Witnessing a seizure in a dog or cat can be very distressing for all involved. Seizures can either be generalised (where the animal appears unconscious with generalised muscle twitches or rigidity, salivation or foaming from the mouth, eye flickering, often accompanied by urination and defecation); or partial, (where the animal appears conscious, although potentially with altered awareness, and demonstrates involuntary movements such as facial tics or focal muscle twitches).

Seizures may have a number of causes, including but not limited to:

  • Toxins such as snail bait or brunfelsia (yesterday, today and tomorrow), or use of certain topical dog tick preventatives in cats (cats are sensitive to the active ingredient, permethrin, in many dog tick preventatives)
  • Low blood calcium
  • Low blood glucose
  • High blood potassium
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Thiamine deficiency
  • Head trauma
  • Intra-cranial vascular injury (‘stroke’)
  • Brain mass or tumour
  • Malformation of brain or skull
  • Meningitis
  • Idiopathic epilepsy

As you can see there are a lot of causes of seizures!

Seizures often have 3 phases:

Pre-ictal: prior to the seizure the dog or cat may displayed altered behaviour such as increased nervousness, hiding or owner seeking behaviour.

Ictal: The time when the seizure or seizures are occurring.

Post Ictal: During the time after the seizure there is usually a period of time where they may appear dazed or lethargic, wobbly on their feet, prone to aimless wandering or pacing, or temporarily blind. This period may last from a few minutes to a few days.

If you witness your dog or cat having a seizure:

  • Ensure your pet is in a ‘safe’ area where they are unlikely to hurt themselves by falling off or into something, or knocking something on to themselves etc.
  • Ideally take note of the time the event started and how long it continues.
  • If you need to handle or move your pet use towels/gloves/blankets/boxes or crates to avoid getting injured yourself.
  • If the seizure continues for more than 5 minutes or if several seizures in a row are noted contact your vet They are likely to recommend that you bring your pet in as soon as possible for examination.

What can you expect from your vet:

  • If your pet is still seizuring when they arrive at the vet he or she is likely to be taken through for emergency stabilisation which may include oxygen therapy, placement of an intravenous catheter and administration of medication to stop the seizure. It is likely that you will be moved to an area away from your pet to allow the veterinary staff to concentrate on their care. A staff member will then spend time collecting information from you about any previous illnesses or seizure activity, potential exposure to toxins and other relevant history.
  • If this is the first time your pet has had a seizure, if the seizure has been going on for a protracted time, or if the seizure duration or pattern has changed from previous episodes your vet is likely to recommend blood testing to check organ function and electrolyte and glucose levels.
  • If a toxin is suspected your veterinarian will discuss specific treatment such as decontamination to reduce further toxin absorption.
  • If meningitis is suspected your veterinarian may recommend a spinal tap and spinal fluid assessment.
  • If intra-cranial disease such as a brain tumour or mass is suspected your vet may discuss referral to a facility with access to an MRI.
  • Your pet may need hospitalisation for a period of time for observation. Sometimes this may involve referral to a specialist or emergency veterinary clinic.

If toxins and metabolic diseases are ruled out as causes of seizuring your veterinarian may discuss anti-seizure medication to reduce the number and severity of episodes.
Medication is often recommended if:

  • Your pet is having seizures more than once a month
  • Your pet is having clusters of seizures
  • Generalised seizures are lasting for a prolonged time

There are a variety of anti-seizure medications that may be used in cats and dogs. Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a management program. Often medication adjustments will be required over time, based on response to therapy. Routine blood monitoring and physical examinations will be required (at least every 6 months). Once started lifelong medication administration is usually required.

For further information please contact us on 4362 1644