Helping Pets With Epilepsy and Seizures

Epilepsy affects millions of people around the world, but it can also affect our pets too.

Knowing what symptoms to look out for is key, so PDSA vet nurse Nina Downing has put together useful tips for pet owners.

“It can be very upsetting if your pet unexpectedly has a seizure, but it’s important to stay calm.”

Seizures occur when unusual electrical activity in your pet’s brain causes them to lose control of their body. There are several causes of seizures, but in dogs epilepsy is the most common. Other possible causes can include heat stroke, head trauma and poisoning.

Nina continues: “Not all seizures look the same and signs can vary from very mild to extreme. Vacant stares or twitching can be mild symptoms, while the more extreme forms are uncontrollable shaking, limb paddling, losing control of bladder and bowels. These can last seconds or for several minutes. Your pet might have one seizure in their lifetime or, if they have epilepsy, they may have frequent fits.

“Sadly there’s no cure for epilepsy and we’re still not completely sure what causes some pets to have it and not others. We know epilepsy can be more common in certain breeds and that it can be passed down from dogs’ parents. Fortunately, epilepsy can usually be managed with medication and regular check-ups. Most epileptic pets go on to live very happy and settled lives, so long as their owner works with their vet to keep on top of the condition.”

a cute black and white cat

Nina adds her advice for what to do if your pet has a fit: “It can be very scary if your pet is having a seizure, especially for the first time. It’s important you don’t try to restrain them as they won’t be in control of their movements and may accidentally hurt you, or you might hurt them. Stay calm and clear a space around your pet so they can’t injure themselves on furniture or wires.

“Keep children and other pets away and turn off lights, TVs and radios, close curtains as noise and light could make the seizure worse. Time how long the seizure lasts for and, if they have more than one, how often they happen. Try to take a video too as all of this information will help your vet to treat your pet.”

After a seizure your pet is likely to be dazed and confused. “Give them somewhere calm and comfortable to recover. Speaking softly and gently to your pet will help them keep calm, as they come around after their fit. It’s essential to get advice from your vet straight away.

“Your vet may need to do some tests. Depending on the diagnosis, your vet will discuss treatment options with you. In the case of epilepsy, medication can be given to help reduce the number and/or severity of the fits, this is usually required for life. You may also begin to recognise signs that a fit is coming, such as restlessness, pacing, panting or whining.”

With understanding and care from the owner, as well as regular check-ups at the vet, pets with epilepsy can usually enjoy a happy life.

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.

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