Caring for pets with epilepsy
What to do if your pet has a seizure
Many of the illnesses pets can suffer from are the same as those we might develop too. Epilepsy is one example and, although there is no cure, it can be controlled and managed.
PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “It can be very distressing to see your beloved pet have a seizure. They occur when large groups of nerve cells in the brain suddenly fire at the same time.
“In younger pets, seizures are often due to “idiopathic”, or primary, epilepsy. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it is often manageable with medication. Other causes can include tumours, trauma or inflammation in the brain.
Idiopathic epilepsy is hereditary, but is more common in certain dog breeds such as Border Terriers, Poodles, German Shepherds, Collies, Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Pets usually have their first seizure between six months and six years of age.
Sometimes, a pet will behave in an unusual way before the seizure. Signs include restlessness, whining, shaking or hiding. This is known as an ‘aura’. In a full seizure, the pet usually will fall on their side, and lose awareness of their surroundings. They may kick or paddle their limbs, and lose control of their bladder and bowels.
Olivia’s top tips if a pet has a seizure:
- Switch off the TV, radio and any bright lights to create a calmer environment
- Move hazards such as furniture to prevent them hurting themselves
- Do not try to move or touch your pet until they are recovered
- But do move them onto the floor if they are at risk of falling
- Time how long the fit lasts for, or film it on your phone to show your vet
- Be careful, as fitting pets can hurt themselves or you because they are not aware of what they are doing
- If a fit lasts longer than two minutes, or your pet has more than one seizure in 24 hours, contact your vet immediately
“Once the seizure is over, pets often feel disorientated and may be unsteady on their feet. Stay close to them at this time as your presence will be a comfort while they regain consciousness.
Pets that have never had a seizure before should see a vet for a health check.
“Make a note of when the seizure occurred, the signs your pet showed whilst it was happening and how long it lasted to give to your vet. They will assess your pet and, if they suspect epilepsy, can run tests to rule out the possible causes.
“If idiopathic epilepsy is diagnosed, your vet can discuss treatment based on how often and how severe your pet’s seizures are. Although there is no cure for idiopathic epilepsy, it’s often possible to reduce the number of seizures a pet is having so they can enjoy a good quality of life. Affected pets should not be bred from.”
“With the right treatment and ongoing check-ups, plus understanding and care from their owners, pets with epilepsy can enjoy long and happy lives.”
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk