What Is Epilepsy and What Causes Seizures?
In healthy pets, the brain maintains a balance between the inactivity and activity of nerve cells, or neurons. Certain elements in the blood, as well as neurotransmitters and nerve cell membranes, are what manage this delicate balance. When this balance is not maintained, seizures can occur.
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder in which the seizures, or “fits,” occur on a recurring basis. And, it can actually be caused by a wide range of other health conditions, including diabetes mellitus, kidney disorders, liver disorders, brain damage or tumors, certain medications, and other health problems.
Types of Seizures That Animals Can Experience
A seizure disorder can produce a number of different seizure types, depending on what’s actually causing the seizures. For instance, if the pet is suffering from seizures that affect only a small part of her body, such as facial twitching, then this tends to be caused by a brain lesion.
Petit mal and grand mal seizures, on the other hand, are caused by more serious issues. Petit mal seizures typically involve the pet losing consciousness and collapsing. When a pet has a grand mal seizure, she will usually fall onto her side and start convulsing. She will typically not be aware of her surroundings, and she’ll often drool and involuntarily urinate or defecate. As disturbing as these seizures can be to witness, they are usually not life-threatening.
The worst type of seizure disorder is one in which the pet suffers more than one grand mal seizure consecutively. In this case, another seizure will occur before the pet has recovered from the first. This is called Status Epilepticus, and the condition can be life-threatening if treatment isn’t sought immediately.
A Checklist of Symptoms for Animals With Epilepsy
If you think your dog or cat might have Epilepsy or another seizure disorder, then you may start to notice several tell-tale signs. Here is a checklist that you can use to monitor your pet so your veterinarian will have the most comprehensive information at their disposal when treating him. Simply check the box beside the symptom if you have observed it in your pet.
Check the symptoms if your pet exhibits any of the following signs:
□ Changes in behavior (restlessness, whining, hiding, etc.)
□ Excessive salivating
□ Running in circles
□ Uncoordinated muscle activity
□ Temporary blindness
Once you’ve completed the above checklist, print it out and take it to your veterinarian so you can discuss your pet’s health with the vet. Your veterinarian will perform physical and neurologic exams, and a battery of labs on your pet. In some cases, a CT scan or MRI of the brain will be ordered.
There is no actual test that can confirm an Epilepsy diagnosis. Instead, the veterinarian will look for the health problem that is causing the seizure. If none is successfully found, then the pet will be diagnosed with either Idiopathic or Primary Epilepsy.
Treatment of Epilepsy in Cats and Dogs
Before treatment starts, the veterinarian will need to know the pet’s seizure pattern. It is also important to understand that Epilepsy is not curable. The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of the seizures.
Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide are two medications that are commonly prescribed for pets suffering from seizure disorders. In the event your veterinarian decides to prescribe one of these or other medications, like Levetiravetam, Gabapentin, Felbamate, Primidone, or others to your dog or cat, you can receive a free quote for your pet’s medication from Diamondback Drugs. We can help you save money on your pet medications.
As always, be sure to inform your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your pet is currently taking so your vet can make the best treatment decision for your pet’s unique case and help reduce the risk of a potential drug interaction.
Author: Giano Panzarella