Epilepsy can cause your cat to have seizures on an ongoing basis. Today, our Vancouver vets share some information about the symptoms, causes, and treatment for epilepsy in cats.
Epilepsy is a condition in cats that is characterized by recurrent seizures, which means that if your cat only experiences a single seizure they do not have epilepsy.
Idiopathic epilepsy is a relatively common inherited condition in dogs, but inherited seizures are not typically seen in cats. Idiopathic epilepsy is a diagnosis sometimes given for cats when there is no apparent structural cause for the pet's seizures.
Seizures in Cats
Seizures in cats tend to be a lot less common than seizures in dogs. Rather than being caused by an inherited condition, seizures in cats typically stem from disease or injury within the cat's brain (intracranial), or external factors such as toxins (extracranial causes). Seizures in cats also fall into one of several different categories.
A diagnosis of primary epilepsy means that your cat's seizures are due to functional problems in the brain rather than structural issues. This means that there is a chemical imbalance within your cat's brain between the excitatory signals and inhibitory signals. Cats with primary epilepsy will often begin to have seizures while they are in young adulthood.
Reactive Epileptic Seizures
If your cat's brain is healthy, seizures may be caused due to a reaction to poisons and toxins, or due to changes in blood composition stemming from metabolic conditions such as diabetes or liver and kidney disease. If the cause of your cat's seizure is due to exposure to a toxin, there will typically only be a single seizure.
Some of the most common causes of seizures from within a cat's brain are structural diseases such as a tumor, inflammation of the brain, an infection (encephalitis), brain malformation, stroke, or head trauma. If your cat is experiencing seizures due to intracranial causes they may also show other symptoms such as circling, restlessness or lethargy.
If the cause of your cat's seizures is diagnosed as stemming from a condition outside of the brain (extracranial), either poisons or metabolic diseases are typically the cause.
At Columbia River Veterinary Specialists, our board-certified veterinary neurologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and nerves such as epilepsy.
Symptoms of Cat Epilepsy
Seizures in cats generally only last a couple of minutes although in some cases animals can experience cluster seizures where there are multiple seizures over a few hours or a few days. The types of symptoms you notice in your cat if they are having a seizure will depend upon whether the seizure is generalized or partial.
- Signs of a partial seizure include strange behavior, abnormal posture, unusual vocalizations, drooling, or twitching.
- Generalized seizures often (but not always) begin with behavioral changes followed by symptoms such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, chewing, twitching, salivating, defecation or urination.
Diagnosis of Epilepsy in Cats
Diagnosing your cat's epilepsy is essential due to all of the possible causes. Diagnostic testing may include blood tests, urinalysis, spinal fluid testing, x-rays, MRI, or CT scans.
The goal of testing and diagnosis is to pinpoint the underlying cause of your cat's seizures to determine the best possible treatment for your cat's condition.
Treating seizures in cats is important because recurrent seizures can lead to further brain damage, more severe seizures, or other health complications. When treating cats with seizures the primary focus is on the underlying cause of your cat's condition. In cases where there is no treatment available for the underlying cause, or the cause remains unknown, anti-convulsant medication may be prescribed by your vet.
Patience is essential when beginning treatment for cats with epilepsy since it can take some time to determine the best medication and the best dosage for your cat.
Successful treatment of epilepsy is a reduction in the number of seizures, and their severity rather than a complete absence of seizures. Total prevention is rarely achieved, however even with occasional seizures your cat can go on to have a good quality of life.
Ongoing Treatment of Cats With Epilepsy
If your cat is diagnosed with epilepsy they will need to continue taking medication for life, and it's important that pet parents follow a few key rules:
- Always follow dosage and timing instructions on your cat's medications. The timing of medication is an important element in the successful treatment of seizures in cats.
- Do not run out of medication. The sudden withdrawal of these medications can lead to uncontrollable seizures.
- Keep these medications in a safe place where children and other animals cannot reach them!
- Consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any other medications or supplements to avoid any drug interactions.