Q: Our miniature poodle has been having convulsive attacks . Symptoms include stiff-leg tremors, slime at the mouth and loss of control of bodily functions. She is fine between such attacks, and the veterinarian can find nothing wrong with her. Is that epilepsy? Are the seizures painful?--R.M.
A: It sounds as though your dog is suffering from epilepsy, a condition characterized by recurring brain seizures. Epilepsy is not a disease; it results from a transient disturbance of electrical activity in the brain.
There are two types of epilepsy in dogs. One is idiopathic epilepsy (cause unknown), which is frequently inherited. The second type is acquired epilepsy, which results from a structural defect in--or organic disease of--the brain. Idiopathic epilepsy is diagnosed if no specific cause can be found for the seizures. That appears to be the case with your dog.
Seizures are not thought to be painful, since the movements and sounds are made involuntarily. A dog should not be handled during a seizure, except to prevent injury. Talking to the dog and stroking it gently may help.