Frank had a seizure – what happened?

On Tuesday, August 4, I was woken by my mum calling me down the stairs and could hear the panic in her voice.

I rushed downstairs and found Frank sitting upright in his bed, with just his head shaking. 

I knew instantly that it was some form of seizure or tremor, but he was fully aware and not really convulsing.

We gave him some space, and I took a few short videos of his shaking to send to the vet. I also sent it to a few friends including a dog specialist, a veterinary nurse, a dog walker and a friend whose dog has epilepsy.

Frank’s head was shaking rapidly and uncontrollably in a ‘no’ movement, each lasting about five minutes. He was easily distracted out of his shakes if you offered him a treat, or asked him to follow you.

Trigger Warning: some viewers may find the video in the below Tweet distressing

“He was fully aware it was happening, but clearly confused, frightened and frustrated.”

It was incredibly difficult to watch, especially as he was fully aware it was happening, but clearly confused, frightened and frustrated.

A quick search, Google confirmed what I was already thinking. Idiopathic head tremors.

Idiopathic head tremors are common in bull breed dogs like Frank, and typically begin at the age of two – which is Frank’s age. There is no known cause or cure, and the tremors usually occur when the dog is in a resting state.

Frank had desperately wanted to continue his morning snooze, placing his paws onto his head to try and stop the shakes so he could nap. But as soon as he got comfortable, they’d begin again.

His seizures had started at around 6.45am, and continued roughly every 15 minutes until 10.15am, which we recorded the time and length of. 

Speculating, I think that the bigger tremor he had at around 7am was a ‘seizure’, with smaller shakes following being ‘after tremors’.

Vet Trip and Blood Tests

After an 8.30am phone call with our vets, they managed to squeeze Frank in on an emergency appointment for examination and blood tests.

Due to Covid-19, we weren’t allowed in the vets with him, much to Frank’s distress. He had to be carried into the vets by my mum before being handed over into the good hands of the nurses.

He had his temperature taken and blood tests for calcium and glucose, which would rule out any organ failures or tumors.

Frank didn’t have any further seizures after 10.15am – and up to yet, hasn’t suffered another episode.

His blood test results came back 48 hours later with no remarkable findings – and the vets not much wiser on a diagnosis or cause. Our vet suggested A-Typical seizures, which would be very similar to Idiopathic Head Tremors, but still wasn’t certain. Frank was the first case he’d ever seen with these symptoms.

So, what caused it?

We were made aware that one of Frank’s littermates had a similar episode back in January, where she had a 30 second head tremor which never happened again.

But there are so many factors which may or may not have caused the tremor. Frank was also recently treated for an allergy in his ears with steroid tablets and ear drops – could there have been a possible link here?

One common cause of tremors is toxicity. Speaking speculatively again, Frank’s a bit of a bin thief, and may have pinched something he shouldn’t have from the bin without us knowing. 

What we think happened was that Frank stole some compost out of the vegetable boxes whilst mum and dad were gardening. As your waste decomposes, it produces mould and toxic chemicals which can result in tremors and seizures in as little as 30 minutes. Frank’s seizure was days later, but we’re still pretty sure this was the cause – but we can’t be 100% sure.

We are fairly certain that it’s not a neurological condition, and are hopeful that it was a one off event that will never happen again. 

The most important thing is that he’s back to his usual, silly self – albeit a little clingy.

Frank and I want to thank everyone who commented on our Facebook post, tweeted us, or messaged us on Instagram to see how he was. He got extra treats for being a brave boy at the vets – even though he managed to rip the nurses t-shirt!

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1 Comment

  1. Simon Shuff
    August 10, 2020 / 10:46 pm

    Good write up beff n thanks for all the love and messages from you’re friends and readers