The Hippie Hippie Shakes: What Happens When Your Pet Has a Seizure?
Seizures are one of the scariest things to witness. Most are shorter than they seem, and not life threatening, but you should know what to watch for and when to seek emergency help.
What is a seizure? A seizure is essentially abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In a classic seizure, the pet collapses, paddles his feet and may drool, urinate or defecate. Most pets are not fully aware of what is happening during a seizure. Some pets may have atypical seizures where they experience only minor tremors/staggering, stare into space or experience focal seizures like “gum chewing” behavior. Seizures may be caused by a tumor or lesion in the brain, by a metabolic problem such as low blood sugar or by unexplained causes which are usually ruled as epilepsy.
What should you do if your pet has a seizure? Make sure your pet cannot fall off of furniture or down stairs and hurt himself. Do not attempt to put anything in his or her mouth and use caution when touching your pet as she may be unaware of her surroundings and may not recognize you. Most seizures probably last less than one minute, but, if the seizure lasts more than three to five minutes, if your pet is completely unresponsive or if she has multiple seizure within a one to six hour time frame, take your pet to the vet. If the seizure stops after a few minutes, it is okay to monitor him or her as long as behavior returns to normal, but take your pet to the vet within 24 hours, especially if it is the first time he has had a seizure.
If possible, take a video and try to time the episode. This may not always be possible but it can help us to determine if your pet had a true seizure vs. something else like fainting due to a heart problem or collapsing due to internal bleeding.
What will we do if your pet had a seizure? If your pet is still seizing, we will place an IV catheter and administer drugs to stop the seizure, check blood tests to try to uncover any underlying problems that may have led to the seizure (low blood sugar, liver problems, etc.), and may take blood pressure measurements, EKG or other tests to rule out other causes if we are unsure if it was a true seizure. Referral to a neurologist may also be recommended for advanced imaging of the brain.
If seizures are brief and infrequent and if no underlying reason for the seizures is found, medication to control them may not be necessary, and we may just have you track seizures and monitor your pet. If seizures are frequent or severe, medication will likely be necessary to control the seizures. Any underlying medical causes for seizures should be treated. A small number of pets may not respond to any medications and their seizures may continue or worsen despite treatment. Seizures can be serious, but the vast majorities of pets with epilepsy respond well to treatment and lead normal lives.
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.