Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!


Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

Seizures can be frightening to watch especially if you have never seen a seizure before. It can be confusing because most people don’t really know what they should do.

In this complete guide to Boston Terrier epilepsy, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of epilepsy. We will also discuss what you should and shouldn’t do if your Boston Terrier is having a seizure. 

The Complete Guide To Boston Terrier Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder commonly seen in Boston Terriers that is characterized by recurring seizures. Epilepsy has many potential causes. 

The treatment for epilepsy depends on the cause but usually involves treating the underlying disease, monitoring, and/or anti-seizure medications.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

What Is Epilepsy?

Repeated episodes of seizures in dogs is called epilepsy. 

This is typically defined as two or more seizures with at least 24 hours of time between seizures, and the seizures are not caused by a toxic or metabolic disease.

There are various forms of epilepsy in dogs. Some forms of epilepsy occur for no apparent reason, whereas other forms occur secondary to a brain disease.

If your Boston Terrier is having repeated seizures for no reason this is called idiopathic epilepsy. See below.

If your Boston Terrier is having repeated seizures because of an underlying reason this is called structural epilepsy. See below.

Is your Boston Terrier shaking randomly? Read this article, Why Is My Boston Terrier Shaking? Should I Be Concerned?

Idiopathic Epilepsy

One of the most common forms of epilepsy in young Boston Terriers is idiopathic epilepsy. The word idiopathic means that there isn’t an underlying cause for the seizures to be happening. 

This condition is possibly genetic.

Bostons with idiopathic epilepsy will begin to have seizures between 1 and 5 years of age. Some Bostons may only have one or two seizures a year while others may have seizures several times per month.

Structural Epilepsy

Another common cause of seizures and epilepsy in Boston Terriers is structural epilepsy. Structural epilepsy means that there is an underlying condition in the brain causing the seizures. This could be from an inflammatory condition or cancer.

Boston Terriers seem to be particularly prone to brain cancer. In the National Cancer Institute Integrated Canine Data Commons, 15 out of the 81 reported cases of gliomas, a certain type of brain cancer in dogs, were Boston Terriers.

Brain cancer can cause seizures and structural epilepsy. With structural epilepsy, there may be other symptoms besides just the seizures including circling, fatigue, or head tilt.


In a Boston Terrier that develops seizures over the age of five, veterinarians might recommend advanced testing to check for brain tumors because of the high incidence of brain tumors in this breed.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

What Can Trigger A Seizure?

Seizures mostly occur randomly with no apparent trigger. Because many cases of epilepsy are often idiopathic, that means that there is no underlying cause of the seizures that we will be able to treat or correct.

Sometimes dogs with epilepsy that get overly stressed may have seizures triggered, though I don’t see this too commonly. 

Some other seizure triggers include:

  • Low Blood Sugar In Puppies
  • Ingestion Of A Toxic Substance
  • Brain Tumors

Is Epilepsy Common In Boston Terriers? 

According to the Boston Terrier Club of America, epilepsy seems to be fairly common within the Boston Terrier breed.

Idiopathic epilepsy is fairly common in many dog breeds, and Boston Terriers can get this form of epilepsy. 

In addition, structural epilepsy occurs commonly in older Boston Terriers that develop brain cancer.

Want to learn more about other common health issues in Boston Terriers? Read this article, 10 Common Boston Terrier Health Issues.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

What Other Dog Breeds Are Prone To Seizures?

Certain dog breeds have a high prevalence of seizures. 

Dr. Jay McDonnell, a veterinary neurology specialist, stated that around 2% to 5% of all dogs may develop epilepsy, and the following dog breeds have the highest risk for seizures:

How To Spot Seizures In Boston Terriers

There are various forms of seizures each having unique signs and symptoms. I will review each seizure type and what you might notice if your Boston Terrier begins to have this type of seizure.

Grand Mal Seizure

The grand mal seizure is the seizure that appears most frightening. When your Boston Terrier begins to have a grand mal seizure, they will suddenly go unconscious and usually fall over on their side. 

Shortly after, they will then begin paddling aggressively or look like they are chewing. They may also drool, have dilation of the pupils, and urinate or defecate on themselves.


This form of seizure usually lasts around 1 to 3 minutes. When it is occurring, this can feel like an eternity because it is so startling to watch a seizure.


It is always a good idea to contact your vet immediately and get their guidance on what you should do.

Focal Or Partial Seizure

Another common form of seizure is the focal seizure. This form of seizure is usually isolated to one or two body parts. You will notice one or two muscles jerking uncontrollably.

Sometimes during a focal seizure, your dog may remain conscious.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

Boston Terrier Epilepsy Treatments

If your Boston has had a seizure, it is important to visit your veterinarian to have your Boston examined and discuss the next possible steps. 

Follow these first two steps below while the seizure is happening. 

Next, keep scrolling to the bottom of this screen to learn what to do when these seizures happen and what not to do.

Step #1 Take A Video

If it is safe to do so, when you notice your dog exhibiting any strange symptoms, I recommend taking a brief video. 

