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Epilepsy in Cats - Causes & Symptoms

Epilepsy in Cats - Causes & Symptoms

Our veterinary neurologists at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews 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; some of the different types of seizures, and their most common symptoms.

Can cats have epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a condition which is 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.

What causes seizures in cats?

Seizures in cats tend to be much more rare than seizures in dogs, and rather than being caused by an inherited condition, seizures in cats typically stem from disease or injury within the cat's brain or external factors such as toxins. 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 a number of categories. 

Intracranial Causes - Within The Brain

Intracranial causes of seizures can arise from structural diseases within the cat's brain such as a tumor, inflammation of the brain, an infection (encephalitis), brain malformation, head trauma, or stroke, or from functional issues within the brain (primary epilepsy). Symptoms of intracranial seizures in cats can include circling, restlessness or lethargy.

Primary Epilepsy

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 Causes - Outside of 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.

What are the symptoms of epilepsy in cats?

Seizures in cats typically only last a couple of minutes although in some cases animals can experience cluster seizures where there are multiple seizures over the course of a few hours or a few days. If your cat is having a seizure their symptoms will depend upon whether the seizure is generalized or partial. 

Partial Seizures
  • Signs of a partial seizure include uncharacteristic behavior, abnormal posture, unusual vocalizations, drooling or twitching.
Generalized Seizures
  • Generalized seizures in cats often (but not always) begin with behavioral changes quickly followed by symptoms such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, chewing, twitching, salivating, defecation or urination.

How is epilepsy in cats diagnosed?

Diagnosis is essential when it comes to seizures in cats, due to the 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 in order to determine the best possible treatment.

How is epilepsy in cats treated?

If your cat is experiencing seizures, treatment is essential since 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.

Important Epilepsy Treatment Notes for Pet Parents!

If your cat is diagnosed with epilepsy they will need to continue taking medication for life, and it's important that you follow a few key rules:

  • Always follow dosage and timing instructions on your cat's medications. The timing of seizure medication is an important element in the successful treatment of seizures in cats.
  • Do not run out of medication. The sudden withdrawal of these medications could lead your cat to experience uncontrollable seizures. 
  • Keep these medications in a safe place where children and other animals cannot reach!
  • Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any other medications or supplements in order to avoid any possible drug interactions.

If your cat is experiencing seizures speak to your primary care veterinarian about a referral to see our board-certified veterinary neurologists. At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Winston-Salem our veterinary neurologists specialize in diagnosing and treating seizures in cats. If your cat is experiencing seizures and requires immediate care when your regular vet is unavailable, visit our emergency veterinary hospital.

Caring for Pets in Matthews

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our emergency service accepts all clients.

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