Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Our Rock Hill veterinary neurologists see cats that are experiencing seizures for a variety of reasons ranging from diabetes to poisoning (although sometimes no cause can be determined). If your cat is having seizures here is what you need to know.
Seizures & Epilepsy in Cats
Idiopathic epilepsy is a common inherited condition in dogs, but is not typically seen in cats. In fact, seizures in cats are much more rare and rather than being an inherited condition tend to be due to disease within the cat's brain.
Epilepsy is a condition in cats that is characterized by recurrent seizures, which means that a cat that experiences a single seizure does not have epilepsy.
Causes of Epileptic Seizures in Cats
The causes of epileptic seizures can be down to issues within the cat's brain (intracranial causes) or elsewhere in the cat's body (extracranial causes), and will fall into one of a number of categories.
Some of the most common causes of seizures from within the cat's brain are structural diseases such as a tumor, inflammation of the brain, an infection (encephalitis), brain malformation, stroke or head trauma. If you cat is experiencing seizures due to intracranial causes they may also show other symptoms such as lethargy, unsteadiness, restlessness, or circling.
Seizures diagnosed as primary epilepsy are due to functional problems in the brain rather than a structural issues. This means that there is a chemical imbalance within the brain between the excitatory and inhibitory signals. Cats with primary epilepsy often begin having seizures in young adulthood.
When the cause of a cat's seizures is due to conditions outside of the brain either poisons or metabolic diseases are generally to blame.
Reactive Epileptic Seizures
If the cat's brain is healthy, seizures can be caused as a reaction to poisons and toxins or to changes in blood composition due to metabolic conditions such as liver and kidney disease or diabetes. If the cause of a cat's seizure is due to exposure to a toxin there is typically only a single seizure unless exposure is recurring.
Symptoms of Seizures in Cats
Seizures in cats typically only last a couple of minutes although in some cases animals can experience cluster seizures where there are multiple seizures over the course of a few hours or a few days. The types of symptoms your cat may display if they are having a seizure will depend upon whether the seizure is generalized or partial.
- The signs of a partial seizure include peculiar behavior, abnormal posture, unusual vocalizations, twitching or drooling.
- Generalized seizures often (but not always) begin with behavioral changes followed by symptoms such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, chewing, twitching, salivating, urination and defecation.
Diagnosis & Treatment
When it comes to seizures in cats, diagnoses is essential due to the many possible causes. Diagnostic testing may include blood tests, urinalysis, spinal fluid testing, x-rays, MRI or CT scans.
The goal of testing and diagnosis is to pinpoint the underlying cause of your cat's seizures in order to determine the best possible treatment for your cat's condition.
Treating seizures in cat's is important because the seizures can cause further brain damage, often leading to more severe seizures and other health complications. The treatment recommended for your cat will be focused on addressing the underlying cause of your cat's seizures. In cases where there is no treatment available for the underlying cause, or the cause remains unknown, anti-convulsant medication may be prescribed.
Patience will be essential when beginning treatment for cat's with epilepsy since it can take some time to determine the best medication and the best dosage for your cat.
Successful treatment of epilepsy is a reduction in the number of seizures, and their severity rather than a complete absence of seizures. Total prevention is rarely achieved, however even with occasional seizures your cat can go on to have a good quality of life.
Ongoing Treatment of Cats With Epilepsy
If your cat is diagnosed with epilepsy they will need to continue taking medication for life, and it's important that pet parents follow a few key rules:
- It is essential to always follow dosage and timing instructions on your cat's medications. Timing of medication is an important element in the successful treatment of seizures.
- Do not run out of medication. The sudden withdrawal of these medications can cause uncontrollable seizures.
- Always keep these medications in a safe place where children and other animals cannot reach.
- Consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any other medications or supplements in order to avoid any drug interactions.