How to Spot Feline Seizures

Feline seizures can be a scary thing for a cat owner to observe. When an undiagnosed cat has its first fit, it can often leave the owner at a loss of what to do, leaving them no choice but to look on at the scene until it passes. Recognizing the early signs of a feline seizure can help save both you and your cat a great deal of worry and stress. The sooner your cat is diagnosed and can be given treatment, the sooner he can move on to live a normal and stable life. We are going to take a look at the cause behind seizures as well as the symptoms and treatment methods available.

There are two types of epilepsy that are known to cause feline seizures: primary epilepsy and secondary epilepsy. Primary epilepsy is usually diagnosed when no other cause can be found for the seizures. Diagnosing a cat with primary epilepsy is basically saying that the feline suffers from a brain disorder that has not been or cannot be pin-pointed. With this type of epilepsy, the cat seems to act normal for the most part and all of the diagnostic tests show no abnormalities. Even CT and MRI scans may not pick up on anything wrong, yet the cat seems to have recurring seizures. A veterinarian will usually diagnose this by ruling out other possibilities such as tumors or infections.

Secondary epilepsy is diagnosed when there is another detectable problem causing the feline seizures. There are many conditions that can increase a cat’s likelihood to have seizures. An infection such as Feline Infectious Peritonitis, Feline Leukemia, Rabies, or Feline AIDS can all lead to seizure-like symptoms. Another common condition that may cause your cat to be diagnosed with secondary epilepsy is one in which the body does not send enough blood to the cat’s brain. It’s kind of like a feline stroke.

It is also believed that an overabundance of toxins in the cat’s system, or a drug overdose, could cause seizures. The toxins may become too much for the kidney to process or the kidney could fail altogether and cause toxins to buildup throughout the body. A tumor, trauma, or an injury that affects the brain can also cause frequent seizures.

Feline seizures can cause symptoms such as drastic and spontaneous change in mood, quickened breathing, muscle twitches, drooling, and loss of consciousness. The type of symptoms the cat displays depends upon the severity of their condition. The severity rating is broken down into three categories: petit mal, grand mal, and status epilepticus. Petit mal is the least severe of the three. In this stage, the cat may simply stare off at nothing in particular or appear to have a fuzzy consciousness. This level of epilepsy includes seizures that are generally shorter than one minute in duration.

Grand mal is the most common category for feline seizures. The symptoms can last up to five minutes in duration. During this time the cat might twitch so violently that it falls over, drools or foams at the mouth, remain motionless due to lack of consciousness, or make paddling motions as if it is swimming. Many cats with grand mal severity epilepsy also lose control of their bladder and bowels during a seizure. Status epilepticus is the most severe and can be life threatening to the cat. The symptoms are not overly different from those of the grand mal state, however they do tend to last a great deal longer. Sometimes they can last for hours before the cat becomes responsive and fully conscious. This category can result in brain damage and even death.

The treatment the veterinarian chooses to pursue will depend upon which category of severity that the cat’s epilepsy falls under, as well as the cause behind it. If the cat suffers from secondary epilepsy, treatment will be given for the condition causing the seizures to occur, if possible. As seizures are not always life threatening, unless they fall into the status epilepticus, medication may not always be issued. If the seizures endure longer than thirty minutes or if they occur more than once a month, the veterinarian will usually prescribe an anticonvulsant medication to be taken regularly. This medication cannot prevent a seizure from occurring, but it will act as a nerve stabilizer to control the symptoms of the seizure. If you believe that your cat may be suffering from seizures—whether mild or severe—please contact your veterinarian straight away. Even with mild seizures, there could be a very important underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed.