What is a Seizure?
Seizures are a neurological disorder caused by abnormal electrical disturbances in the brain. They affect both dogs and cats and can be extremely frightening for pet owners. When a seizure occurs, neurons (nerve cells) in the brain send and receive electrical impulses in the body which interferes with the normal brain processes.
This will result in your pet experiencing loss of muscle control, confusion, and disorientation, paddling with their feet, salivating, urinating or defecating themselves. Seizures can last for few minutes to having a few episodes that occurs in 24 hours.
As soon as you notice any symptoms associated with seizures or odd behavioral changes, consult your vet immediately. If seizure attacks are treated early, they can be managed and your pet can continue to enjoy good health and quality of life.
Types of epilepsy
There are different types of seizures and they may be classified into either generalized or partial episodes. They vary in levels of intensity, are less dramatic and often go unnoticed.
Generalized seizures are divided into two main types and these include grand mal (tonic clonic) and petit mal (absence seizures). Grand mal seizures are the most common type and characterized by a contraction of the skeletal muscles which causes the animal to fall to his side with his legs moving uncontrollably – paddling or swimming or clamping his jaw. During this phase, the animal will salivate or drool excessively, urinate involuntarily, experience loss of bowel movement and is completely unaware of what is happening.
Partial Seizures only affect ones side of the body or spreads to other parts of the body. These are often caused by a brain lesion and characterized by repeated twitching movements.
The most common symptoms during epilepsy are:
- Repetitive jerking, paddling and twitching body movements
- Loss of consciousness
- Vomiting and increased salivating
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
What causes a Seizure?
Seizures may occur as a result of many conditions and factors and these include:
- Congenital defects
- Heart problems
- Liver disease
- Renal failure
- Brain abscess or tumor
- Head trauma
- Fungal disease
- Viral or inflammatory disorders
- Severe worm infestation
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Metabolic disorders
- Certain medications
- Toxins such as fertilizers, pesticides, arsenic, chocolate and strychnine
Diagnosing a Seizure
The diagnoses of seizures are based on the pet’s symptoms, thorough physical and neurological examination as a detailed review of the medical history. A number of tests which include x-rays, blood tests, CAT scan, MRI, EEG or a spinal tap are performed. In addition certain tests may also be performed to rule out other illnesses that may be the cause of seizures.
Help for Seizure
The aim of treatment is to reduce the frequency, duration and severity of seizures. Your vet will most likely prescribe oral anti-convulsive medications such as Phenobarbital, Diazepam and Potassium Bromide that must be administered daily. In cases where seizures are prolonged, injectable drugs may be administered intravenously.
Keep in mind that these drugs cannot be discontinued or skipped without the supervision of your vet. It is also recommended that you keep a journal of your pet’s seizure activity and monitor his behavior closely. Many of these drugs may eventually cause damage to the liver and regular liver tests may be useful.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies are a gentle, safe yet effective natural alternative to reduce the symptoms of epilepsy and seizure disorders. Carefully selected herbs such as Passiflora incarnata (Passion flower) and Scuttelaria laterifolia (Skullcap) help to support and maintain the natural equilibrium of the nervous system. Homeopathic ingredients such as Hyoscyamus, Belladonna and Cuprum mettalicum helps to maintain stability and balance of the nervous system for cats and dogs.