Seizure Disorders in Cats

Overview of Feline Seizure Disorders

A seizure or convulsion is a sudden excessive firing of nerves in the brain. It results in a series of involuntary contractions of the voluntary muscles, abnormal sensations, abnormal behaviors, or some combination of these events. A seizure can last from seconds to minutes in cats.

The severity of the seizure can vary between a far-away look or twitching in one part of the face to your cat falling on his side, barking, gnashing his teeth, urinating, defecating and paddling his limbs.

Seizures are symptoms of some neurological disorder – they are not in themselves a disease. Some underlying causes of seizures in cats include:

Seizures frequently are idiopathic, which means the cause cannot be determined. A diagnosis of seizure disorder does not mean nothing can be done for your pet.

There is no current accurate estimate of the incidence of seizure episodes in cats. Seizures occur in both males and females with equal frequency, and many pets have one seizure and never have another.

Components of a Cat Seizure

There are three components of a seizure:

Warning signs that require emergency veterinary attention:

What to do if your cat has a seizure:

What Happens After the Cat Seizure

Diagnosis of Seizure Disorders in Cats

Diagnostic tests are needed to determine the presence of an underlying disease or cause for the seizure disorder. Seizures for which an underlying cause cannot be determined after thorough diagnostic evaluation are called idiopathic. Tests may include:

Treatment of Seizure Disorders in Cats

Results of the history, physical examination and initial laboratory tests will determine the need for further diagnostic tests and will help determine the appropriate treatment for your pet’s seizure disorder. Treatment will be dictated by the underlying cause. When possible, the specific underlying cause of the seizure disorder should be treated.

Home Care for the Cat with Seizures

If your cat has a seizure, call your veterinarian promptly.

During a seizure, concentrate on observing the characteristics of the seizure while keeping him from harm. Do not attempt to open your cat’s mouth or manipulate his tongue – you may get bitten inadvertently. Protect your cat from injury by moving hazardous objects like furniture with sharp corners, or protecting him from falling down stairs. Loud or sharp noises may prolong or worsen the seizure. You may use a soft towel to gently help protect and comfort your cat.

After the seizure, give your cat sufficient time to recover from the seizure. Speak calmly and try to comfort your cat. Arrange to have your cat seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible after the seizure is over.

If the seizure episode lasts more than 10 minutes, you should arrange to be seen by your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian as soon as possible.

Preventative Care

Prevention is aimed at keeping your pet calm and safe. Avoid exposure to poisons and toxins that can cause seizures – do not allow your pet to roam unsupervised. Keep him in a safe environment for when a seizure does occur. Keep your pet in a fenced yard or on a leash when going for a walk.

Make sure your pet receives all of the appropriate vaccinations so as to prevent known infectious causes of seizures like distemper and rabies.

In-depth Information on Feline Seizures

Several different diseases may cause seizures. The term idiopathic epilepsy refers to a seizure disorder that has an unknown cause despite a thorough diagnostic evaluation. Treatment and prognosis (outcome) of seizures depend on their underlying causes.

The most common causes of seizures in young cats (less than 1 year) may include:

In cats that are greater than 5 years, the causes may include:

The most common cause of seizure in middle aged cats (between 1 and 5 years) is idiopathic epilepsy. However, it is commonly recommended that some of the above causes of seizures be ruled out with blood tests and sometimes imaging studies.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests are performed to identify underlying diseases that may be causing the seizures. Diagnostic tests may include:

Complete medical history and physical examination including neurological examination and ophthalmologic (eye) examination. Routine laboratory tests to evaluate the general health of your pet and to identify potential underlying causes of seizures, including the following:

The need for additional diagnostic tests is determined based on the results of the medical history, physical examination and initial laboratory tests. These tests may include:

Brain imaging consisting of either computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is more sensitive than CT for examining the brain but cost and availability may limit its use.

Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests based on the results of initial examinations. These tests may help diagnose other concurrent medical problems or allow your veterinarian to better understand the impact of the underlying disease on your pet. Such tests ensure optimal medical care and are selected on a case-by-case basis.

Treatment In-depth

Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. Seizures have many potential underlying causes, and the underlying cause should be identified before specific treatment can be recommended. Medication with anti-convulsant drugs will be recommended for patients with idiopathic epilepsy. Your veterinarian will determine if treatment is warranted, and if so, which specific medication is indicated.

Seizure medication usually controls the seizure disorder but does not eliminate seizures entirely. Identification and specific therapy for seizure disorder in your cat is the best treatment.

Drugs commonly used to treat pets with seizures include:

Follow-up Care for Cats with Seizures