Seizures in dogs or cats happen as a result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. They can range from mild tremors or twitches (partial seizures) to full-blown seizures. Seizures can be quite alarming if they occur in your pet, however they are not always a sign of something sinister.
Some of the more common causes of seizures in dogs and cats are:
- Hypoglycemia (Low blood sugar)
- Brain tumors
- Inflammatory disease of the brain
- Head trauma
- Toxin ingestion
A full-blown seizure usually means that the animal is on its side, paddling its legs. The animal is usually unaware if its surroundings during this time and may not respond to its name. There may be loss of bladder or bowel control, and/or vomiting. Particularly with respect to epileptic seizures, there may be a pre-ictal (before the seizure) and a post-ictal (after the seizure) phase. During these times, the pet’s behavior will be noticeably different, and may include restlessness, agitation, aggression, excessive affection or depression.
If your pet is having a seizure, it is very important to stay away from its mouth due to the risk of being accidentally bitten. Once the seizure has finished, ensure your pet is in a place where it can safely recover. If the seizure is prolonged, lasting more than a few minutes, or if the pet is having repeated seizures over a few hours, it should be carefully taken to the vet as an emergency.
The first steps your vet will take to diagnosing the cause of seizures will be aimed at trying to obtain a history from you, the owner. The vet may suggest blood tests, a neurological exam and imaging such as an MRI or CT scan. If the cause is epilepsy, long term medication will help reduce or control the seizures in the majority of cases.