When a cat experiences a seizure, their owners are often scared, confused, and overwhelmed. Watching a cat go through a seizure can be a heartbreaking moment, but fortunately treatment options are available. Even better, progress in treating seizure disorders in cats is leading to newer medications that have reduced side effects.
Treating Seizures in Cats
The treatment that is used when a cat is suffering from seizures depends on why the seizures are occurring. Cats can experience seizures due to a number of reasons including: allergic reactions, fever, reactions to poisons, injury, physical problems inside the brain, or a disorder such as epilepsy. In order to treat the seizures effectively, it is important to find out why they happened in the first place.
Treating seizures in cats can be as simple as changing the diet, reducing a high fever, treating a poisoning event, or waiting for the cat to heal after a traumatic injury. However some seizure conditions need to be treated using medications. These medications are normally used if the cat is experiencing more than one seizure a month, is experiencing grand mal seizures, has been diagnosed with epilepsy, or if the cat is experiencing cluster seizures which occur multiple times in a 24 hour period.
Cats that experience grand mal seizures, epilepsy, or seizures of unknown origin are often placed on phenobarbital and/or potassium bromide; how much and how long depends on the severity or history of the seizures. Potassium bromide is often used with phenobarbital if the seizures cannot be controlled by either one of the medications alone; if phenobarbital is causing liver damage in the patient potassium bromide is administered without phenobarbital. Valium is often administered if a cat is suffering from cluster seizures, or if the cat is experiencing seizures due to an injury which needs time to heal. A newer type of anti-seizure medication in humans, Neurontin, has been used to treat seizures in cats with very good results and reduced liver side effects. All of these medications require prescriptions and supervised treatment by a veterinarian.
What to Do if You Witness a Seizure
If you witness a seizure, use a watch or clock to time the seizure, and record it. Don't attempt to grab the tongue. Pets will not swallow their tongues, though infrequently they will catch it between teeth and cut it. If you place your fingers near the mouth, you are very likely to get bitten.
If the pet has gone down on a hard surface such as ceramic tile, as the pet thrashes, prompt placement of a pillow between the head and floor may help to minimize trauma. The animal generates heat while in the seizure, so do not wrap them up in layers of warm blankets afterwards even if the pet is shivering a bit. Shivering is not due to a low body temperature. If the pet is hitting a chair or other object with feet or legs, try to move them out of the way, but otherwise, there is no need for intervention.
Sometimes a pet will show behavior changes prior to the fit (pre-ictus). If you think a seizure is pending, try to lead them to a soft place such as their cat bed so that when they seizure, they have good padding.