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Seizures and Convulsions in Cats

 

It can be very upsetting to see your cat have a seizure. Fortunately a single seizure is usually of short duration, and your cat is unconscious while convulsing. Seizures happen when abnormal electrochemical activity occurs in the brain. They can occur as a single event, as a cluster of seizures over a short period, or on a recurring basis every few weeks or months.

 

What to Watch For

 

A seizure usually starts by the cat collapsing onto the ground, going stiff, and then going into convulsions -- uncontrolled muscle contractions, which may make your cat look like he’s jerking his body, paddling his feet, snapping his jaw, and similar movements. Your cat may even empty his bowels and bladder during the seizure. Typically, a seizure only lasts a minute or two.

 

Sometimes a cat will exhibit behavior changes shortly before a seizure (called an aura or pre-ictal behavior), such as pacing, circling, yowling or vomiting. After the seizure (post-ictal), your cat will be disoriented, may show temporary paralysis in one or more legs, seem blind, vomit, or show other behavior changes. These changes are usually short-lived, although it may take several days before your cat seems completely “normal” again.

 

Primary Cause

 

Most seizures in cats are the result of previous damage to the brain, from which the cat has recovered and often has no other symptoms. Some seizures seem to occur spontaneously with no discernible cause. These are both forms of epilepsy.

 

Immediate Care

 

When your cat has a seizure, your primary goal is to keep him from hurting himself. Most seizures last only a few minutes at most, which means he will probably be over the seizure before you can get him to your car, let alone your veterinarian. Even so, he should still be taken to the vet. You can do the following to help your cat:

 

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Remember your cat is unconscious and making uncontrolled movements, including snapping his jaw. Be very careful not to get bit or scratched.
  3. If possible, move your cat to a safe place, away from stairs, furniture, etc. Sometimes other animals in the house will attack a seizuring animal; they will certainly be curious or upset, so keep them away for everyone’s safety.
  4. When the seizure stops, your cat will be disoriented and may not recognize you. This could result in your cat attacking you or running away.
  5. If the seizure doesn’t stop, or he’s having cluster seizures, your cat needs to go to your veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment to stop the seizures.

 

Veterinary Care

 

Diagnosis

 

If your cat is seizuring when you bring him in, he will be given injectable diazepam, or possibly phenobarbital, to stop the seizure before any examination. Diagnosis is primarily based on the information that you provide, plus direct observation of the seizure.

 

Most diagnostic tests are to determine the cause of the seizure. These would include blood and urine tests and possibly X-rays. Testing the cerebrospinal fluid or performing MRI imaging may also be recommended. Electroencephalograms (EEG) are rarely done.

 

Treatment

 

If your cat seizures while at your veterinarian’s office, he will be given injectable diazepam or phenobarbital. If seizures are severe enough, general anesthesia may be needed. If something other than epilepsy is determined to be the cause of the seizure, that underlying cause will be treated.

 

A single seizure of less than 5 minutes duration that is determined to be epilepsy is usually not treated beyond stopping the initial seizure. Long-lasting seizures, cluster seizures, or seizures that recur every 2 months (or less) are usually treated long term or even life-long with anticonvulsants. The most common medication for this is phenobarbital. If this is not providing sufficient control, another medication, like diazepam or gabapentin, is added on to the treatment plan.

 

Other Causes

 

Hypoglycemia, kidney disease, liver disease, meningitis, tumors and various infections can all potentially cause seizures.

 

Living and Management

 

In most cases, if a cat has one seizure he is likely to have another eventually. However, not every cat that has recurring seizures will be put on long-term medication. Because of the stress on the liver that long term anticonvulsant use can cause, the medicine is usually not given to cats whose seizures are more than two months apart.

 

If your cat is on long-term medication, he will need regular checkups and blood tests to ensure the medications are not causing other health problems.

 

Prevention

 

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent your cat from developing epilepsy. And even if your cat has been diagnosed with epilepsy and is on medication, that may not completely eliminate seizures. Sometimes the best that can be done is to minimize their severity and try to limit them to a predictable schedule.

Comments  16

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  • 07/08/2012 06:12pm

    I found this information to be very useful. My cat suffered a seizure today and appears to have some memory loss. She's had about 3 in the last 4 months, but today's was the worst. It is definitely a horrifying experience for any pet owner to witness.

  • 09/12/2012 11:11am

    Our cat developed seizures 9 months after we adopted her and she requires medication twice a day. Last night she had a breakthrough seizure her first in almost 10 months. It wasnt long but it kills us to watch her go through this. we love her very much and do everything possible to make sure she is happy and as healthy as she can be.We certainly know how you feel.

  • 08/10/2012 11:17pm

    I know how you feel. My cat has had two seizures today and it is horrifying to watch. Thankfully they are not long but still it hurts me to see her going through that. I am also thankful for this information and now I have some idea of what is happening and what I can report to the vet. I hope your kitty is doing okay.

  • my 17 yr old had seizures
    08/13/2012 06:24pm

    I started giving my 17 yr old cat some "CATS MILK" by Whiskas, because she was a finicky eater. Then she had a seizure, and 2 the next week, so off to the vet we went. He did the usual tests, etc. and we got the usual meds. Then it got to be most every day. Then a vet expert told me they may be caused by gluten, soy, or casein, a protien in milk. We immediately stopped ALL milk, and the seizures stopped, but her general health had gone downhill in the 2 months since the first seizure, and in another month, we had to put her to sleep. I wish the milk hasd a warning, or that info was more readily available, so I'm posting it here, hope it helps someone.

