Cat Seizures: A Cat Parent Guide
How to Better Understand Cat Seizures
One of the scariest thing as a paw parent is seeing your four-legged furry friend experience a seizure.
This can be incredibly upsetting and leave many feline parents not knowing what to do next. What is the best way to comfort your feline during a seizure? Is medication necessary? Is there harmful side effects? Why is my cat having a seizure in the first place?
We understand and know that this can be a difficult time for both you and your cat, so we’re here to try and help as best we can!
If your cat just had their first seizure episode or frequently experiences seizures, there are several things you should know before moving forward with a treatment plan. In today’s article, we’ll be talking about all you need to know about cat seizures and how you help manage them.
What is a Cat Seizure?
Before we start getting into the small details as to why your cat may be having seizures, it’s important to first understand exactly what a seizure is.
A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical activity signal in the brain. It is often paired with involuntary muscle movements.
The term epilepsy is used to describe repeated episodes of seizures. Thus, epilepsy can cause a single seizure episode or a whole cluster of seizures. In addition, the seizures can occur randomly, in unpredictable intervals, or even in a regular occurring sequence.
What are Convulsions?
It’s common to hear your veterinarian refer to seizures also as convulsions They are also called the “fits”. These terms refer to the sudden and uncontrolled electrical activity occurring your cat’s brain.
What are the Different Types of Cat Seizures?
Most times, seizures are divided into two groups: generalized or focal.
A generalized seizure is often caused by the entire cerebral cortex, affecting the entire body.
A focal seizure can be caused by smaller, localized areas of the cerebral cortex and are oftentimes body-specific parts. These seizures can also be called partial seizures.
Grand Mal and Petit Mal Seizures
Grand mal seizures may cause your cat to fall on their side and experience muscle convulsions. This type of seizure is more commonly diagnosed compared to the petit mal seizures.
Petit mal seizures do not cause your cat to convulse. Your cat may suddenly fall into an unconscious state.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cat Seizures?
Being able to know and recognize the signs and symptoms of a seizure is essential and may be life-saving for paw parents.
There are a number of signs that are considered “warning signs” before a seizure occurs. Knowing these signs can help you react more efficiently in the time your cat may be experiencing an episode.
The aura state or preictal state occurs just moments before the seizure takes place.
In this stage, your cat may be showing behavioral changes, including vomiting, walking in circles, yowling, or pacing the room.
Many feline parents have reported that their cat acts really nervous right before having an episode as if they know that something weird is about to occur. Some cats may even seek out their owners, whilst others may hide.
This stage only lasts a couple of seconds but being able to recognize these signs will help you act more quickly.
During a generalized seizure, cats may fall on their side, becoming stiff.
The convulsions begin and the cat will experience uncontrollable muscle contractions. These contractions will cause the cat to experience paddling feet, snapping of the jaw, ridged jerking motions, and other comparable actions. Your cat may even lose control of their bowels and leave an accident during their seizure.
This seizure stage typically lasts 1 - 2 minutes. If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, it’s essential that you seek medical attention ASAP. These types of seizures can enable permanent brain damage.
The postictal state happens after the seizure. Your cat may have temporary paralysis in one or more of their limbs. They may also be extremely confused and disoriented, especially if they defecate or urinate on themselves during the episode.
It’s normal for your cat to seem like their behavior has changed, lost their vision, or are vomiting.
What are Focal Seizure Symptoms?
The clinical signs and symptoms of focal seizures differ from those associated with generalized seizures. Your cat may cry out as if they are in some sort of pain. There may be behavioral changes and may even become aggressive, even if they are usually calm and sweet.
Your cat could experience excessive salivation and drool, alongside other atypical behaviors.
What Causes Cat Seizures?
Seizures in cats can sometimes be an unavoidable health condition. Your vet may not be able to figure out the exact underlying cause. As scary as it sounds, there may not be much you can do either as a caring paw parent in regards to preventing this ailment from developing.
However, in other instances, seizures can be the result of a series of events or exposures to an event.
1. Head Trauma
Seizures in cats can be caused by previous brain damage. Your cat may have likely recovered and experienced little to no other symptoms relating to the previous damage when the seizures begin.
Head trauma can happen from instances such as your cat falling out of a tree or being hit by a car or bike. In addition, brain damage can result from tumors, parasites, or infections. Diseases including feline infectious peritonitis can cause brain lesions, often resulting in irreversible damage.
These factors can contribute to the accumulation of seizure development.
2. Toxic Exposure
One of the leading causes of seizures in cats is exposure to environmental toxins.
If your cat is exposed to toxins, the result is often seizures.
In addition, certain tick and flea medications that are intended for dogs can lead to seizures in cats. Along with shampoos, sprays, and dips, there are toxic ingredients that can be harmful to cats. Pyrethrin is a highly toxic ingredient for cats that may cause them to experience muscle tremors and convulsions. Toxins can lead to a number of additional problems for your cat.
It’s also common that a cat can have a seizure by accidental ingestion of human medication. Cats are infamous for wanting to explore places and things they shouldn’t be. If they come across their parent’s medication drawer, the results can be severe seizures, with immediate emergency care needed.
It’s important that pet owners ensure that their medications are locked away and out of their cat’s reach.
Epilepsy can cause single or cluster seizures to occur. However, epilepsy does not yet have an identifiable cause.
What is the Treatment for Cat Seizures?
Cats who frequently experience seizures are typically prescribed an anticonvulsant medication, commonly known as phenobarbital.
If phenobarbital is not making a significant difference in the frequency and severity of your cat’s seizure activity additional drugs, like diazepam or gabapentin, may need to be included in the treatment plan.
This being said, we encourage our readers to check out these medications and their potential side effects on the web before starting your cat on them. The more you know, the more you’ll be prepared come time for medication options with your vet.
In some instances, where the underlying cause of the seizures is unknown, steps to remove the cause will be necessary for the treatment plan.
For example, if an environmental factor is potentially the root of the problem, paw parents may be asked to do everything in their control to rid the specific toxin from their cat’s home.
Cats Living with Seizures
If your cat experiences seizures that are more than two months apart, vets may advise you away from traditional medications. This is why it’s so important for paw parents to jot down their cat’s seizures, severity, time and date, and their frequency. The more information you can provide to your vet come in, the better able they will be able to devise a treatment plan for your catto.
Also, if your cat’s seizure episodes change over time, it’s important to let your vet know as well. They may need to adjust their medication dosages or frequencies.
If your cat’s seizures are occurring frequently and long-term, anticonvulsant medications will often be a necessary prescription in your cat’s daily life. In this case, it’s important that you routinely take him/her into the vet to assess their progress and receive adequate checkups on their health.
Cat Seizures: Final Thoughts
When all is said and done, we know you only want the absolute best for your furry friend. You try and stay up-to-date with the latest health advancements and medication side effects. You feed your catto only the best of the best foods. When things get hard, you do just about all you can to make sure your cat’s needs are being met and taken care of.
Thus, we understand just how frustrating and hard it can be seeing your cat experience a seizure. Unfortunately, seizures are a tough condition for pet owners to manage.
The most important to remember is this: cat seizures are manageable and these cats can still experience happy lives with proper treatment plans.