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- What is Epilepsy?
- What Causes Epilepsy?
- Diagnosing Epilepsy
- Help for Epilepsy
- More Information on Epilepsy
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder that has increasingly become a common problem for pet owners as it frequently affects the health of dogs and cats. This disorder is characterized by seizures which occur intermittently and range in intensity from mild to severe. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical disturbances in the brain. Neurons, also called nerve cells in the brain send and receive electrical impulses in the body which interferes with the normal brain processes.
As a result, your pet will lose control of his muscles and experience jerking, twitching, thrashing and paddling movements. Seizures can affect animals once in their lifetime or occur regularly.
When more than one seizure occurs in 24 hours, it is known as cluster seizures while three or more seizures after each other or a seizure that continues for more than 30 minutes is known as status epilepticus. It is imperative that you consult your vet immediately if your pet exhibits any signs of epilepsy so that he can receive medical attention.
Types of epilepsy
There are various types of seizures that differ in intensity. Epileptic seizures may be classified into either generalized or partial episodes:
Generalized seizures occur frequently in dogs and cats and there are a number of variations of these seizures which include grand mal (tonic clonic), tonic, clonic, mycoclonic and petit mal (absence seizures). Grand mal seizures are the most common form of seizures in cats and dogs. The seizure begins with loss of consciousness and contraction of the skeletal muscles.
This causes the animal to fall on his side with its limbs extended and head back – known as the tonic phase. During the tonic phase, the animal may often drool excessively, experience loss of bowel and bladder control, and vomit. The tonic phase is followed by the clonic phase which is characterized by jerking of the muscles, paddling or running movements of the legs or clamping of the jaws.
Partial Seizures are also referred to as focal seizures and remain localized or spread to other parts of the body. It causes repeated twitching movements and is often so subtle that you may hardly notice it all.
The most common symptoms during epilepsy are:
- Repetitive jerking and twitching body movements
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Vomiting and increased salivating
What Causes Epilepsy?
There are many conditions and factors that may contribute to epilepsy and these include:
- Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
- Fungal disease
- Viral or inflammatory disorders
- Severe worm infestation
- Head trauma
- Brain abscess or tumor
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Liver disease
- Renal failure
- Metabolic disorders
- Toxins such as fertilizers, pesticides, arsenic, chocolate and strychnine
- Metals such as lead, mercury, copper and aluminium
The diagnosis of epilepsy is based on your pet’s symptoms, a thorough physical examination and a review of the medical history. Tests such as x-rays, blood tests, CAT scan, MRI, EEG or a spinal tap may have to be performed. Certain conditions such as hypoglycaemia and insulinoma that may often be the cause of seizures have to be ruled out first.
Help for Epilepsy
Once the diagnosis of epilepsy has been confirmed, your veterinarian will prescribe the most appropriate anti-convulsant therapy for your pet.
If your pet experiences mild seizures, anti-convulsive therapy may be recommended while anti-convulsive medications such as Diazepam, Phenobarbitone and Potassium Bromide may be prescribed to reduce the severe, frequent epileptic seizures. It would also be useful to monitor your pet’s behavior closely and keep a journal of his seizure activity.
More Information on Epilepsy
There are a number of things that can be done to reduce epilepsy
attacks and these include:
- Feed your pet premium, quality commercial food or a well-balanced all natural diet free of preservatives and colorants.
- Ensure that your pet has regular exercise
- Try to remain as calm as possible when your pet is experiencing an epilepsy attack
- Monitor the length of time that the seizure is occurring – if it lasts for more than five minutes or three seizures occur in one day, get your pet to the vet immediately as severe hyperthermia can result from prolonged seizures
- Ensure that your pet feels safe and comfortable and will not be able to harm himself in any way
- Keep sharp objects out of your pet’s way and take care that he will not fall off stairs, furniture or into the pool – move him to a safer area
- Educate yourself on epilepsy and seizures and their treatment