The other day I had the unfortunate experience of my Great Pyrenees, 3 year old male, having 2 seizures for the first time. I was very surprised by this, as on the whole Pyrenees are a very sturdy breed health-wise, but I am reminded of how all diseases can impact ALL dogs regardless of signalment, and sometimes for no good reason.
In all the days of all the Great Pyrenees I have met, and the numbers are considerable, I have never met one who suffered from epilepsy. Again, while any dog can have a seizure or seizures, working in a clinic I tend to stereotype them as something that afflicts smaller dogs more often.
Seizures are one of the most baffling, sad, and frustrating things an owner can deal with. Many dogs can have 1 seizure in their life and never another one, while others suffer from them considerably, and it can be challenging to manage them. I once heard a veterinary neurologist say that only 30% of all epileptic dogs are "well controlled". I'm sure opinions and experiences vary greatly.
The majority of all seizures are "idiopathic" (we don't know why they have them), and this can be so frustrating for an owner who just wants to "fix" the problem. We don't know why, so we monitor and watch them, and we don't tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to the first one or two by means of jumping into medicating them for it. I've been told "when it becomes a problem we'll talk about treating it". Outside of idiopathic seizures, there are many things which can cause seizures. A short list includes anything from toxin exposure to neoplasia.
MRIs can be performed on our dogs. They are not cheap and they don't necessarily help you "treat" your dog, rather merely understand the source of the seizures if they are believed to not be idiopathic. Would I do an MRI if I had unlimited financial resources? Yes. I believe in diagnosing disease and understanding the full measure of what your animal is facing. Will I get an MRI for my dog? No. I cannot say I believe it to be idiopathic, but if there was a brain tumor I know I wouldn't treat that, rather just the symptoms and that wouldn't require an MRI diagnosis for me to do so.
Often times owners are challenged to understand if it even was in fact a seizure they witnessed. It can be easy for a person to struggle to differentiate between fainting, collapse, or seizure. While only your veterinarian can tell you, some key things to look for to determine a seizure versus other events are hyper-salivation, "paddling" (literally your dog laying on their side and paddling their legs), and a recovery phase where they are largely "not themselves". They could behave as if blind, and they could also behave with considerable behavioral changes. My dog growled and barked for minutes that seemed like years, even scaring my mother who was afraid he would bite her. "He didn't recognize me", she said. If your dog were merely to faint, by comparison, we see the disorientation perhaps, but not the personality changes or the paddling.
I recently spoke to a neurologist about my dog's "aggressive" phase following his seizure. He said he used to recommend euthanasia in certain instances for uncontrolled epilepsy in dogs who had this tendency following a seizure, for the safety of the families involved. However, he added, he had since changed his standpoint because he felt like the aggression didn't persist with episodes necessarily.
We cannot cure idiopathic epilepsy. If seizures are brought on by something such as a toxin, naturally we can treat the toxin exposure and rid the seizures. On the whole, many owners monitor their dogs after the first seizure or two without medications. The veterinarian may send you home with a sedative (diazepam or midazolam, for example) to give in the instance of a seizure at home. If the seizures continue, they will recommend a medication regime and you need to work closely with them and make all your rechecks and take this disease very seriously.
Is there anything you can do for your dog, at home, should they suffer a seizure? The short answer is no. If you have drugs on hand because you already know they suffer, then naturally you can give those as advised. Yet, there is nothing we can "do" to stop the seizure short of those medications, and certainly there is no "home remedy" or "over-the-counter/human" medication you can give. All you can do is get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible and go from there. If you have a giant breed such as a Pyrenees, you need to be careful not to injure yourself, and you need to be prepared for the phase following the seizure where their behavior may be strange and unpredictable.
If you are not too freaked out to do so, try to take note of the time the seizure started, and how long it lasted for. If they have multiple seizures, likewise. Before you jump in the car to get them to the doctor, also access if they had any potential exposure to toxins which may be to blame. It's hard to concentrate when our pets are suffering, but in the least try to watch how long the seizure lasted.
I highly recommend purchasing your dog an ID tag for his dog collar advising of this or any medical ailments he or she may have. God forbid they were to escape, as our Pyrs are tend to do, this gives whoever receives them a heads up they have a chronic or important disease that needs to be addressed. My dog's medical ID also lists his medication that he takes.
Neurological diseases are very serious and your dog should be seen by a neurologist if they have a persistent condition. It's very important we feel confident it's idiopathic (via your vet) versus other reasons. As with all diseases and abnormalities, never put things off. And most of all, never be an armchair veterinarian.
Great Pyrenees are not a breed predisposed to seizures. Why do I feel confident making this claim? Because I ask.. and ask.. and ask.. about this dog breed with veterinarians. Not just epilepsy, but diseases in general. My dog is one of those unfortunate few who just got a raw deal. He suffers from so many health conditions, and on the whole isn't in great health and never has been. I like to tell myself that he absorbs all the diseases from so many other Great Pyrenees and takes on their burden so we can continue to adore and love our breed for the healthy, angelic dogs that they tend to be.