Jan 21, 2020
Seizures are complex in that they can take various forms, have numerous possible causes, and may be a single occurrence or a lifelong condition. Our neurology department can tackle challenging seizure cases that may require specialized diagnostics or treatments. We are pleased to welcome to our staff board-certified veterinary neurologist Dr. Rachel Song who, in addition to medical seizure management, has experience in surgical treatment of seizure causes, which expands our treatment options for your pet.
A seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity in your pet’s cerebral cortex that begins in one spot and spreads to other brain areas. A seizure is not a disease, but a clinical sign of a medical condition affecting your pet. Seizures can cause frightening and disturbing behavior changes, especially the first time your pet is affected. Three seizure types affect pets:
Pets mostly suffer generalized seizures, which are characterized by three phases:
Epilepsy is a primary seizure disorder caused by chronic abnormal brain activity. Epilepsy commonly causes repeated seizures in pets; however, many other medical conditions can cause seizures, including:
Although it goes against your caring instincts, avoid touching your pet during a seizure, because stimulation could prolong its duration. Ensure she will not harm herself by bumping into nearby objects or falling down stairs, and quietly observe the seizure from a few feet away. Most seizures last less than one minute, and your pet should regain consciousness shortly after convulsions stop. During the postictal period, your pet may be disoriented, and may need help to prevent her from falling and bumping into things.
If this is your pet’s first seizure, or she has had previous seizures that were not evaluated by a veterinarian, contact your family veterinarian immediately. Some causes, such as toxicity or hypoglycemia, must be treated immediately to prevent further complications and possible death.
If your pet has a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes, or has more than two seizures in a 24-hour period, she should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. If your family veterinarian is closed, AESC’s emergency department is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Your veterinarian will start with a thorough physical exam, to detect any obvious abnormalities. He or she may also perform tests to help her reach a diagnosis, such as:
No specific test is available for epilepsy, and this diagnosis is typically made if no other seizure cause is identified.
Treatment will depend on your pet’s seizure cause. Seizures caused by toxicity or hypoglycemia require immediate treatment, but will resolve once the primary problem is treated. Some causes, such as a brain tumor or portosystemic shunt, require specialized surgical treatment, which our neurology department can provide. If your pet is diagnosed with epilepsy, she will require life-long medication to control her seizures. Although most pets can be well-controlled on medication, reaching a seizure-free state may not be possible, and determining the correct medications and doses your pet needs may take time.
If your pet has a seizure, consult your family veterinarian immediately. If she is unavailable, or has referred you to a veterinary neurologist for diagnostic testing or treatment, contact us.