Dogs and cats can have seizures just like humans. It is a scary occurrence that occasionally pet owners have to witness. In such situations, it is important to be able to recognize the signs of a seizure in order to make it as stress-free as possible for your furry friend.
So what exactly causes seizures, and what signs should you look out for?
A seizure is any sudden, uncontrolled movement of the body caused by a disturbance of normal brain activity. There are many causes of seizures, with the most common cause being an inherited disorder. Other possible causes include brain tumors, liver or kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies, toxins, or trauma to the brain.
Seizures are usually split into three phases:
1. The pre-ictal phase is the time period that precedes the actual seizure when the pet can sense that something is about to happen. Your pet may act stressed or scared, and you may notice them hiding, whining, salivating or trembling. They may also appear dazed and stare out into space.
2. The ictal phase can present as collapsing, jerking or paddling or the limbs, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, tongue biting, frothing of the mouth, or even loss of body function resulting in urination or defecation. This can last from a few seconds to several minutes and can vary in symptoms.
3. The post-ictal phase after the seizure usually results in the pet acting disoriented and confused. They may seem restless and pace around, and will often seek you out for comfort.
Now that you know how to recognize a seizure, you may be wondering what to do while it is happening.
Firstly, it is important to move the pet out of harm's way; from the top of stairs or near the edge of a swimming pool for example. On hard surfaces, a thin blanket may be placed under the pet’s head for protection. If you can try to record the time the seizure begins and ends. Taking a video of the seizure to show your veterinarian is helpful. Make sure the pet is lying on his or her side in order to allow saliva to flow out of the mouth and not pool in the back of the throat.
Do not attempt to put your fingers or an object into its mouth, as a pet having a seizure can unintentionally bite you.
Long seizures can cause a pet to overheat, so putting cold water on their paws or blowing a fan in their direction can help to keep their body temperature down. (Do NOT put water on a pet’s back). If a seizure lasts more than five minutes, or if your pet experiences multiple seizures in a row, seek emergency help from your veterinarian immediately, as this may become life-threatening.
Despite the violent appearance of seizures, they are manageable with medications and care. However, they can be a lifelong health issue, and it is important to seek out a veterinarian’s treatment to prevent symptoms from worsening. With proper management, your pet can still live a long, happy and healthy life.