Can a Shock Collar Cause SEIZURES in Dogs? Not Normally

If you’re on the fence about invisible fences, you may be wondering, “can a shock collar cause seizures in dogs?”

When used correctly a shock collar is an effective training tool, but in the wrong hands, it could cause a dog to have a seizure. This isn’t common, but it should never be used on a dog with epilepsy. 

Are you anxious that you may not know how to use the shock collar properly? Read on to discover how to use a shock collar properly in order not to cause a seizure in your dog.

Disclaimer

Before opting for shock collar use, we recommend obedience training as your initial response to bad behavior.

Training your dog can prevent the potential stress of a shock collar, and is a more positive way to remedy unwanted behavior. 

Shock collars should be a last resort and only considered if obedience training fails or if you have a very stubborn, large, or aggressive dog.

While shock collars aren’t considered a form of punishment, and have been used by trainers to get the attention of tough cases for decades, for some dogs they can cause emotional distress.

Check out brain training techniques, a science-backed way to improve your dog’s behavior without the use of force or dominance!

When Does a Shock Collar Cause a Dog to Have a Seizure?

When Does A Shock Collar Cause A Dog To Have A Seizure
Shock collars, which use simple static electric shock, do not cause seizures when used correctly. Excessive or inappropriate use of dog shock collars may cause seizures in puppies, sensitive dogs, or aggressive dogs.

Some dogs that are more prone to seizures tend to be aggressive dogs, temperamental or timid dogs, and puppies.

When it comes to a shock collar, a seizure is most likely caused by the inappropriate handling of the user. 

With this in mind, we should not blame the gadget but the operator.

As a loving pet owner, it is unlikely that you will cause your dog to have a seizure from a shock collar.

Is a Shock Collar Safe for a Dog with Epilepsy?

Is A Shock Collar Safe For A Dog With Epilepsy
E-collars, whether a shock collar or an electric fence, should never be used to train an epileptic dog.

Whether your dog has had seizures or not, we need to offer this as a precaution.

Never use a shock collar on a dog with epilepsy.

A dog with epilepsy suffers from irregularly electric static in his brain. Introducing additional shock waves to his brain will only worsen the epileptic seizures.  

In some cases, the extra electrical shock to the brain could lead to abnormal breathing and eventually lead to death.

If your dog has ever had a seizure talk to a vet before using a shock collar.

How to Prevent Shock Collar Induced Seizures in Dogs

How To Prevent A Seizure In A Dog From The Use Of A Shock Collar
Shock collars, if not used properly, can cause neurological complications in your dog.

Inappropriate use of a shock collar could cause a seizure, even if your dog doesn’t have epilepsy.

It is unlikely your dog will have a seizure if the collar is not set too high. 

So how high is too high?

If your dog yelps or jumps from the shock of the collar it is set too high. The trick is to get your dog’s attention without causing him anxiety or pain.  

Later we will explain how to find the right setting on the collar, but first, can a shock collar cause any sort of side effects?

Shock Collar Side Effects

Shock Collar Side Effects
The electrostatic shock can cause psychological distress in your pet, such as phobias and high levels of stress, as well as unhealthy increases in heart rate and painful skin burns.

There are possible physical and psychological side effects to using a shock collar in a manner not designed by the manufacturer.

Physical side effects include rashes, sores, and burns around the neck.

To ensure your dog doesn’t get these side effects, reposition the collar around your dog’s neck every 4 hours, and do not allow your dog to wear it for more than 12 hours at a time.

Check out our related article, How Long Can a Dog Wear a Shock Collar? for more on why it’s important to remove and adjust correction collars.

Other physical side effects would include damage to the vocal cords and gastrointestinal issues, but these side effects are unlikely if the device is used appropriately.

As far as psychological side effects, a shock collar can cause a dog to become anxious and stressed and can lead to aggression toward his owner, other people, and other dogs.  

However, as explained earlier, with proper training it’s unlikely that your dog will get any of these side effects.

Shock Collar Nerve Damage

Shock Collar Nerve Damage
This has the potential to harm the windpipe, nerves, and other tissues.

It is not proven scientifically that shock collars can cause nerve damage in a dog.

However, in more sensitive canine types there are other physical and psychological side effects, such as mentioned above. 

Before using a shock collar, talk to a professional, such as a professional trainer or your own vet.

They can help you determine if your dog is a good candidate for a shock collar or whether your dog may be a bit too delicate or too aggressive for this type of training.

Below are the most common causes of a seizure in a dog.

What Causes a Dog to Have a Seizure?

What Causes A Dog To Have A Seizure
Seizures can be caused by a variety of factors. Idiopathic epilepsy, the most common cause of seizures in dogs, is an inherited disorder with no known cause.

A seizure can be caused in an otherwise healthy brain when other physical problems present and can even be helpful in diagnosing health problems unrelated to epilepsy.  

A seizure is a single episode.

