Cat Epilepsy: Recognizing the Signs

Epilepsy in Cats

Epilepsy, also known as status epilepticus, is brain disorder that causes cats to have recurring, unforeseen and uncontrollable seizures while conscious or unconscious. If these seizures are caused by unknown reasons, this is called idiopathic epilepsy. Known causes for seizures include congenital defects, abnormal glucose levels, tumors, infections, reactions to medications, toxins, and liver or kidney failures.

Cat epilepsy can be as scary for your pet as it is for humans. The condition results in recurring seizures stemming from the misfiring of brain neurons. Although the condition affects a small percentage of felines, it’s not any less troubling for any pet owner that has to face the challenge.

Cat epilepsy symptoms may be infrequent or may not automatically mean your pet has the condition. The best thing to do is schedule a visit to the veterinarian to get peace of mind and a solid diagnosis. Unfortunately, with pets, you can’t ask them where it hurts, but you can pay attention to the signs.

It’s up to pet owners to be mindful of behavioral changes and take swift action to prevent injury when possible. Although each cat has its own quirks, don’t brush off odd behavior – it could be telling of something bigger than what it might first seem. Unfortunately, your cat can experience a seizure without you witnessing it, which is even more reason to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of epileptic behavior pre- and post-seizure.

Signs of Cat Epilepsy

When it comes to epilepsy in cats, there are different stages your pet will go through. If you’ve had your cat for a long time, it’s easy to immediately notice any changes in behavior. Below are a few signs to look out for, if you are concerned your pet may be suffering from epilepsy.

In the pre-seizure phase, your cat may seem restless, salivate, seek affection, or hide. These could all occur right before the seizure occurs. Of course, in some cases, depending on the personality of your cat, this could seem ordinary. Usually, it’s the restlessness that’s the triggering sign that something might be amiss.

During a seizure, your cat may run in circles, appear agitated, vomit, salivate, and collapse. This series of signs doesn’t last long, but can take a toll on your cat’s health. Since the seizure period is so short, it’s worrisome if no one is at home at the time it occurs.

Pet owners may be concerned about any aggressive behavior when a cat experiences a seizure. This is rare as most cats do the opposite and seek the comfort of their owner. During an epileptic episode, your cat will be unaware of anything else going on, so may not feel your soothing touch during the actual seizure. It may take awhile before returning to normal behavior.

It’s not uncommon for your cat to be disoriented for several hours or to experience multiple seizures in the same day. If that is the case, always make an appointment to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

How Cat Epilepsy Is Diagnosed

Some cats may experience a seizure after a lot of excitement or activity, while others can experience seizures in their sleep. The triggering factor is unknown, making the condition itself a little unpredictable. However, the condition can be diagnosed. This is helpful in case the seizures are due to another factor like allergies, a reaction to medication, or another type of illness.

When you take your pet into the veterinarian for a checkup or exam, make sure to relay all the historical information about your cat. Share your concerns about recent behavior and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The veterinarian will run a series of tests, including a physical and neurologic exam, a laboratory panel, and x-rays, if necessary.

There is no singular test to diagnose epilepsy in cats, but this protocol will eliminate other causes of the seizures. Consider sharing the following information, so the veterinarian can get a better idea of your pet’s overall health:

  • How long does your cat’s seizures normally last?
  • Has your cat recently been exposed to any toxins or trauma?
  • Has your cat recently been in the company of other cats at a pet care facility or other situation?
  • Are there any other conditions your cat currently suffers from?
  • Has there been a change in your cat’s eating habits?
  • Do the seizures typically occur at a specific time or after a specific activity?

For those who have recently gotten a new cat, their behavior may change from week to week as they get acclimated to their new home. The signs might not be as easily detectable right away, especially the pre-seizure symptoms.

Epilepsy in cats usually begins in the very early stages, around 1-4 months, so if you’ve recently brought home a kitten, consider any day-to-day to changes that seem concerning.

What Causes Cat Seizures?

Cat epilepsy can be inherited. But not all cat seizures mean your pet has the condition. There are several other causes related to seizures, which is why veterinary testing is important. You wouldn’t want to rule out anything else that might be causing your cat harm or giving treatment for a disease they don’t have.

Causes of cat seizures don’t differ too much from what triggers them in humans. They could be the result of:

  • Congenital defects
  • Abnormal blood glucose levels
  • Tumors
  • Liver or kidney disorders
  • Infections
  • Reaction to certain medications
  • Ingesting toxins like antifreeze or chocolate

It’s important to detail as much as possible of what happened leading up to and after your cat’s seizure. This will help pinpoint the cause and prevent it from happening again. Seizures can happen sporadically or your cat may experience back-to-back episodes.

Seizures take a lot out of your cat, whether they look to be “recovered” from it or not. It may affect them internally where you’re not aware of the damage until a veterinarian has a chance to inspect further. If you suspect your cat may have epilepsy, but haven’t witnessed a seizure, share any related symptoms with the veterinarian. Cats are good at hiding their behavior and if yours isn’t out in the open all day long, it can be easier for epilepsy to go undetected.

What to Do If Your Cat Has a Seizure

First, remain calm. Your first instinct may be to pick up your cat, but this may not always be the safest solution. Remove anything around your cat that may be blocking his path. Get any other pets and kids out of the area as well.

Time the seizure to let your veterinarian know when you take your cat in for emergency care. But if the seizure lasts longer than three minutes, or your cat continuously seizes, then you will want to rush them to emergency care right away. This is especially true if this is the first time you’ve noticed a seizure.

In certain cases, cats may experience an isolated, mild seizure, which does not necessarily call for emergency attention, but should be checked out by your veterinarian. Many times cats can recover fairly quickly after having a seizure, but may experience confusion or increased thirst and appetite. Even after a seizure has passed, closely monitor your cat’s behavior for any changes. When in doubt, call into an emergency veterinary clinic to seek advice on next steps.

If you keep your cat at home after a seizure, make sure you fill up his water dish and make sure there’s food available since his appetite and thirst level will likely increase. Allow your cat to rest in a comfortable space and keep other agitations out of the same room as much as possible.

You may find your cat to be extra cuddly and want to seek out your attention even more than usual, which is normal. Since they don’t feel well, they’ll turn to you for sympathy and support.

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