We were not aware that seizure disorders are a pretty common disease in dogs. Or that you don't see it nearly as frequently in cats.
Typically if a cat has a seizure, Dr. E said, there's usually an underlying trigger. Only 5-10% of seizures that occur in cats have epilepsy as their root cause.
The process of identifying the cause of a seizure varies with a pet's age, we were told.
In a kitten or a young adult cat, initial suspects are going to be diseases such as toxoplasmosis, FIP or feline leukemia.
On the rare occasion that you find true epilepsy in a cat, it's usually going to be between the ages of 1 and 4.
With older pets, Dr E said, one of the first things to rule out would be brain tumors.
As with humans, one method used in diagnosis is to have the pet's head scanned, by getting either an MRI or a CT scan. And sometimes a diagnosis can be made by performing a Cereberal Spinal Fluid (or CSP) tap analysis.
Seizures can usually be placed in one of two categories:
- intracranial, where there's a mass, structural changes to the brain, or epilepsy
- extracranial, where the cause isn't originating up in the head - it's a byproduct of another disease that began elsewhere in the body, such as liver disease
What to do if your
pet suffers a seizure?
Doctor Eberhardy gave us three very good bits of advice to remember if a pet ever suffers a seizure:
Ensure your pet is in a safe area where he isn't in danger of falling and suffering additional injury. You may hesitate to handle a seizing animal for fear you'll cause additional harm but it's best to go ahead and move the pet to a safe place. (They aren't going to swallow their tongue, so there's no need to worry on that count.)
Calm yourself. Your pet is going to need you at your best when it's time to get to the emergency vet! The good news is that at first onset, seizures in animals are usually brief.
Transport your pet to your local veterinarian (or if the seizure occurred during off hours, the emergency vet) as soon as possible.
How is a pet treated
Although treatment will be dictated by the severity and frequency of the seizure disorder, the actual medications are often the same in animals as they are in humans. Drugs like phenobarbitol or diazepam are often prescribed. And they work in the same manner, too: the drug works to lower the seizure threshold.
And just as in humans, it can make your pet lethargic, too. So the prescription is often adjusted for each animal until you find the 'sweet spot': where it's enough to inhibit seizures while not adversely impacting your pet's mood or behavior.
When you begin treating a pet with anti seizure medication varies based on the animal's condition, the severity of the seizures, and their underlying cause. Comparatively, cats may be started on medication sooner than dogs even if there is a longer interval between seizures, as seizures in cats are relatively rare and often more serious.
Regardless, if your pet suffers a seizure, the best thing to do is seek medical help immediately.
Many thanks to Dr. Eberhardy for teaching us more about seizure disorders and epilepsy.
If you'd like to follow the stories of fellow bloggers whose pets have epilepsy, check out the links below:
Five Sibes: What's Wrong with Gibson the Husky? and