Seizures in Dogs and Cats

When our pets have seizures, it can be very frightening, for both pets and their owners! Seizures are a symptom of brain disease, just like coughing can be thought of as a symptom of respiratory disease. When seizures arise, the brain has abnormally organized electrical activity that prevents normal brain function. These abnormal electrical events can interfere with almost any important brain function including movement. The other important functions can also be altered, including the regulation of normal eliminations, movement, blood circulation, behavior, and perception.

The appearance of a seizure varies depending on the part of the brain which has abnormal electrical activity. When seizures involve regions of the brain controlling movement, the result is uncoordinated, spastic movements called convulsions. Convulsive seizures are particularly concerning because they can cause dangerous elevations in body temperature or traumatic injury.

Loss of function in other brain regions can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include unconsciousness, uncontrolled urination, or temporary blindness. Sudden behavioral changes such as barking, disorientation, and excitability sometime occur around the time of a seizure. These behavioral changes may even arise several hours prior to seizure onset. Between seizure episodes, a dog or cat may appear and act completely normal, especially when medicated.

Epilepsy is one of the more common causes of seizures, and may be treated with one of many safe and effective medications. Most epileptic seizure patients will require monitoring of both medication levels and organ function. Effective medication should reduce both the severity and the frequency of seizure episodes. Medications are selected based on their efficacy, side effect profile, and cost.

Causes of non-epileptic seizures include many diverse conditions affecting the brain or its function. Metabolic imbalances, cancer, brain infections, head trauma, and toxin exposure can all potentially cause seizures. Blood tests can help rule out common causes of non-epileptic seizures. In rare cases, advanced imaging such as magnetic resonance (MR) or computed tomography (CT) can be helpful. Due to the cost of advanced imaging (MR or CT) and spinal fluid analysis, these diagnostics are only recommended if a dog or cat may have treatable, non-epileptic seizures originating primarily from the brain.

Veterinarian for Dog and Cat Seizures

Fortunately, most seizures and their underlying causes can be treated. In contrast, untreated seizures can result in further brain disease or damage to other organs. Treatments for seizures can include anticonvulsants and/or medications for a related illness that affects the brain.

What To Do If Your Pet Seizures

If your pet is actively having a seizure, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Avoid handling or going near your pet’s mouth. Unfortunately, animals having a seizure are disoriented; they often bite and may accidentally harm you. If you think that you have seen a seizure-like episode, but are not sure, please call a member of our Veterinary Hospital as soon as possible. Such episodes will usually recur, and may be associated with other serious health problems. Isolated, short duration seizures can often be treated by your Veterinarian.

Halleck Wrigley VMD