Diagnosis of Cat Seizures

Cat seizures can be a very scary occurrence, and may be caused by a number of underlying conditions. Watching your pet suffer through a seizure can be a painful event, especially when the cause is unknown. Feline seizure disorders are relatively uncommon, and primary epilepsy in cats is not as common as it is in dogs.  Because of this, there are not many medications or treatments available for cats that suffer from seizures.

Primary Epilepsy and Secondary Epilepsy

Primary epilepsy in cats occurs when your pet is suffering from episodes of seizures due to a primary brain disorder. This kind of feline epilepsy is difficult to diagnose, because most cats will appear completely normal and healthy during examinations. Most medical tests will not show any abnormalities associated with primary epilepsy, and it can be difficult to prove when your pet has the condition. The most common way to diagnose primary epilepsy in cats is to rule out all other possibilities.

Secondary epilepsy is much more common in cats, and occurs when your pet experiences seizures due to another underlying cause, such as cancer, trauma or disease. Metabolic conditions and disorders can cause epilepsy in cats, but these conditions are more likely to affect dogs. Certain infections, feline leukemia, rabies virus, immunodeficiency viruses and cryptococcus can all cause secondary epilepsy in felines. A percentage of cats suffering from epilepsy may have brain damage caused by a decreased blood flow to the brain, which is very similar to a stroke. Cancer (especially brain tumors) is known to cause seizures in both cats and dogs.

Symptoms of Seizures in Cats

The following symptoms are common for feline seizures:

  • Shaking
  • Whining
  • Wandering 
  • Trembling
  • Hiding
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Falling to the ground
  • Paddling feet
  • Salivation
  • Uncontrollable urination or defecation
  • Head drawn back
  • Thrashing
  • Pacing

If you notice any of these signs of cat seizures, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. Seizures can indicate a number of serious or deadly conditions in your pet. Proper diagnosis of the seizures is crucial.

Diagnosing Seizures in Cats

A thorough physical and neurological exam will be performed by a veterinarian when diagnosing seizures and epilepsy in cats. A complete medical history will also be examined. Tests may include a complete blood count, urinanalysis, serum biochemistry panel and the testing for infectious diseases. As mentioned earlier, if your pet is suffering from primary epilepsy, these tests usually come back normal. When all other possibilities or causes for the seizures have been ruled out, a veterinarian may diagnose your pet with primary epilepsy. Secondary epilepsy is much more common, however.

Treatment for Seizures in Cats

Cat seizures are treated according to the underlying cause of the condition. Phenobarbital is an anticonvulsant that may be prescribed for cat seizures. Phenobarbital is a safe treatment, but can cause numerous side effects such as excessive thirst, urination, lack of coordination and allergic reaction. Pet owners should administer any medications prescribed to their pet with extreme care, and closely follow all instructions provided by a veterinarian.