Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Medical: Epilepsy Awareness Month

Since November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good opportunity to examine what this disease is like in animals. So we interviewed Dr. Eberhardy at Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital about it.

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.

Andrew Morrell Photography / Foter / CC BY-ND
In a young adult dog, if the dog seemed perfectly normal before the seizure and appears normal in an exam after the seizure, then the diagnosis is most probably going to be epilepsy. And again, in dogs, there's probably a genetic predisposition for it.

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:

ViaMoi / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
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 
for epilepsy?

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


  1. Very informative. We are glad we no such worries but wish everyone with pets that do well. Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Replies
    1. Not as detailed as yours1 Still, we think it's important to raise awareness. Thanks!

  3. Our Nicky wasn't feeling well shortly after Autumn went OTRB. We took him to the vet in the morning and they couldn't find anything wrong. He was lethargic and panting when he arrived at the vet. By the time TW got home from work, he was walking around in a circle and didn't know where he was. He ate well and then around 10 pm started having seizures. Pop restrained him so he wouldn't hurt himself. He was rushed to an emergency pet where they put him in oxygen. Throughout the hour car ride, he would let out these piercing screams that TW still can't get out of her head. They wanted to keep him in oxygen all night so they could try to figure out what was wrong with him but TW decided to help him OTRB. She didn't think he'd have any quality of life if he survived. They said he could've be poisoned but he never went outside. TW blames the Swifter liquid that they used on the kitchen floor to clean it. He may have put his food on the floor. or walked through it. Sorry this is so long.

    1. Oh we're so very sorry you had to go through this! But you bring up an important point - "one-off" seizures could be a result of external sources like poisonous substances and if your pet has never had a seizure before, seek emergency help immediately.

  4. Thank you for such a great information. WE appreciate it.

  5. Thank you for sharing this important information, friends! Our angel cat Graphite had a few seizures when we was older, most likely due to a lesion on his brain stem. We sure miss that little guy.

    Hey, did you guys start decorating for Hanukkah yet??? :)

  6. Very good info, as always. Thanks xx

  7. Good news! We thank you very much for this information! Purrs..from the crew who love to learn at

  8. That was a great post and I immediately thought of Five Sibes.

  9. Thank you for such a great information. Me and my mom-person appreciate it !

  10. This was valuable info, thanks! It's not easy to stay calm in an emergency and recommend stopping for a moment to breathe and ground oneself.

  11. This is a great post and so glad to know such important information.

  12. I didn't know much about epilepsy in cats until reading about it here. Thank you for sharing this information.

  13. Thanks for doing the research on this. We didn't know much about the disease and especially in cats.

  14. Great info! Our friend's dog had epilepsy & he lived to a ripe old age. It sounds scarier in kitties :-(

  15. Wow, we never thought of that before, so thank you for all the great info & advice. Seizures are scary things and we hope never to have to deal with them.

  16. we know of epilepsy in dogs more than cats...but such great info...thank you so much Faraday, Allie and Maxwell...purrrss, Savannah

  17. We had a poodle when I was a kit....sweetheart dog. He had epilepsy. It was discovered after his first seizure. But he did absolutely great and lived to be 15. His name was Brandy. He was my daddy's sweetheart. Decades later, after my dad passed away, I was going through his things and found Brandy's collar and tag.
    xo, Glogirly

  18. This is such useful information. I hope I never have to deal with this, it is nonetheless, very good information to have.

  19. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this information!


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