Seizure Disorders

Seizures in dogs and cats may have a variety of underlying causes. Epilepsy results from a group or “focus” of abnormally discharging neurons in the brain that affects surrounding brain cells. When enough cells are affected a seizure occurs. Epileptic seizures range from mild (such as facial twitches) to severe (such as convulsions or “grand mal” seizures). Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs, but there is no specific test for epilepsy. A tentative diagnosis of epilepsy is made when exam, blood tests, radiographs, CT Scans or other tests have ruled out other causes for seizures.

Other causes of seizures (other than epilepsy) include:

  • Head Trauma or Neck Trauma (concussion, hemorrhage)
  • Canine Distemper Virus
  • Viral or Bacterial infections (encephalitis or meningitis)
  • Parasitic infections of the brain
  • Liver or kidney disorders
  • Other hormonal or metabolic disorders
  • Toxins (poison toads or lizards, strychnine, insecticides)
  • Hydrocephalus (congenital or acquired)
  • Valley Fever, Tick Fever and other infectious diseases
  • Brain Tumors
  • Many other conditions

Any dog or cat that has had a seizure should be examined by a veterinarian. If the animal has had only one known seizure, has recovered, and appears otherwise healthy, the veterinarian may recommend further testing or may elect to just observe the pet for additional or ongoing seizures. If more than one seizure has occurred, the veterinarian will probably recommend diagnostic testing of some type. It is important that an animal MAY BE HAVING SEIZURES THAT ARE NOT WITNESSED BY THE OWNER.

What To Do in the Event of a Seizure

  1. DO NOT put your hand in the animal’s mouth.
  2. Keep the animal safe from falling off furniture, down steps, or into the pool. Remove any dangerous or breakable objects from the area.
  3. As the seizure subsides, the pet will be disoriented for a period of time. He should be kept in a quiet place and allowed to recover on his own. Bright lights, loud noises, and busy activity around the animal should be avoided. Even petting or talking to the pet may be too much stimulation during this time.
  4. Watch for additional seizures. Animals that have 2 or more seizures close together (minutes or hours apart) should see a veterinarian immediately.
  5. Keep a record on your calendar of the date of each seizure. A veterinarian should be consulted if seizures are occurring more than once every 3 or 4 months.