It can be extremely helpful for your veterinarian when trying to determine what might be causing the symptoms if they have a video to view.

Step #2 Start A Seizure Journal

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your Boston with epilepsy, they will likely recommend that you start a seizure journal.

 You should start a log for the seizures including:

  • Day Of The Seizure
  • Time Of The Seizure
  • Exact Minute Length Of The Seizure
  • Any Abnormal Behavior Before Or After The Seizure

Worried about veterinarian bills? Learn how you can save 25% off your vet visit today along with other insurance plans popular with Boston owners, Boston Terrier Society Explains Insurance.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

How Can I Stop My Boston Terrier From Having Seizures? Is There A Method To Have This Stop Or Medical Procedures?

There are no safe at-home treatments for stopping seizures in Boston Terriers. If your Boston Terrier has had a seizure, you should consult with your veterinarian about what to do next.

If your Boston is having frequent seizures, your veterinarian may recommend anti-epileptic drugs. 

The most common medications used for treating epilepsy in dogs include Keppra (levetiracetam), Keppra Extended Release, or Phenobarbital.

I Usually Recommend Starting Bostons On Anti-Seizure Medications…
If…More than one seizure per month
If…More than one seizure in a 24 hour time span
If…A seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes

Note: Talk with your personal veterinarian for guidance.

If your veterinarian places your Boston on anti-seizure medication, it is important to give the medication as directed. Missing a dose of seizure medication can cause rebound seizures. 

Also, your veterinarian may wish to perform blood work on your dog every 6 to 12 months if your dog is on seizure medication to ensure that they are tolerating the medication.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

What Do I Do When My Boston Terrier Is Having A Seizure?

If your Boston Terrier is having a seizure, stay calm. Here are some key bullet point to follow.

  • If there are kids or other animals in the house, try to move them away from the dog that is having the seizure to reduce the risk of injury. 
  • Remember to block off any stairwells. 
  • Note the time and start a stopwatch so you can determine how long the seizure is lasting. If the seizure lasts longer than 4 or 5 minutes, you should call an emergency veterinarian immediately.
  • Make sure that you are staying safe. Avoid touching your Boston while they are having a seizure because they may accidentally bite you. Seizuring dogs are unconscious and may bite you unexpectedly.
  • Remember, your dog is unconscious if it is having a full seizure, so they typically don’t experience any pain or discomfort during the seizure. As your Boston is actively having a seizure, try to say calm and reassuring words to them.
  • If your Boston is at risk of bumping into furniture or sharp objects during the seizure, move those dangers away from your dog. As a last resort, if your dog is at risk of becoming severely injured, you may consider trying to quickly slide them away from these harmful objects. Do not touch your dog around the head or neck when moving them.

Want to talk to a veterinarian right now? Visit the talk with a vet tab on Boston Terrier Society here, Speak With A Vet Now.

What Should I Not Do When My Boston Terrier Is Having A Seizure?

Here are some key points you should not do when your Boston Terrier is having a seizure.

  • Try not to touch your Boston if they are having a seizure. It is particularly important to not pet the neck or head area when your Boston is having a seizure. As they are unconscious, they may accidentally bite you.
  • Do not try to administer any food, water, or medications to your Boston while they are having a seizure. They may potentially choke on these substances.
  • Do not try to grab your Boston’s tongue during a seizure. Some people believe that dogs swallow their tongues during seizures, but this is a myth.
Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

How Long Can A Boston Terrier Live With Epilepsy? Does It Shorten Their Lifespan?

For epilepsy without an underlying cause, most Bostons will live their full life and die of something else later in life. 

That being said, occasionally some Bostons have epilepsy that is so severe that it cannot be controlled with medications. This is rare but can occur. 

In these cases, owners may elect to euthanize a Boston that is having uncontrolled, frequent and excessive seizures despite medical therapy.

If a Boston has epilepsy secondary to another disease such a brain cancer, this can shorten their lifespan.

Can A Boston Terrier With Epilepsy Ever Be Left Alone? Or Should I Contact My Personal Vet For This Question?

It is not realistic to monitor your dog for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Most veterinarians say that dogs with well-controlled epilepsy can be left alone as long as you are giving the seizure medications on schedule.

It is important to put a baby gate up to block off any stairs so that if your pet does have a seizure while you are not there, they won’t harm themselves too badly.

Check out these baby gates on Amazon to have one shipped to your home today, Baby Gates.

Every case of epilepsy is a little different though so you should consult with your personal veterinarian to ensure that it is safe to leave your Boston home alone.

Still worried about leaving your Boston home alone? Visit Rover.com to schedule to have someone watch your Boston while you are away. Click here to receive $20.00 off your first booking.

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

Conclusions

If you think your Boston has had a seizure, it is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They will run tests to rule out treatable causes of seizures and examine your dog.

If your Boston’s seizures become excessive, your veterinarian may recommend anti-seizure medications long-term. Most importantly, keep a journal of the seizures and stay safe.

References

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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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