Understanding panting, shaking and seizures in old dogs

14 May 2021

Learn how to handle seizures, panting, and shaking in old dogs, plus get more information on other health conditions in old dogs and how to keep your furry friend safe.

How to deal with panting, shaking and seizures in old dogs

Is your old dog panting, shaking, or having seizures? Read on to learn more about what these behaviors mean, how to handle old dog seizures, and the best way to ensure that your furry friend is always safe.

Understanding old age in dogs

Whether we like it or not, our favorite fur-buddies are growing old. And since the average life expectancy of dogs is much less than that of humansdogs age more rapidly than their owners. As you witness your dog grow older, and inevitably experience some of common symptoms of aging in dogs, your older dog might also experience unusual panting, shaking, or seizures.

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from seizures too.

Not to fear! Only a small percentage of dogs are likely to experience seizures in their lifetime¹. But before we explore abnormal panting, shaking, and old dog seizures, it’s important to be aware of the most common signs of aging in dogs:

Signs of aging in dogs

  • Vision impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of energy
  • Arthritis & joint problems
  • Loss of hair, muscle tone, teeth & skin elasticity
  • Weakened immune system
  • Decreased mental ability

While the above are common symptoms of aging in dogs, each ailment could also be a symptom of a potentially serious health condition or illness. When in doubt about your dog’s health, it is always best to take a trip to your vet to discuss the above symptoms and get professional advice. Your vet will be able to help diagnose any illness. If your dog is suffering from a disease, and not just old age, you may need to act fast to take steps to alleviate, treat, and if possible cure their illness.

Dog panting: what does it mean?

Panting is one of your dog’s primary methods to rid themselves of excess body heat – so it’s considered normal most times when a dog pants on a hot day, or when they are being physically active or excited. However there are some situations in which panting can indicate another troublesome condition in your old (or young) dog.

How to recognize abnormal panting in your dog

You can learn to recognize abnormal panting in your old dog if the panting:

  • sounds different; is louder or raspier then usual
  • seems to take more out of your dog
  • appears excessive or
  • occurs at unusual times

when compared with your dog’s normal panting behavior.

Abnormal causes of panting in dogs

Abnormal panting in your old dog could be linked to one of the following physical or psychological conditions, so it should not be taken lightly.

  • Fear or stress
  • Pain
  • Heat stroke
  • Obesity
  • Poisoning
  • Heart failure or lung disease
  • Anemia
  • Respiratory illness
  • Cushing’s disease²

We recommend to take a trip to your vet as soon as possible, if you observe your old dog panting abnormally.

Shaking in old dogs

Shaking is another behavior you might witness in your old dog. While it is common for dogs to develop tremors in their hind or front legs as they get older, shaking can also indicate that the dog is in pain, excited, nauseous, or suffering from a more serious illness.

Old age, pain, poisoning, neurological disorders, excitement, kidney failure, and adrenal gland diseases can all cause shaking in old dogs.

As in the case with panting, if you suspect that your old dog is shaking too much or abnormally, take a trip to your vet who will be able to complete a full health assessment of your dog.

Understanding seizures in old dogs

Old dog seizures

Seizures in old dogs are not a typical sign of aging, and only a small percentage of dogs will experience a seizure at some point in their lives. Seizures can occur in dogs of all ages, and are triggered by a number of different causes.

Causes of seizures in dogs

  1. Environmental causes: for example, if your dog ingests a poisonous toxin
  2. Illness: such as brain tumors, epilepsy, kidney disease, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease
  3. Genetic predisposition: certain breeds are more likely to experience a seizure than others.

If your old dog seizures, it may mean he has been poisoned, or is suffering from a serious medical condition. It’s best to consult your doctor to determine the exact cause of the seizure in your pet.

Which dog breeds are prone to seizures?

The condition of idiopathic (or primary) epilepsy, for example, is a major cause of seizures in dogs. It is most often inherited in the following dog breedsAustralian Shepherds, Belgian Tervuren, German Shepherds, Beagles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Border Collies, Border Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dachshunds, English Springer Spaniels, Finnish Spitz, Golden Retrievers and Labradors, Irish Wolfhounds, Keeshond, Lagotto Romagnolos, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeens, Shetland Sheepdogs, Standard Poodles and Vizslas³.

It’s important to note however, that epilepsy, as well as non-epileptic seizures, can occur in dogs of any breed or age, and if your dog falls into one of the breed categories above, it does not necessarily mean that he or she will suffer from a seizure at some point in life.

Male dogs have been found to be more susceptible to seizures than female dogs¹.

Most importantly, you should learn how to recognize when your dog is having a seizure, so that if this condition affects your dog someday, you’ll be prepared to take the appropriate action to ensure his safety.

Symptoms of seizures in old dogs

If your dog experiences a seizure, it will typically include the following behaviors:

  • collapsing – often falling to the side
  • jerking or stiffening
  • muscle twitching
  • loss of consciousness
  • chewing the tongue or chomping
  • drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • urinating or defecating

For many old dog owners, witnessing your furry best friend have a seizure can be heart-wrenching, and you might feel helpless if you do not know what to do in this new and frightening situation. Read our tips below on what to do if your old dog seizures:

What to do if your dog has a seizure

If your dog is experiencing a seizure, here’s what you should do to ensure the best outcome:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Remove any objects nearby which could potentially hurt your dog.
  3. Keep away from the dog’s head and mouth and do not put anything in his mouth.
  4. Time the seizure if possible.
  5. Cool your dog down by putting a fan on him or cold water on his paws.
  6. Talk softly to your dog to help him calm down. Avoid touching him.
  7. Take your dog to the vet immediately once the seizure has ended.

When it comes to old dog seizures, an early diagnosis is always best. Do not let the condition go untreatedat the first sign of a seizure, contact your vet. Your vet will perform a physical exam of the dog, and if possible, prescribe medicine to prevent and control the seizures.

The best method for ensuring your old dog is always safe

We know there are a lot of situations and conditions which may pose a threat to the safety and well-being of your beloved canine friend. Everyday life, fear or excitement, new places and people, fireworks, the aging process and dog dementia, the mating instinct, prey drive and other environmental or physiological factors could all lead to your beloved old dog getting lost.

Our old furry friends are vulnerable; they may not always be able to find their way home, or out of a dangerous situation, if lost.

Especially if your dog suffers from a physical or mental health condition, or if he’s simply a curious, playful and active dog throughout all his years, it’s a good idea to invest in a GPS tracker for dogs so that you can always know the location of your best guy or gal. With the help of the Tractive GPS companion app for Android or iOS, you can track your dog’s location in real-time and locate him or her in the case that they get too far away, or if you suspect they might be in danger.

Check out the story below, shared by the St. Louis Police Department, of Bailey the Beagle who was trapped – and saved thanks to her Tractive GPS Tracker:

Did you like learning old dog seizures, panting, and shaking? If so, share this post with a friend who might also find this information valuable – and potentially life saving!

Never lose my dog again

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