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Seizures in your Pet

Seizures are not an uncommon occurrence in both dogs and cats. Witnessing your family friend having a seizure can be a very frightening thing. Most seizures last less than two minutes, however, when you are watching they seem significantly longer.


A single short seizure is rarely life threatening. A pet that has had a single seizure may never have another one or they may start to have them on a more frequent basis.   Unfortunately, we are unable to predict a pets’ future seizure frequency or severity.


Grand mal (whole body) seizures are the most common form of seizures in small animals. The entire body is involved in the seizure. Your pet may lie on their side, paddle, urinate, defecate and be unaware of your presence.


Some animals have partial seizures (petit mal) where only part of their body is affected. One limb or one portion of the body will tremor or exhibit profound weakness during a partial seizure.


Seizures can be symptoms of more serious disease. Therefore, any pet that seizures should be evaluated by your veterinarian.


There are many causes of seizures in pets but most can be divided into three categories. The first category of causes is diseases within the brain. These include brain tumors, trauma and infections. The second category is metabolic or situations outside the brain. Low blood sugar, toxins, thyroid disease and liver disease are all on that list. Most young adult animals that start to have seizures fall into the third category. These appear to be healthy animals and no cause for the seizure activity can be found. These pets are classified as having epilepsy.


We will examine your pet after their first seizure and perform a full physical, bloodwork and a urinalysis as the first diagnostic test. Based on your pets’ history, age, physical exam and lab results, your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostics such as a cerebrospinal tap, CT scan or MRI.


There are breeds of dogs that appear to have a genetic predisposition to epilepsy. These breeds include Beagles, Poodles, Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, German shepherds, Cocker spaniels, Schnauzers and Siberian huskies.


There are several medications that can be utilized to control your pets’ seizures. Your veterinarian will determine which medication or combination of medications is best for your pet.


If your pet’s seizure activity is very intermittent, there may be no need for medication. However, if the seizures occur in clusters (2 or more seizures close together) are very lengthy or happen more often than once monthly, treatment may be warranted. Each seizure tends to “prime the pump” for more seizure activity, and once this wind-up occurs, control can be much more difficult.  This is especially true in large breed dogs.  Starting anticonvulsant medicines early after onset of epilepsy is the best option to successfully manage your pet’s disease. Using medications does not guarantee that your pet will never have another seizure. The medications help control the frequency and severity of the seizures.


Please call us if you have a pet that has had a seizure. In most cases, this disease can be controlled with medication and your pet can live a long essentially normal life.