Seizures in Dogs and Cats
Seizures in dogs and cats are abnormal and unusually strong bursts of electrical activity within the brain. Understandably, it can be extremely distressing to see your own four-legged family member experience a seizure. Southeast Veterinary Neurology is well-equipped to help you know the signs of a seizure, why your pet is having them, and how we can treat them so your pet can return to a normal life.
What Does a Seizure Look Like?
Viewer discretion advised. The video at left shows a dog having a seizure. By sharing this footage, we hope that people can better recognize what seizures look like and take the appropriate actions to treat them.
Viewer discretion advised. The video below shows a dog having a seizure. By sharing this footage, we hope that people can better recognize what seizures look like and take the appropriate actions to treat them.
Symptoms of a seizure can include the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Collapsing/laying down
- Paddling the legs uncontrollably
A seizure can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.
Why Do Seizures Happen?
The cause of your pet’s seizures could be due to:
- A problem that occurs outside of the brain but still affects the brain (such as low blood sugar, poisons or toxins, low blood calcium, or liver problems)
- Structural issues in the brain (tumors, strokes, brain swelling, head trauma, infection)
- Idiopathic epilepsy*, where there is no underlying cause (such as tumors or other conditions).
*Idiopathic epilepsy is common in dogs. Often, dogs with idiopathic epilepsy appear perfectly normal and healthy between seizures and will show nothing unusual during their neurological exam.
What to Do When Your Pet Has a Seizure
If you’re seeing your pet have a seizure for the first time, do your best to stay calm. Keep your hands away from their mouth; they could unknowingly bite you. Give Southeast Veterinary Neurology a call right away, and we'll tell you what you need to do.
Is your pet having a seizure or have they had one recently? We want to help.
Our Step-Wise Approach to Diagnosing Seizures
- First, we take a detailed account of your pet’s seizure episodes. We want to know:
- When the episodes happen
- How long they last
- What your pet was doing before, during, and after the episode
- How frequently the episodes happen
- Second, a thorough physical exam and neurological exam help us narrow down the list of possible causes and shed light on coexisting issues that may or may not be contributing to your pet’s seizures.
- We need to do baseline blood and urine testing and chest and abdominal X-rays. These preliminary tests help us rule out certain causes and prepare your pet for anesthesia, which will be needed for their MRI and CSF analysis.
- If we haven’t found a cause, or if your pet had an abnormal neurological exam, we might suggest advanced testing. High-field MRI helps us identify structural problems in the brain such as tumors, strokes, and swelling. A CSF analysis/spinal tap can also reveal problems.
Treating Your Pet's Seizures
There are multiple medical options for treating seizures in dogs and cats, depending on their underlying cause. These include medications for treating the underlying cause itself, and controlling the severity, frequency, and duration of the seizures. Please reach out to one of our locations for more information, and to request a consultation with a veterinary neurologist.