convulsions or loss of consciousness will have more impact and can last from seconds to several minutes. On the other hand,Focal Seizures affect only one area of the brain and will often result in unusual movements from one limb or side of the body.

Types of epilepsy in French bulldogs

Two types of epilepsy have been identified: Primary epilepsy and Secondary epilepsy. They have been classified according to their level of severity and causes.

  • Primary Epilepsy

  • This form of epilepsy usually develops between 6 months and 5 years (with an average of 3 years). There is no known cause for primary epilepsy. It just happens. The diagnosis for this type of epilepsy is made by excluding other causes.

  • Secondary Epilepsy

  • Secondary epilepsy affects French bulldogs that are less than 6 months of age or older than 5 years. Secondary epilepsy is often congenital or ‘hereditary.’ It may also be due to infections, poisoning, tumors, or abnormalities in the blood vessels.

    Causes of seizures in dogs

    It is already identified that the common cause of seizures in French bulldogs is epilepsy. Even though for the major part, the cause of epilepsy may not be known, there are a handful of conditions that trigger it. Liver shunt or hepatitis, low blood sugar level, or meningitis are leading conditions.

    Other than congenital reasons, other known causes of seizures in Frenchies include:

    • Food poisoning
    • Liver or kidney disease
    • Anemia
    • Head injury
    • Encephalitis
    • Stroke
    • Brain cancer
    • Hypertension or hypotension
    • Electrolyte issues

    Causes of epilepsy in French bulldogs

    Epilepsy can be classified as 'structural' or 'idiopathic.' It is termed structural when the cause can be identified in the brain. Epilepsy will otherwise be termed Idiopathic instances where no underlying cause can be identified, a genetic predisposition is presumed, or the cause is generally unknown.

  • Idiopathic epilepsy

  • This type of epilepsy usually affects young to middle-aged dogs (6 months to 5 years old). The underlying cause of the repeated seizures cannot be precisely identified. As such, it is often assumed that epilepsy was due to some genetic and environmental factors.

    In diagnosing idiopathic epilepsy, all known causes must have been ruled out. This will, of course, be after an analysis of the medical history of your Frenchies. Also, a neurological examination and laboratory tests (blood and/or urine) must be conducted. After this, brain imaging using MRI and an analysis of your dog's cerebrospinal fluid may also be requested to further rule out other causes.

  • Structural epilepsy

  • This refers to epilepsies caused by known sources or by an underlying cause that can be found in the brain. Some of the causes may be due to problems with blood supply to the brain, such as obstructions, bleeding, inflammation, infection, trauma, developmental issues, brain tumors, and degenerative brain diseases.

    Structural epilepsies are usually detected through MRI scans or cerebrospinal fluid analysis.

  • Reactive seizure

  • Reactive seizures can be regarded as the third ‘cause’ of epilepsies. They are mostly not as severe as the other causes and are often due to temporary changes to the brain. A reactive seizure may be in response to a temporary metabolic change or poisoning. They are easily reversible when the cause or disturbance is identified and remedied.

    On-the-spot treatments for seizures in Frenchies

    Most seizures are not severe. But whenever they occur, try and keep your Frenchie as safe as possible. Here are some other tips that might help;

    • Objects that may harm them or be a risk to their safety should be removed.
    • Also, do not touch their mouth or put anything in their mouth. It’s a myth that dogs can choke on their own tongues. They won’t.
    • You can touch them away from the head, call their name gently, and reassure them.
    • You may put cold water on your dog’s paws if the seizures continue for minutes. 

    You must note the details of the seizure. The frequency, date, length, and time of the episodes will be relevant information for the veterinarian. It is essential to give the veterinarian all the relevant information as the diagnosis will be formed by the nature of the convulsions and how they affect your dog.

    Get in touch with a Veterinarian

    You have to consult the veterinarian if the seizure lasts for minutes. The more prolonged the episode persists, the greater the risk of overheating and brain damage. If the seizure subsists for minutes, a vet may be able to give your dog Valium intravenously to stop the attack.

    Treatment for the seizures will no doubt be determined by its underlying cause. For idiopathic epilepsy, anti-epileptic medications may be prescribed for your dog. Some other treatments may require dietary changes. Severe conditions such as cancer may, however, require chemotherapy or surgery.

    Frenchie Store got you covered

    Frenchie Store is a personalized site for all things about French Bulldogs.Our blog here has everything you need to know about Frenchies – from personality, traits, training tips, common ailments, and what to do to remedy them.

    2 Responses


    June 11, 2024

    My frenchie has had seizures since he was 8 months old. We went to a neurologist who ran all the tests to find the cause. He has idiopathic epilepsy. Right now he is on three different medications but still has break through seizures around every two weeks with clusters of 10 or more. I don’t have any advice except to hope and pray that a medication will stop them. I am trying acupuncture at the end of the month. I’m hoping that gets them under control. Sorry that you are going through this too.

    Matthew Brown
    Matthew Brown

    October 24, 2023

    Hi, please can you help or give me any advice? We have a wonderful Frenchie (18 months old) called Buster who has Epilepsy since around April 23. Today Buster had a cluster of three seizures in quick succession. Buster is on medication and we are going to change his medication today to see if this helps. Does anyone know of any specialist Vets who deal with Epilepsy in French Bulldogs or has anyone experienced anything similar? Any advice, I would greatly appreciate it – Thanks Matt

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