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Can Dog Food Cause Seizures? Possible Causes & Alternatives

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

Jack Russell Terrier eating dog food

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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This might seem like an odd question to some people. How is it possible for food to cause a seizure? Seizures are scary, particularly for a dog parent, and determining the cause of a seizure can be difficult. But is it possible for something that your dog eats to trigger a seizure?

While it isn’t common, certain ingredients in your dog’s food may cause seizures.

Here, we look at what ingredients are more likely to cause a seizure in some dogs, as well as what foods can help reduce the risk.

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Information on Seizures

When a dog experiences a seizure, their muscles start to contract and relax rapidly. While seizures aren’t typically life threatening, they are frightening to witness. They can become serious if they persist for too long and are recurrent. This is when a dog might be diagnosed with epilepsy.

sick australian shepherd dog
Image Credit: Irini Adler, Pixabay


How Can Dog Food Cause Seizures?

1. Mold

If a dog eats food with mold, seizures are a possible outcome. Mold is a structure that certain fungi produce that can release so-called mycotoxins, which can be neurotoxic. How severe the symptoms are depend on how much mold the dog ate as well as the species of fungus.

If you suspect that your dog ate moldy food, this must be treated as an emergency. The vet will either give your dog charcoal or pump their stomach. The prognosis is good if you get your dog treated as soon as possible.

Mold can occur in dog food either while it is being manufactured or because it hasn’t been stored properly. Open wet food should be refrigerated immediately and kept in the fridge only for no longer than 7 days.

Dry food must be stored in a way that keeps out moisture. The best way to store dry pet food is to keep it in its original packaging, which should be clipped closed, and then to place it in an airtight container with a lid. This will also keep pests out.

2. Food Allergies

Food allergy is an extremely rare cause of seizures but important to know about. When dogs have a food allergy, some may develop ear infections, chronic itchiness, and skin lesions. However, a seizure can potentially be triggered in very rare cases. Common food allergies in dogs are proteins, such as beef, chicken, dairy, and eggs. Your veterinarian will likely put your dog on an elimination diet to determine the possible culprit. Then it’s just a matter of avoiding the trigger ingredient in your dog’s food.

Image Credit: Natee K Jindakum, Shutterstock

3. Health Conditions

Certain disease processes, like diabetes, require a specific therapeutic diet. If dog are given food that doesn’t fit in with the diet profile, their blood sugar levels can drop drastically, potentially leading to seizures.

4. Other Ingredients

There are other ingredients and foods that can also set off seizures:

  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate: Theobromine is the main ingredient in chocolate that makes it toxic to dogs.
  • Ethanol: This is found in grape, apple, and orange juice, as well as hand sanitizers.
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Xylitol: This artificial sweetener is used in a variety of products and is highly toxic to dogs.

Due to the number of products that are toxic to dogs, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet before feeding your dog any human food.

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Foods That Help Dogs With Seizures

One of the most important things that you can do for a dog with seizures is to provide them with a high-quality diet. Dog food made with high-quality ingredients that don’t contain many unknown or artificial ingredients can be beneficial. You can also consider fresh dog food, like Ollie, if you can fit it into your budget.

1. Ketogenic Diet

Many patients with epilepsy fare quite well on a specific diet. Ketogenic diets are high in fat and low in carbohydrates, which have shown to be efficacious in treating seizures in humans and dogs. High-quality fat has been known to decrease the excitability of the brain’s neurons.

study found that a low-carb, high-fat diet seemed to make a difference in participating dogs, as they had fewer seizures while on this diet. Food high in carbohydrates is more likely to trigger an episode. But more studies are needed to confirm this.


Close up of beautiful dog eating from the bowl
Image By: dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

2. Supplements

Adding fish oil to your dog’s diet might help reduce seizures. Omega-3 fatty acid contains DHA, which works to maintain normal brain function. However, one study found that omega-3 didn’t seem to make much of a difference in the dogs’ seizures.

There have been positive results with incorporating medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in the diet. MCT oil may be given as a supplement in addition to the ketogenic diet. MCT oil comes from the palm kernel or coconut oil. It’s thought that MCTs are absorbed more easily and are consequently more ketogenic than long-chain triglycerides.

There are also promising results with CBD oil that involved a pronounced reduction of seizures in dogs after the oil was oiled. Always speak to your vet first about adding supplements to your dog’s usual diet.

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While dog food isn’t the most common trigger for seizures, it can happen. But the first thing to do when your dog has a seizure is to see your vet. They can prescribe any necessary medications and work with you on a diet plan that could help.

Get into the habit of reading the ingredients on your dog’s food bag, and try not to rely on the pet food manufacturer’s claims of limited-ingredient and hypoallergenic products. Sometimes, unwanted ingredients still find their way in, so always read the ingredient list.

When it’s all said and done, between you and your vet, you’ll hopefully figure out the cause and can get your dog’s seizures under control.

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Featured Image Credit: Srdjan Fot, Shutterstock

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