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Restful sleep being interrupted is never fun. Though we humans impose some pretty draconian anti-sleep measures against ourselves, like alarm clocks and 8am meetings or classes, our furry pals should get to sleep in every day of their lives. That's what makes it all the more heartbreaking when their peaceful slumber is broken by scary looking seizures.
In this article we'll explore cat seizures and answer a few key questions: what to do? Why do they happen? What medicine can be used? Hopefully this will get your cat some much-needed shuteye.
How to Identify Seizures in Cats
Seizures are sudden disruptions of normal brain activity. They are physically characterized by convulsions, uncontrolled muscle movements, unconsciousness, disorientation, and stiffness.1
Seizures are also associated with a loss of urethral and sphincter control, so your cat may soil himself.
In cats, they typically last between 1 and 3 minutes. If your cat is having continuous seizures for more than 5 minutes, immediately seek urgent treatment.
While seizures are very alarming to witness, they are not always emergency situations. That being said, the cumulative effects of seizures can cause further structural damage to your cat's brain. This means a worsening of the condition, which should be avoided at all costs.
Things to Watch Out For During Seizures
You should watch out that your cat's airways are clear during the seizure, and that he doesn't involuntarily bite his tongue. So if your cat is seizing on the couch, or while on a blanket, simply make sure that there are no pillows or folds hampering his airways. It's also possible that a seizure will induce uncontrolled muscle spasms, so steer clear of his claws and snout!
Uncontrolled movements have the potential to do the most harm to cats, so treat them carefully and don't move them if you can help it. Keep other pets away as well.
Causes of Seizures in Cats
Seizures are known to happen when there are changes in brain activity, such as at feeding time, while waking up or falling asleep, or during times of excitement. Whenever your cat has a seizure, make a note of what he was doing before the onset. This will be helpful information when you consult with your veterinarian.
Intra-cranial seizures (factors originating inside the cranium):
- Brain parasites, such as toxoplasmosis
- Brain infections
- Structural abnormalities in the brain
- Brain tumors
- Trauma-induced seizures in cats
Sometimes early on in their lives, cats may suffer some trauma which creates long-term adverse effects, seizures being a possible symptom. While the cat may appear healthy in any other respect, their brain may have suffered structural damage which cannot heal.
Extra-cranial seizures (factors originating outside the cranium):
- A tick or flea medication not meant for cats
- Liver or kidney disease
- Ingestion of human medicine
- Low blood sugar
- Elevated blood pressure
- Infectious diseases (such as feline AIDS)
Epilepsy in Cats
Epilepsy is not in-of-itself a specific diagnosis. It is a generalized term to refer to a variety of conditions which cause seizure activity.
Why is My Cat Having Seizures While Sleeping?
While sleep seems on the surface to be a kind of "shut-down," and it would make sense that it's associated with a lower state of activity, there are actually a lot of things going on in the brain during sleep.
There are different kinds of sleep, divided into stages, and the transition between these stages can be an chance for some underlying condition to cause a seizure in your cat.
What to do if Your Cat Has a Seizure
If your cat has a seizure that lasts under 3 minutes, make sure he can't hurt himself, yourself, or any other pets. Don't attempt to move him if you can help it. Keep a close eye on him after the seizure has passed, as he will likely be disoriented or anxious.
Make a note of anything that could have set the seizure off, such as stimulation, a certain event, or environmental stress. Call your veterinarian for advice and relay this information to her.
You should also check your cat to make sure he didn't hurt himself in any way while seizing. A quick check of his arms and legs for scratches or cuts should suffice. If you notice any blood on your cat's mouth after a seizure, he might have bit himself. Mention this to your vet.
If your cat has a cut inside his mouth, you should prevent him from eating until the bleeding stops, and give him soft food to make sure the cut isn't aggravated.
If your hat is having a seizure for more than 5 minutes, seek emergency veterinary services as soon as possible. This is status epilepticus and can be extremely dangerous to your cat.
When speaking with your veterinarian to determine the causes of a seizure, keep in mind any other symptoms your cat may have been exhibiting. These could be key in determining the underlying condition causing the seizures.
Also note that even if the underlying cause cannot be determined, treatment for cats suffering from seizures is still necessary to avoid further complications.
Treatments for Seizures in Cats
Unless the condition that it causing the seizures is diagnosed by your veterinarian, and the condition is cured by targeted treatment, it's likely that a cat suffering from seizures will have to be treated for them for the rest of his life.1
Before beginning any treatment regimen, consult with your veterinarian to ensure you are following the best course of action for your lil' lion.
Prescription Medication for Cat Seizures
The goal of treating epilepsy is to reduce the frequency and/or severity of seizures. To this end, your veterinarian will probably prescribe an anti-convulsant such as:
Alternative Remedies for Cat Seizures
Humans, cats, and dogs have a similar endocannabinoid system (ECS), meaning that observed effects could potentially be common to all three species.
There is still much more research to be done with regards to CBD as an option for cats suffering from seizures, but the results of tangential studies are promising.
Notes on Treating Seizures in Cats
Here are some important things to note about treatment of cats suffering from seizures:
- Always follow the instructions on the label for any medication
- Always pick up medications on time so you don’t run out. Whatever medication you're using, as a sudden stop in the regimen could lead to your cat suffering from uncontrollable seizures
- Keep your veterinarian informed about the effects you observe as a result of the medication. Here are some things to observe:
- Side effects
- Decreased/same frequency of seizures
- Behavioral changes If you find that anything you observe to be a severe decrease in your cat's quality of life, talk with your veterinarian and try to find the best treatment option.
- Consult with your veterinarian if you'd like to give your cat any other medications, to make sure they don't interact with the anti-seizure medications being used
The right treatment option has to be assessed on an individual basis, but there are options for most issues your cat is likely to face.
Although seizures can be really scary to witness, they can be managed with medication, and have the potential to be stopped if an underlying condition is determined and treated. With your help and care, your feline friend can still have a good quality of life even if he's suffering from seizures.