When something is wrong with your pet, it can be very scary. Seizures in particular are something that most pet owners find themselves in a panic over, and for good reason. Witnessing a seizure is frightening!
By explaining how to recognize them and what to do for your pet, Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital hopes to make seizures in pets a little less panic-inspiring.
Not Just Shaking
When a pet has a seizure, it is because something is affecting the brain abnormally. A seizure is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. Because there are lots of different causes for seizures and many ways that the brain can be abnormal, not all seizures look alike.
When most people think of seizures, they think of a typical grand mal seizure in which the pet loses consciousness and experiences full body trembling. However this is not always the case.
The main types of seizures in pets include:
Focal – Focal seizures affect only a small part of the brain and may affect only certain body parts or functions.
Generalized – The more classically thought of seizure, generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain and feature involuntary jerking and twitching of the whole body with loss of consciousness.
Focal with secondary generalization – Over the course of time focal seizures may progress to generalized seizures.
Recognizing Seizures in Pets
If your pet has a seizure, it may be difficult to know what is happening, especially initially or if the seizure is not generalized. While not all seizure activity in pets looks the same, they often have one or more of the following symptoms:
- A period prior to the seizure in which the pet acts abnormally (an aura)
- Lying on the side during generalized seizures
- Chomping of the jaw
- Involuntary urination or defecation
- Twitching of a certain body part
- Staring into space
- A postictal period in which the pet is confused or disoriented for several hours afterwards
Seizure activity often occurs when the pet is at rest or sleeping and may last just a few seconds up to a few minutes. Rarely, pets may enter status epilepticus in which active seizure activity lasts longer than five minutes or the pet is not able to fully recover between repeat seizures. This is an emergency situation.
What to Do
The most important thing to do for a seizing pet is to ensure that they’re in a safe place where they cannot fall or injure themselves. Please be sure to keep your hands and face away from your pet’s mouth as there may be involuntary action of the jaws.
The next thing to do is to start timing your pet’s seizure. In the moment, a seizure can feel like it is ongoing for an eternity, but knowing how long the active phase of a seizure lasts can help you know when to take further action. Video of the episode can further assist in getting an accurate diagnosis.
If this is the first time your pet has had a seizure, the next thing you want to do is call us. Seizures can occur for many reasons, including:
- Metabolic disorders
- Infectious disease
- Idiopathic (no known cause)
We need to rule out any treatable cause for the problem. If we cannot diagnose the cause of the seizure, we will often begin close monitoring for increased intensity or frequency. Depending on the seizures, some pets may be started on anticonvulsant therapy.
Your pet definitely needs to be seen right away if there are more than two seizures in a 24 hour period or if the seizure is lasting five or more minutes.
Seizures in pets can be a very scary thing, but please know that we are here to help. If you think your pet may have had a seizure or have any concerns at all, please let us know. Your pet is our priority.