  • 01/11/2014 10:54am

    Thank you for this information. My wife had been giving our 18 year old cat a product called Cat-Sip for about the past two months because the cat is a picky eater and my wife wanted to supplement her diet. Cat-Sip is supposed to be lactose free real milk for pets. About a month ago, the cat began to have seizures, which were increasing in intensity and frequency. We did not make the connection and just assumed that she was at the end of her life. I found this post and we immediately stopped the Cat-Sip. The cat has returned to normal and the seizures have stopped. Thank you again.....it has probably saved her life.

  • 02/04/2014 09:23am

    im so sorry your cat had to be put to sleep I cant believe there wasn't a warning on the milk... the company is to blame once again im so sorry about your cat:(

  • Sudden seizures
    10/23/2012 06:21am

    My cat had a three seizures today and each of them lasted about less than a minute. It was a frightening experience for me because he was perfectly fine two hours before it happened. His appetite is still there but he vomits after eating his food. I sent him to the vet for an examination. They did some blood tests on him and found negative results for possible infection. I was wondering how vets detect any possible serious diseases like meningitis or tumors? I am getting a bit worry of my cat's well-being.

  • seizure treatment
    11/03/2012 04:06pm

    All my cat's tests came back negative, the vet said they could do more like x-rays, etc, but the treatment is the same, so save the $, they don't do EEGs or brain surgery on cats. Mine got phenobarbital, which made her drowsy, and something for vomiting. It's a very scary thing, I'll be praying for your strength and that your cat gets better. Also, try changing to food with NO milk, wheat, or soy. I hope this helps.

  • food
    12/06/2012 09:33pm

    i believe its food related somehow. im sure its a big part. food people feed to their cats these days is complete junk. filled with polluted soy + chemicals and fake vitamins that are slowly killing our pets. watch what you feed your cats and take them off grains asap. that means no sweet potatos and rice as well! do your research on healthy cat food. dont be blinded by nice commercials and packages and make sure that the product is made in usa.

  • i agree
    02/05/2013 10:03pm

    My kitty Ellie is two and a half years old.Last month she had her first seizure and not even 1 month later her second one.I took her to the vet had a fecal, blood draw done tests all negitive!She's a over all healthy cat but i think i might have gave her some human food that caused the seizures.I didn't realze how bad human food is to cats until i started reading up on it tonight!Avoid giving your cats any human food!I believe that's what started my kitty ellie/s seizures!

  • 02/06/2013 11:00am

    Our cat has never had HUMAN FOOD so I can rule that out as a cause of her epilepsy. She is doing well on her Phenobarb but still occasionally has breakthrough seizures that break my heart. Fortunately her mental status clears very quickly now as compared to when she first developed the seizures.Good luck with your cat...we consider ourselves blessed to have ours in our lives.

  • 08/14/2013 07:37am

    I have three cats of various ages. My oldest, who is 14, had a seizure this morning, right in front of me on the bed. His legs locked up and contorted in every possible direction and the look on his face was as if he was on another planet. It was like the feline version of The Exorcist. It lasted less than a minute, and the old man seems fine now. My youngest cat, who is only 2 1/2, watched the whole thing. It really freaked him out, but he's ok now. I know the Old Man has had health issues in the past, even long before I adopted him. I guess he's just getting to that age where these things can happen, but I sure as heck don't like watching him go through it. There's nothing you can do but try to love and comfort them through it, I suppose. Time to go check on him. Peace, animal lovers of Earth!

  • 08/31/2013 07:11pm

    Very useful. I was wondering why my cat would get really scared of my other cat right after a seizure. They love each other very much usually, so when he seemed like he thought she was going to kill him and he freaked out really bad, I was worried. But it seems that's normal for cats with seizures.

  • 08/31/2013 10:06pm

    Yes, sometimes they don't understand what has happened, or why, and seem to think someone or something else has caused it. All you can do is try to keep them from injuring themselves and let them know you are there, trying to be calm and soothing to them.

  • 09/04/2013 06:11pm

    My cat had a seizure last night after I gave her a bath. She started digging into the wall after I was done drying her off, and after I pulled her away, she started having it. My mom came in and dealt with her and made sure she was alright, but she had some foam and water coming out of her mouth, so we think she might of swallowed some water down the wrong hole when I wasn't looking. It only lasted about 30 seconds but it felt like forever because I was in the other room crying, thinking I had killed my cat. But she came out of it, and shes fine now. Post-seizure, she was walking around confused, meowing very loudly. About an hour later, she was fine, acting like nothing happened. This is the first time I've ever had a cat that had a seizure, and I was wondering if her swallowing the soapy water could have anything to do with it? If not, I still wont ever give any animals a bath again. I couldn't handle killing an innocent animal...

  • 21 Year Old Cat
    02/26/2014 12:07pm

    Hi there, we had a very loving 21 year old cat! Today her back legs went, then she started to walk into walls. So i did my best to calm her down by stroking her, she started to settle then suddenly she woke up turned her head (as if she saw a fly) then she fell to the floor and stated to have a fit. I had to then hold her down till it settled. I have got to say it was one of the worse things i have seen. Once she was calm i wrapped her up in a blanket and took her to the Vest. Once she was there she has hissing at the vet, which is unlike her. As she was a great age of 21 we had no choice but to put her down. If she was a few years younger we may of took her back to see if she could recover but i could not stand the thought of not being there if it happened again.

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