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Seizures & Convulsions

Seizures and convulsions are scary for pet owners to watch, and they can result in serious injuries in a cat or dog who has lost muscle control due to the seizure.

Seizures & Convulsions

Convulsions and seizures cause the dog’s body muscles to contract and relax rapidly.

Although they are not typically life-threatening, the dog will lose control of its body, which can be frightening. It is best to see a veterinarian right away for a diagnosis.

It is difficult to determine the underlying cause in many cases, but frequent recurrences are normally termed as epilepsy.

Is a seizure dangerous?

Seizures can be dangerous if they last too long or if too many occur in a short period of time. In general, you should seek immediate emergency veterinary attention if your pet has a seizure and:

  • This is your pet’s first or,

  • It lasted five minutes or longer or,

  • Your pet has had three or more within a 24-hour period.

What causes seizures?

  • Problems outside of the brain include low blood sugar, electrolyte changes, toxins, bufo toad toxicity, or liver failure.

  • Problems inside the brain include malformations, inflammation (encephalitis), stroke, tumor, cancer, or infection.

  • Idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy in pets is a genetic predisposition. In general, epileptic dogs tend to have their first seizure between 1 and 5 years of age. They have a normal neurological exam and are completely normal in between episodes. Epilepsy is diagnosed by ruling out all other causes of seizures; there is no definitive test for epilepsy. Epilepsy in cats is EXTREMELY rare. If your cat has a seizure, further testing is strongly recommended.

Types of tests required to help with diagnosis and treatment:

Our veterinarians can discuss with you which cause(s) are most likely to cause your pet’s seizures after performing a complete neurological exam.

Routine bloodwork (complete blood count and chemistry profile) can be used to evaluate a patient for a cause outside of the brain. Blood tests for infectious diseases may be recommended to screen your pet for infections that may affect the nervous system.

An MRI or other advanced forms of diagnostic imaging is the only way to look for causes of seizures that come from inside the brain. This test requires general anesthesia and is usually accompanied by a cerebrospinal fluid analysis to evaluate the fluid surrounding the brain for microscopic evidence of disease.

How are seizures treated in dogs and cats?

Seizures in the hospital are treated with anti-convulsant medications administered during a seizure. At home, seizures are treated with daily medications to minimize the number, minimize their severity, and decrease the likelihood that a patient will have multiple (cluster) seizures.

There are many medications available to treat seizures, and your veterinarian will discuss which medication(s) are the best fit for your pet. If your pet has seizures, please keep a seizure diary of the date, length of seizure, and length of the post-ictal phase so that our emergency veterinarians can assess your pet’s response to treatment.