Epilepsy/Seizures – Cats
Feline Idiopathic Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain causing physical attacks that come on suddenly and without control. The cat may be conscious or unconscious during these recurring attacks. When there is no known cause for these seizures, it is called Idiopathic Epilepsy.
When cats are having a seizure, they tend to have focal onset beforehand (this is when the brain’s cells are firing abnormally in one area or multiple areas of the brain). During this time, your feline friend may look confused and scared. They may even seek out your help or hide from you. When the cat begins to have their seizure, which can last up to 90 seconds, he/she will fall to their side. During this time, your cat may do any of the following:
• Paddle with his/her four limbs
• Chomp their jaw
• Produce an excessive amount of drool
Seizures generally happen in a patient’s resting state; usually at night or during the early morning hours. Most of the reverberations seen with seizures will disappear before you get your feline friend to the veterinarian.
Most cases of epileptic seizures occur in cats between the ages of one and four. There are several changes in the cat after a seizure occurs (called postictal behavior), which may include:
• Obsessive behavior
• Directionless wandering
• Loss of sight
• Increase of appetite (or polyphagia)
• Increase in thirst (or polydipsia)
Seizure recovery can be instantaneous or take a full-day.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF FELINE EPILEPSY?
For the most part, the cause of feline epilepsy is not known. However, some idiopathic epilepsy is tied to genetics.
There are two key factors in determining if a cat has idiopathic epilepsy:
1) Age of first occurrence
2) Frequency and type of seizure (pattern)
If your feline friend suffers two or more seizures in its first week of having a seizure, the veterinarian will often disregard idiopathic epilepsy and find another diagnosis. If the seizures happen in a cat younger than one and older than four years of age, it could be metabolic or intracranial epilepsy (in the skull). When a feline is suffering with focal seizures, it means there are some neurologic deficits (or structural intracranial disease).
The veterinarian will begin diagnosing the type of epilepsy your cat has during a routine blood test. This test will include the following things:
• Complete blood cell count
• Thyroid screen
• Blood chemistry profile
He/she will also test for viruses like feline AIDS and feline leukemia. A urinalysis may be conducted as well. Further testing may be done – MRI, CT scan, spinal tap, etc.
The majority of the treatment for feline epilepsy is outpatient. The cat may be given anticonvulsant medications based on how often and severe the seizures are.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CAT’S SEIZURES
It’s very important to keep an eye on the feline’s blood when taking medications. Cats that are given phenobarbital will need to have periodic serum and blood chemistry profile monitoring. How your feline reacts to the treatment and the drug serum levels will dictate if medication dosages will need adjustments.
Older felines using a potassium bromide treatment must be closely watched for problems with their kidneys. If your older feline suffers with epileptic seizures, the veterinarian must suggest changing his/her diet.
It’s recommended that felines suffering with genetic or idiopathic epilepsy be neutered or spayed to avoid passing on the trait.
You should never give over-the-counter medication to a feline suffering with epilepsy until you speak to the veterinarian. Over-the-counter medications can often interfere with anticonvulsant medications or reduce the seizure threshold, increasing the possibility of more seizures.
Never miss a dose of your feline’s anticonvulsant medication and keep them inside to ensure they don’t miss a dose.
When a feline suffers with genetic abnormalities epilepsy, there’s not much you can do to avoid it. If you suddenly stop giving your feline their anticonvulsant medication, you could exacerbate the condition, leading to more seizure episodes.