Epilepsy Awareness

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.  About 2 million people in the US suffer from epilepsy.  But did you know pets can suffer from epilepsy, too?

Epilepsy is a term used for neurological disorders with recurrent seizures.  Seizures in pets are usually caused by trauma, a toxin, a brain tumor, or an infection.  Sometimes, epilepsy is said to be idiopathic, meaning there's no identifiable cause for the seizures.

Most people who've heard about seizures know about the grand mal seizures.  These involve the jerking motions and temporary loss of consciousness.  Also sometimes seen with grand mal seizures are vocalization, chewing/biting down, salivation, abnormal behavior, and involuntary urination or defecation.

Pets can also have partial or focal seizures, more commonly involving one limb, or one side of the body or face.

There are 3 stages to a seizure:
1) Aural phase: often see behavioral changes such as restlessness, anxiety, or attention seeking behavior.
2) Ictal phase: the actual seizure itself.
3) Postictal phase: time after the seizure.  Pets will usually be restless, uncoordinated, disoriented.

Seizures usually last a few seconds to a few minutes.  Some pet owners learn to recognize the aural phase and know when a seizure is imminent.  It can also take awhile for pets to recover from the seizure, to regain coordination and get back to normal.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually starts anywhere between 6 months and 6 years of age, and can affect any breed.  Epilepsy is an inheritable disease in many breeds, with a genetic basis in other breeds.  Common breeds affected include Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Keeshonds, Beagles, German Shepherds, Dachshunds, Irish Setters, and Cocker Spaniels.

Seizures can be alarming and scary for pet owners to witness.  What usually lasts a few minutes can seem to last forever.  It's important to remain calm and observant during your pet's seizure.  Avoid being bitten by accident while your pet is having a seizure.  There is no danger of them swallowing their tongue.  If they are close to furniture or the steps and you can safely move them away from it, that is fine.

Make sure to take note of when your pet has a seizure, how long it lasted, symptoms before and after, and what your pet was doing before the seizure.  This can help you look for patterns and help your veterinarian as well when it comes to diagnosing and medication your pet.

Two conditions regarding seizures are viewed as serious.
1) Status Epilepticus: This refers to prolonged seizures lasting more than 5 minutes, or, 2 or more consecutive seizures without a full recovery.  This is a medical emergency and your should call your veterinarian immediately.
2) Cluster Seizures: 2 or more seizures in 24 hours.

It's important to realize that prolonged seizures or failure to treat a seizure disorder can increase the risk for additional seizures (including status epilepticus or cluster seizures), brain damage, decreased quality of life, and in some cases, even death.

There's no cure for epilepsy,but it can usually be controlled with one or more medications.  Management of epilepsy includes giving medication on time at the correct dosage, logging all seizure activity, and following your veterinarian's recommendations for follow-up visits, including blood work monitoring.  Medication isn't without side effects, so blood monitoring is important.  But when it comes to seizure activity, often the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks.

Careful observation and management can help epileptic pets lead normal, happy, lives.

Suburban Animal Clinic is located in West Columbus off I-70 near I-270.  Suburban Animal Clinic serves Galloway, Hilltop, West Side, Georgesville, West Jefferson, Grove CityGrandviewUpper Arlington (including OSU Campus area), Hilliard and Dublin.
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