Epilepsy in your pet
As well as people did you know that dogs and more rarely cats can get epilepsy too?
Epilepsy is a chronic condition whereby the patient suffers from seizures (or fits) that are recurrent. A seizure occurs due to a functional abnormality within the brain. Often there is a chemical imbalance which means that the normal pathways which would stop a seizure happening are overridden. It is important to realise that pets can seizure due to problems elsewhere in the body and other disease which is not epilepsy. If your pet suffers from epilepsy they will tend to have their first fit between 1 and 5 years of age.
Fits tend to have 2-3 stages – often they have a ‘before the fit’ phase (known as pre-ictal) where your pet might be more agitated, then there is the fit itself (the ictal phase) where your pet will be unresponsive, they might paddle with their feet and chomp their jaw and sometimes pass urine or faeces. After the fit comes the post-ictal phase where your pet is responsive but may not be quite normal, for instance they might be quite wobbly, might pace around and around the room and exhibit some abnormal behaviour. Often they will develop a routine, maybe asking to go out to the toilet or wanting a drink.
As a pet owner a seizure can be a really scary thing especially the first time it happens so today we wanted to talk you through what to do if your pet has a fit/ seizure……
The first and MOST IMPORTANT thing is to try NOT to panic! Easier said than done but remaining calm can mean your pet is safer, calmer when it recovers from the fit and that you can record more details of what happens.
1. Move any furniture or objects away from your pet. This is to ensure they don’t hurt themselves on anything whilst having the fit.
2. Don’t try and comfort your pet! We know this sounds odd but whilst in the fit your pet is unconscious and so will be unaware of what is happening. This means that they won’t be aware of you comforting them but also that there is a risk of them accidently hurting you with their teeth or claws. The best thing to do is talk quietly and reassuringly to them throughout the period of the fit and for the period after.
3. Try and time the seizure. It is worth noting the time when the seizure starts and finishes as often what seems like forever when it’s happening can actually only be a few seconds. However it is also vital to know if your pet’s seizure is still ongoing at 5 minutes as we would then advise seeing them as an emergency.
4. If your pet has been fitting for more than 5 minutes or has repeated fits close together you need to call us as an emergency! Fitting for longer than 5 minutes is called status epilepticus, whilst a cluster seizure is the term used for seizuring repeatedly without truly recovering. Cluster seizures can also be applied if your pet has several seizures within one 24 hour period. Risks of these events include overheating (hyperthermia), becoming low in glucose (hypoglycaemia) both of which can cause damage to the brain.
5. After the fit, once your pet is appearing normal we would advise offering your pet a small amount of water and if they are keen a small amount of food as they will be quite exhausted. Keep the room quiet and dark – turn off lights especially flickering lights or fluorescent lights, turn off the TV or radio, talk reassuringly to your pet.
6. It is always important to ring us and record the fit on your animal’s card. This is important to assess the frequency and severity of the fits. If this is the first time they have fitted we will advise bringing them in for an examination. Often we will take bloods at this examination to do a full seizure profile.
If your pet has more than one fit we may advise medication – anti-epilepsy medication is often in the form of tablets twice daily. There can be some side effects with any medication but a vet will always talk you through this when starting treatment. We advise regular check ups once on medication to ensure we have your pet on the optimum dose of medication to give them a good quality of life.
Remember epilepsy cannot be cured and so taking your pet off the medication may mean their seizures increase again.
Although we may be able to control epilepsy so your pet is seizure free this is often not the case and our main aim to is keep the frequency and severity of the seizures as low as possible.
Many pets with epilepsy go on to lead a full and happy life!
To sum up:
Things to remember when your pet is having a seizure
• Keep calm
• Don’t try and comfort your pet but talk to them reassuringly
• Turn off lights, music, TVs etc
• Move any furniture away from your pet
• Keep an eye on the clock
A useful website for information www.caninepilepsy.co.uk