Epilepsy in Norwich Terriers?

Yes, we can not deny it; this disease exists in Norwich Terriers. Mostly in a very mild form. There are breeders they will call this mild form "Norwich cramp".

There are mild as well as severe seizures. Below some symptoms are listed which can show up alone or in combination:

  1. Stiffening of the hind leg/hind legs

  2. Swaying back and forth

  3. Paddling/rowing

  4. Toddling

  5. Muscle spasms (cramp)

  6. Fixed expression

  7. Arched back

  8. Elevated heartbeat

  9. Vomiting

  10. Salivation

  11. Urination

  12. Defecation

The dog stays mostly always conscious.

A seizure lasts normally 1 to 3 minutes, very

rarely up to 20 minutes, with the duration

corresponding to the severity of the seizure.

After the seizure has subsided, the dog reacts

absolutely normal, and does not show any

signs of „after-pains“. As far as I know, as of

today, this form of epilepsy does not have any condition-specific medical treatment available.

This form has an onset mostly in the third or forth year of the dog's life. In severe cases, it can already start with a nine-month old but sometimes even after the dog is eight years old.

The regularity of the seizures varies enormously. There are dogs that seized almost daily, and others every three to four month, or once a year, or even more rarely.

A definite rule when and why a seizure occurs is not easy to pinpoint but stress seams to be a trigger. Shortly before a dog starts with a seizure you may recognize that he is agitated. He mostly wants to be around you. At this time you will take the dog in your arms, cuddle him, or massage his tensed (cramping) muzzles and speak to him softly.

It is very important to take a seizing dog away from other dogs. Unfortunately, seizing dogs often get attacked by other dogs and will be severely bitten sometimes even to death.


Unfortunately there is no established therapy protocol for these seizures. But before you start a therapy, meet your veterinarian first. If the seizures are very mild, and do not appear often than you should not put your dog on any medication.

Here is a list of drugs that helped affected dogs: Vitamine E together with selenium, wheat germ oil, bananas, low protein food.

With severe seizures: Aphenylbarbit (agent: phenobarbital), Mysoline (agent: primidonum), Valium (agent: diazepamum), Dilantin (agent: Phenytoin).

Advice for breeders:

If you breed to a stud dog first ask the owner about epilepsy in the dogs line and hope that he knows and that he will answer that question with honesty.

Do not pair two young dogs in breeding, but a young dog to a four or better five year old bitch, or vice versa.


Some seizures are brought about by a traceable trigger, like trauma, tumor, drugs or other environmental factors.  It is essential to distinguish between those type of seizures, which by themselves are not inheritable, and idiopathic epilepsy, which is occuring spontaneously and is not linked to other diseases, or known environmental factors.  Idiopathic epilepsy has a genetic component.  Within idiopathic epilepsy, the seizures are classified according to their severity as either petit mal or grand mal seizures.

For further information please visit the Canine Epilepsy Research Center.

Another very good explanation about „Norwich Cramp“ you will find here...

Border Terriers seem to have something similar to what Norwichs have. Here two links to their site:



I am very interested in any cases of seizures in Norwich Terriers, names of dogs, photos or even better videos. Thank you for your cooperation.

This is a summary of different articles from the English, German and American Club Newsletters as well as conversations with owners of affected dogs.

I would like to thank Magda Omansky for helping me with the English translation.

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© H.Gisin 10/2008

Here you see a 7 years old Norwich bitch having a mild seizure that lasted about 3 minutes. Mainly her right hind leg is affected having a spasmodical stiffness. The bitch is not having any pain and was absolutely normal after the seizure.

This dog was not held because of the videoing. Normally you would take the dog in your arms massage the limb and talk quietly.

To view this video you need the free program QuickTime