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Vet Talks: Seizures in Dogs and Cats

Vet Talks 3 min read
Vet Talks: Seizures in Dogs and Cats

What Causes Seizures in Dogs and Cats?

Seizures, or epilepsy, in dogs and cats, is a neurological disorder. It can occur for many different reasons. A seizure occurs when the cerebral cortex functions in an abnormal way. It can also be caused by extracranial reasons (due to reasons outside of the brain) or intracranial reasons (due to reasons inside of the brain).

Extracranial Seizures in Pets

An extracranial seizure occurs because either the metabolism or the electrophysiology of the brain is changed by disease. In most extracranial cases, the entire cerebral cortex is affected resulting in a generalized seizure rather than a focal or partial seizure. The most common extracranial seizures are caused by underlying kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia, changes in electrolytes, endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism, hyperthermia, toxins, or trauma.

Intracranial Seizures in Pets

Intracranial causes of seizures are disease processes that can cause either structural or functional changes inside of your cat or dog’s brain.

Intracranial causes of seizures are disease processes that can cause either structural or functional changes inside of your cat or dog’s brain.  Functional changes inside of your pet’s brain may result in what is known as idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is a disease in which your dog has recurrent seizures, but no specific cause can be located. Other causes of intracranial seizures are due to brain tumors, viral, bacterial, or fungal infections (distemper virus, rabies, and others), tick-borne diseases, parasitic infections, trauma to the brain, degenerative brain conditions which cause lack of blood flow to the brain causing a cerebral infarction, or nutritional deficiencies such as lack of B vitamins. Idiopathic epilepsy is genetic in many dogs and cat breeds.  In these breeds where epilepsy is diagnosed, they should not be used for breeding.

Dog Breeds Most Commonly Prone to Epilepsy:

These breeds of dog are more genetically prone to epilepsy, however epilepsy and seizures can occur in any breed

  • Beagle
  • Keeshond
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Vizsla
  • Shetland Sheep Dog (“Sheltie”)

Genetic Epilepsy

Genetic epilepsy usually manifests itself from 10 months to 3 years of age but can vary. Both the age at onset of seizures and the pattern are important in diagnosing idiopathic epilepsy.

If your pet has experienced seizures, it is very important to have your pet seen by a veterinarian to diagnose the root of the problem. Diagnosing the cause includes full blood work panels including complete blood count, chemistries, infectious and parasitic testing, endocrine testing, as well as imaging such as radiographs and MRI, and spinal fluid analysis. Once the reason for the seizure has been diagnosed, appropriate medical treatment can be recommended.  There are integrative holistic therapies available as well for seizure treatment including food therapy, Chinese herbal therapy, and appropriate western herbal therapies through NHV.

Because seizures can be caused by a number of different factors, choosing appropriate herbal supplements varies based on the diagnosis. For example, if your pet is having seizures due to liver disease, NHV Milk Thistle can help to detoxify the body and help to support liver function. Natures Immuno is also excellent liver support and overall immune support. In the case of idiopathic epilepsy, reducing stress may help to reduce the incidence of seizures. NHV Lesstress and NHV Matricalm are both excellent choices for helping to reduce stress and anxiety in your pet.

If Your Pet Has Had a Seizure

If your dog has had a seizure, he or she should be examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible. In some cases, diagnostic tests will indicate a clear cause for the seizure or seizures. Where no cause can be located, the disease is diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Together you and your vet can make a health plan to deal with your pet’s seizures. While seizures can be scary they are usually not life-threatening. Your vet can teach you what to do if your dog is having seizures and, in some cases, can provide medicine to make them stop.

If you have any questions regarding your pets health, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consult with us!

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for over 20 years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

Published: March 16, 2018

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