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Seizures in Dogs and Cats

by | Nov 1, 2019

Both cats and dogs can experience seizures, though it is thought to be more prevalent in dogs, with 1% of all dogs being affected by a seizure. The younger the affected pet, the more severe the seizure disorder can be.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is an abnormal burst of electrical activity in the brain. Seizures are generally classified as structural, metabolic or idiopathic/genetic. Idiopathic epilepsy is by far the most common diagnosis.

What happens during a seizure?

The brain contains two types of electrical impulses – excitatory and inhibitory. Normally, there’s a constant ratio of excitatory to inhibitory impulses. In a pet experiencing a seizure, the excitatory impulses temporarily overwhelm the inhibitory impulses. A seizure can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

What causes a pet to have a seizure?

There are a variety of causes, including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Structural issues in the brain including tumors, stroke, head trauma and swelling in the brain
  • Bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections
  • Liver disease
  • Cervical subluxation, which can be triggered by constant tugging on a leash attached to a collar (a harness is a much safer alternative)
  • Certain drugs – even some topical flea and tick medications
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood calcium
  • Heat stroke
  • Vitamin B6 or taurine deficiency
  • Congenital malformation of the spinal cord or brain stem

In cats, seizures can be caused by certain sounds. Researchers from Davies Veterinary Specialists, International Cat Care (a cat welfare organization), and the University College of London, studied sound related seizure activity in 96 cats. They named this disorder Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures. They discovered that noises most likely to cause a seizure are:

  • Crinkling of aluminum foil, paper bags and plastic bags
  • Sound of a metal spoon hitting a ceramic bowl
  • Typing on a keyboard
  • Clinking of toys, keys or glass
  • Hammering a nail
  • The clicking of a human tongue

Types of seizures:

  • Petit mal seizure – the mildest type of seizure. It can be easily missed as it can present as an abnormal eye movement.
  • Grand mal seizure– an extreme seizure. It affects both sides of the brain and body.
  • Status epilepticus– a grand mal seizure that doesn’t resolve. It is a medical emergency, as breathing ceases and the pet can die. If a pet is experiencing a grand mal seizure and isn’t coming out of it, get to a veterinary ER immediately.
  • Focal Motor Seizures – more common in cats and small dogs. This type of seizure involves only part of the body. It can present as a twitch, cramp or small tremor. It can be easily overlooked.
  • Cluster seizures– these seizures occur several times a day.

What are some symptoms of a seizure?

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapse
  • Paddling/moving the legs uncontrollably

Can seizures be treated?

Holistic and integrative veterinarians often look to a more natural approach to help increase a pet’s seizure threshold and decrease the number of seizures. Herbs, acupuncture, supplements, nutraceuticals and Traditional Chinese Medicine are often considered.

In addition, a pilot study being conducted at Colorado State University to assess the use of CBD oil for dogs with epilepsy has promising results. It has found that 89% of dogs given CBD experienced a reduction in seizure frequency.

You can take an active role by keeping a journal of your pet’s seizures, which may help your veterinarian identify suspected triggers and patterns.

Seizures in Dogs and Cats

by | Nov 1, 2019

Both cats and dogs can experience seizures, though it is thought to be more prevalent in dogs, with 1% of all dogs being affected by a seizure. The younger the affected pet, the more severe the seizure disorder can be.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is an abnormal burst of electrical activity in the brain. Seizures are generally classified as structural, metabolic or idiopathic/genetic. Idiopathic epilepsy is by far the most common diagnosis.

What happens during a seizure?

The brain contains two types of electrical impulses – excitatory and inhibitory. Normally, there’s a constant ratio of excitatory to inhibitory impulses. In a pet experiencing a seizure, the excitatory impulses temporarily overwhelm the inhibitory impulses. A seizure can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

What causes a pet to have a seizure?

There are a variety of causes, including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Structural issues in the brain including tumors, stroke, head trauma and swelling in the brain
  • Bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections
  • Liver disease
  • Cervical subluxation, which can be triggered by constant tugging on a leash attached to a collar (a harness is a much safer alternative)
  • Certain drugs – even some topical flea and tick medications
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood calcium
  • Heat stroke
  • Vitamin B6 or taurine deficiency
  • Congenital malformation of the spinal cord or brain stem

In cats, seizures can be caused by certain sounds. Researchers from Davies Veterinary Specialists, International Cat Care (a cat welfare organization), and the University College of London, studied sound related seizure activity in 96 cats. They named this disorder Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures. They discovered that noises most likely to cause a seizure are:

  • Crinkling of aluminum foil, paper bags and plastic bags
  • Sound of a metal spoon hitting a ceramic bowl
  • Typing on a keyboard
  • Clinking of toys, keys or glass
  • Hammering a nail
  • The clicking of a human tongue

Types of seizures:

  • Petit mal seizure – the mildest type of seizure. It can be easily missed as it can present as an abnormal eye movement.
  • Grand mal seizure– an extreme seizure. It affects both sides of the brain and body.
  • Status epilepticus– a grand mal seizure that doesn’t resolve. It is a medical emergency, as breathing ceases and the pet can die. If a pet is experiencing a grand mal seizure and isn’t coming out of it, get to a veterinary ER immediately.
  • Focal Motor Seizures – more common in cats and small dogs. This type of seizure involves only part of the body. It can present as a twitch, cramp or small tremor. It can be easily overlooked.
  • Cluster seizures– these seizures occur several times a day.

What are some symptoms of a seizure?

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapse
  • Paddling/moving the legs uncontrollably

Can seizures be treated?

Holistic and integrative veterinarians often look to a more natural approach to help increase a pet’s seizure threshold and decrease the number of seizures. Herbs, acupuncture, supplements, nutraceuticals and Traditional Chinese Medicine are often considered.

In addition, a pilot study being conducted at Colorado State University to assess the use of CBD oil for dogs with epilepsy has promising results. It has found that 89% of dogs given CBD experienced a reduction in seizure frequency.

You can take an active role by keeping a journal of your pet’s seizures, which may help your veterinarian identify suspected triggers and patterns.

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