By Dr. Maggie Vandenberg
Neurologist and Neurosurgeon
Seizures are one of the most common neurologic disorders seen in veterinary medicine. Due to the variable presentations, they can be difficult to identify. Typically they are episodic and they cause an animal to have altered behavior prior to and after the seizure episode. In an event that an animal has a generalized (‘grand mal’) seizure the animal will fall over, become unresponsive, and may have uncontrollable limb and jaw movements. The animal may drool, urinate, defecate, and/or vomit during or around the episode. If your pet has a partial seizure they may retain consciousness and only one portion of their body may be affected.
Seizures can occur in all types of animals for many different reasons. The primary causes of seizure disorders are either intracranial (within the brain) or extracranial (outside of the brain). Intracranial causes of seizures include: idiopathic epilepsy, brain tumors, inflammatory disease, structural abnormalities (cystic), prior head trauma, and congenital abnormalities. Extracranial causes of seizures include: liver disease, kidney disease, toxins, or other systemic illness.
The treatment for seizure disorders depends on the underlying etiology. The most common reason for seizures in an otherwise healthy young dog is a condition called idiopathic epilepsy ( inherited epilepsy). This is a neurologic condition that has no identifiable underlying cause but it is suspected to be inherited.
Cats more typically have an underlying cause of their seizures. In older cats the most common cause of seizures is brain tumors and although younger cats can have an idiopathic form of epilepsy, they typically have an infectious or metabolic underlying cause. If a tumor is diagnosed there are both surgical and medical therapeutic options available.
If your pet has a seizure or an episode that looks like seizure activity try not to panic. Make sure that your pet is in a safe area to prevent them from falling off furniture, down the stairs, or into a pool or body of water. You should not interfere with your pet. Make sure that the area around your pet is free of blankets or other items that could cause your pet to choke. Other animals and small children should be kept away from your pet during and after the seizure as your pet may be acting abnormally due to the seizure. Once your pet is stable please bring him/her to a veterinarian for immediate attention.
A neurology consult and work-up may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s seizure condition. If you or your veterinarian is concerned that your pet is afflicted with a seizure disorder contact AMVS to arrange for your pet to be seen by our Neurology service. We have the capability of providing full neurologic work up, advanced imaging, and therapeutic measures for your pets.
AMVS is a 24-hour veterinary facility providing specialty internal medicine, surgery, neurology, emergency and critical care, physical rehabilitation, pain management, and blood bank services for pets. They are located in Longmont at 104 S. Main St. For more information, go to www.AspenMeadowVet.com.