Epilepsy, on the other hand, is a chronic condition marked by two or more seizures more than 24 hours apart. Two seizures within 24 hours are not necessarily epilepsy.

The most common causes of seizures are as follows:

  • Epilepsy
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • Ingesting poison, such as caffeine or chocolate
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Infectious diseases, such as rabies
  • Heartworms
  • Diabetes
  • Tumors
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Head injury
  • Brain Cancer

This is not an exhaustive list.

If your dog has had a seizure, talk to your vet about the possibility that your dog may have epilepsy. Then he can move on to other possible problems.  

If your dog has ever had a seizure it is best to not use a shock collar for training purposes.

What are the Signs of a Seizure in a Dog?

What Are The Signs Of A Seizure In A Dog
Collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth are all symptoms.

A dog may show signs of confusion, not be able to walk straight, or seem dazed if a seizure is on its way.

To know if your dog is having a seizure look for these signs:

  • Muscle twitching, stiffening, or jerking
  • Biting, chewing tongue
  • Drooling, foaming at the mouth
  • Losing control of the bladder or defecating
  • Falling down and making paddling motions as if running or swimming
  • Losing consciousness

After the seizure, he may be disoriented, and maybe run in circles. He may also be unsure on his feet, even bumping into things, or even be temporarily blind.

You may wonder if there is something you can do to help your dog when he is having a seizure.

While it is very unpleasant to watch, your dog will most likely not hurt himself during a seizure. To be sure, it is a good idea to remove furniture out of his way.

A seizure in your dog can be traumatic for you as a pet owner, but they are fairly common without leaving lasting effects.  

Types of Seizures in Dogs

There are 3 types of seizures in dogs.

1. Focal Seizure

This type of seizure is localized to one side of the body, sometimes one limb, and can last only a few seconds or lead to a generalized seizure.

2. Generalized or Grand Mal Seizure

This is the most common seizure and affects both sides of the brain. It can last a few seconds or several minutes.

Many times it leads to loss of consciousness, and it affects the whole body.

Although this is the most intense type of seizure it does not usually harm the dog in the long term. 

3. Psychomotor Seizure

This can appear as a dog exhibiting odd behavior, such as chasing his tail. It signals a seizure if the dog behaves the same way each time it happens.

What Dogs are More Likely to Have a Seizure?

Are There Certain Breeds Of Dogs That Are More Likely To Have A Seizure
Although any dog can have a seizure, border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds are more prone to it.

Seizures are, for the most part, due to genetics.

Some popular large breeds of dogs that are most susceptible to seizures are:

  • Saint Bernards
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs

Some small to midsize breeds also susceptible to seizures would include:

  • Beagles
  • Poodles
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Keeshonds

If you are unsure if your breed of dog is prone to seizures talk to a breeder.

Just as with humans, seizures can be treated with medication.

Are you still uncomfortable with the idea of using a shock collar? Below we will show you step-by-step training for your dog so you can ensure he does not have a seizure.

How to Train a Dog with a Shock Collar

How To Train A Dog With A Shock Collar
To reinforce the desired behavior, use treats, specific words, and the shock collar.

Shock collars, also known as e-collars or computer collars, have a number of settings, ranging from a tingle to a more noticeable shock.  

Shock collars were first used in the 1960s for training hunting dogs, and they had one setting: painful.

Thankfully, shock collars have come a long way since then.

Regardless of improvement, the aim is to find the setting that best gets your dog’s attention without causing him fear or pain.  

Be Sure your Dog Knows Basic Commands 

Before training your dog with an invisible fence collar or training collar he must know the fundamentals, such as sit, stay, come, heel, etc.

If he does not understand basic commands he may be confused, and the training process could prove long and grueling. 

Let your Dog Get Accustomed to the Collar

It may take time for your dog to get used to the collar, and it may feel uncomfortable at first. This is especially true with puppies. 

Let him wear the collar when he is not training, around the house, or out for a walk.

If you add new commands before he is ready for them you and he both may get frustrated.

Use the Correct Setting on the Collar

Show your dog the fence boundary or give him the desired command.

Starting at the bottom setting, work your way up. Stop at the very moment you get your dog’s attention.  

He could stare straight ahead, cock his head, or perk his ears. You will most likely know when he is listening. 

Not sure how to change the setting on your dog’s collar? Here’s a guide on How to Change Frequency On Invisible Fence Collar (it’s easier than you think!)

Praise your Dog

When he first stays within his boundary or obeys a command be sure to tell him he is a good boy or toss him a treat.

Reward him each time he gets it right. Soon you may be able to only give him a command and he will obey without prompting.

Here’s a thorough video to take you through the process and training for an Underground Fence: 

Final Thoughts

Seizures are fairly common in dogs, but shock collars are unlikely to cause seizures with proper use and training. 

Has your dog had a seizure, or do you own a breed of dog that is prone to seizures?

If so, due to the risk, you may instead opt for a traditional fence or another form of training.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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