210 Pinebush Rd., at the corner of Pinebush & Franklin.

Seizures in dogs and cats: Signs, Causes, Tests, Treatment

June 16th, 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

Witnessing your precious pet have a seizure for the very first time is upsetting and terrifying. I can relate, because my daughter had a seizure when she was in grade school and I have owned two dogs that have had seizures. Luckily Emi outgrew hers (she had Rolandic Epilepsy), and my dogs only had them on occasion.Although they look horrible, seizures are not always an indication of terrible things to come. Some pets have seizures that are mild and infrequent.

There are many different causes of seizures; they are not all “epilepsy”.

To help your veterinarian diagnose the cause of the seizure properly, it is important to note all the things that happened during the seizure. Did your pet start with twitching in one part of the body and then it became generalized to the entire body or did it remain in just one muscle? How long did it last? Did your pet act differently before or after the seizure? Did your pet lose consciousness or was it aware that you were there? Did it salivate and chomp its teeth, did it fall on its side and paddle as if it’s riding a bicycle, did it urinate or defaecate during the episode?  Could your dog or cat have gotten into anything?

I was taught to think of the causes of seizures as originating from either inside the brain or from outside the brain. Some things outside of the brain that might cause a seizure include certain poisons and certain diseases of the organs. For example, mouldy garbage, slug bait, and rotting walnuts can cause seizures in dogs and cats. We can also see episodes due to disturbances in blood sugar or calcium, and with liver and kidney disease.Diseases inside the brain that can cause seizures in dogs can include strokes, infection, cancer, migrating parasites, and inflammatory disease of no known cause.

Testing is important to help differentiate between all of these causes. The veterinarian will most certainly want to run bloodwork to rule out conditions outside of the brain, and also to have a baseline to compare future tests to. If the seizures are recurring, and the doctor does not suspect epilepsy, referral to a neurologist and special testing including an MRI are a good idea.

Epilepsy occurs in certain breeds of dogs and cats, and is usually first seen when the patient is between six months and five years of age. If an animal has a seizure younger than that or older than that, then it is very unlikely to be Idiopathic Epilepsy.  Epilepsy is a diagnosis of exclusion; in other words, we run tests and if they are all negative, then it is probably epilepsy. The cause of epilepsy is unknown.

Not every patient who has had a seizure needs to be medicated. Usually if the seizures are less often than once every two months, medication is not needed at all. However, if they are more frequent than that, or if a patient has several in a day (referred to as clusters), or if the seizures last more than a minute or two (status epilepticus), then medication is indicated. Status epilepticus and clusters are an emergency. A single seizure is not, but the pet should still see a vet that day.

There are several different medications that can be used to control seizures. Most of them have side effects but these are manageable. Your veterinarian will go over the pros and cons of each medication and decide which one is best for your pet. Regular bloodwork to make sure your pet is on the right dose and to monitor for side effects is a very important part of managing the disease.
Author:  Dr. Louise Langlais, D.V.M.

Post a Comment