Our Fort Pierce veterinary neurologists diagnose and treat cats that are experiencing seizures for a variety of reasons ranging from diabetes to poisoning. Today, we look at epilepsy in cats including some different types of seizures and common symptoms.
Epilepsy In Cats
Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures. While somewhat rare, cats like people, can experience seizures and be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Idiopathic epilepsy is a relatively common inherited condition in dogs, but inherited seizures are not typically seen in cats. Idiopathic epilepsy is a diagnosis sometimes given for cats when there is no apparent structural cause for the pet's seizures.
Causes Of Seizures In Cats
Seizures in cats tend to be much rarer than seizures in dogs. For the most part, seizures in cats typically stem from disease or injury within the cat's brain or external factors such as toxins rather than being caused by an inherited condition.
Epileptic seizures in your feline friend can be caused by issues within your cat's brain (intracranial causes) or elsewhere in your cat's body (extracranial causes), and your cat's seizures will fall into one of several categories.
Intracranial (Inside The Brain)
Intracranial causes of seizures can occur due to structural diseases within the cat's brain such as a tumor, inflammation of the brain, an infection (encephalitis), brain malformation, head trauma, stroke, or functional issues within the brain (primary epilepsy). Symptoms of intracranial seizures in cats can include circling, restlessness or lethargy.
If your cat is diagnosed with primary epilepsy it means that your cat's seizures are due to functional problems in the brain, rather than structural issues. This means that there is a chemical imbalance within your cat's brain between the excitatory signals and inhibitory signals. Cats with primary epilepsy will often begin to have seizures when they reach young adulthood.
Extra-Cranial (Outside The Brain)
If the cause of your cat's seizures is diagnosed as stemming from an extra-cranial condition then your cat's seizures are being caused by something outside of the brain. The most common causes of extra-cranial seizures in cats are toxins, poisons, or metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Infectious central nervous system diseases including feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), toxoplasmosis, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), cryptococcus, and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can also lead to seizures in cats.
Reactive Epileptic Seizures
If your cat's brain is healthy, seizures may be caused due to a reaction to poisons and toxins, or due to changes in blood composition stemming from metabolic conditions such as diabetes or liver and kidney disease. If the cause of your cat's seizure is due to exposure to a toxin, there will typically only be a single seizure.
Symptoms Of Epilepsy In Cats
Seizures in cats typically only last a couple of minutes, although sometimes they can experience cluster seizures (multiple seizures) over a few hours or a few days. If your cat is having a seizure, its symptoms will depend upon whether the seizure is generalized or partial.
- Signs of a partial seizure include uncharacteristic behavior, abnormal posture, unusual vocalizations, drooling, or twitching.
- Generalized seizures in cats often (but not always) start with behavioral changes swiftly followed by symptoms like convulsions, loss of consciousness, chewing at nothing, twitching, salivating, defecation or urination.
Diagnosing Epilepsy In Cats
When it comes to seizures in cats, diagnosis is critical, because there could be many possible causes. Diagnostic testing can include blood tests, urinalysis, spinal fluid testing, x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
The goal of testing and diagnosis is to pinpoint the underlying cause of your cat's seizures to determine the best possible treatment.
Treating Epilepsy In Cats
If your cat is experiencing seizures, it's important to seek treatment as soon as possible, as recurrent seizures can lead to further brain damage, more severe seizures, or other health complications. When treating cats with seizures the primary focus is on the underlying cause of the condition. In cases where there is no treatment available for the underlying cause, or the cause remains unknown, anti-convulsant medication may be prescribed by your vet.
When beginning treatment for epilepsy in cats patience is essential! It can take some time to determine the right medication for controlling your cat's seizures and the best dosage for your cat.
Successful treatment of epilepsy is a reduction in the number of seizures, and their severity rather than a complete absence of seizures. Total seizure prevention is rarely achieved. That said, even with occasional seizures your cat can go on to have a good quality of life.
An Important Note For Treating Epilepsy In Cats!
If your cat is diagnosed with epilepsy, it will require medication for the remainder of its life. That means that you must follow a few key rules:
- Always follow medication instructions (dosage and timing), because the timing of seizure medication is important to the continued prevention of seizures in cats.
- Make sure you don't run out of medication. Suddenly stopping these medications could lead your cat to experience uncontrollable seizures.
- Keep these medications in a safe place where children and other animals cannot reach them!
- Consult your primary vet or veterinary specialist before giving your cat any other medications or supplements to avoid potential drug interactions.