What to Do About Seizures in Dogs and Cats

Some animals suffer from health conditions that can be alarming – to say the least. Seizures are unusual or abnormal bursts of electricity in an animal’s brain that cause strange or compulsive behavior. It’s important to know if your pet is likely to have a seizure, and what actions to take when/if they do.

1. In General

The types of seizure vary widely, and if an animal has a seizure it is usually caused by other health factors. The different types of seizures or conditions include:

  • Psychomotor Seizure – seizures that cause strange or unusual behavior (lasts a short period of time).
  • Focal Seizure – unusual movement of a limb of a certain part of an animal’s body caused by the electrical activity in the brain.
  • Generalized Seizure (Grand Mal Seizure) – causes the animal to lose consciousness and convulse for a short amount of time.
  • Cluster Seizure – an instance where your animal has two or more seizures in 24 hours.
  • Idiopathic Epilepsy – a condition where seizures occur for an unknown reason.
  • Epilepsy – a disorder in the brain that causes recurrent seizures.
  • Narcolepsy-Cataplexy – a condition where the animal falls asleep suddenly for a few minutes. When awake, the animal acts normal.

If you are not sure, take a look at this list of symptoms to see if your animal may suffer from seizures:

  • Muscle Contractions
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Weak Pulse
  • Fainting
  • Swelling of the Brain

2. Dogs

Learn More About Seizures in Dogs

Photo by Adrian Fallace/ CC BY-ND

Dogs are more likely to have a seizure than cats. Because of this, it is important to take notice of any unusual activity and visit the vet often.

  • Seizures Common for Dogs
    • Psychomotor
    • Generalized Seizure (Grand Mal Seizure)
    • Focal
    • Idiopathic – this is most common in dogs that are 6 months to 6 years old.
  • Causes of Seizures in Dogs
    • Poison (rodent, chemicals, insecticides)
      • Check out this article on things at home that could poison your pet.
    • Liver/Kidney Failure or Disease
    • Low or High Blood Sugar
    • Electrolyte Problem
    • Anemia
    • Head Injury/Trauma
    • Encephalitis
    • Strokes
    • Brain Cancer
  • Breeds Most Common to Have Seizures
    • Border Collies
    • Australian Shepherds
    • Labrador Retrievers
    • Beagles
    • Belgian Tervurens
    • Collies
    • German Shepherds

3. Cats

Cats (while less likely to have seizures) are still at risk. Talk to your vet if you think your cat is having seizures, and describe any odd behavior to them. Also be aware that other things – such as bee stings – can cause shock or collapse.

  • Seizures Common for Cats
    • Psychomotor – in cats, this can be identified by strange behavior such as rage or hysteria. Felines might lick or chew themselves or scratch and bite.
    • Narcolepsy-Cataplexy – when your cat suddenly falls asleep, you can wake them by a loud noise or petting them.
    • Epilepsy
  • Causes of Seizures in Cats
    • Poison (rodent, chemicals, insecticides)
      • Check out this article on things at home that could poison your pet.
    • Head Injury/Trauma
    • Kidney/Liver Failure or Disease
    • Tumors
    • Hypoglycemia

4. In Case of Seizure

  • Call the Vet for More Information about Seizures in Dogs and Cats

    Photo by Ilmicrofono Ogglono/ CC BY

    Stay Calm. The least helpful thing to do in this situation is panic. Act with caution and brevity, but keep a cool head.

  • Safety Precautions.
    • You – Avoid proximity of the animal’s mouth and head. Both dogs and cats have been known to bite in the midst of a seizure. (Also, do not try to put anything in your pet’s mouth.)
    • Your Pet – If you can, try to move your pet away from an object that could harm them such as sharp objects, furniture or stairs.
  • Calm Your Pet.
    • Pet Them – Only if you are sure your pet will not bite or scratch you, try to pet them and speak in soothing tones. Especially after the seizure has passed, your pet will need reassurance. It is just as scary for them as it is you.
    • Cover Your Cat – Try putting a blanket over your cat to help them settle down during the seizure.
  • Time the Seizure. It might be hard to remember, but it will be important to know how long the seizure lasts. Seizures over 5 minutes are very dangerous, and you should either call your vet or take them to the vet.
    • Keep Dogs Cool – If your dog has been having a seizure for 4 minutes or more, they could overheat, which can lead to labored breathing or brain damage. Try pointing a fan in their direction, and dipping their paws in cool water. As we mentioned before, call your vet when/if this happens.
  • Call Vet. If the seizure has passed in a few minutes, call your vet immediately. They will be able to analyze your problem and help your pet accordingly.

While pet seizures are a frightening experience, it is a great thing to know what to do in the midst of it. This knowledge could even save your pet’s life! If you have any further questions or concerns about seizures in pets, call your vet to get additional information.

What is something you keep in mind for a pet emergency?

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