What is Idiopathic Epilepsy?
Watching your cat have a seizure can be frightening, but it’s important to stay calm so your cat does not panic when he becomes aware of his surroundings. Contact a vet as soon as possible if your cat begins to have a seizure. Even if it only occurs once, you should have your cat checked immediately.
Epilepsy is the medical term for recurring seizures, which are episodes of violent jerking, disorientation, and shaking that occur suddenly and often without warning. There are many underlying health conditions that can cause cats to experience seizures, however in some cases, vets cannot identify the cause of the recurring seizures. When no cause can be found, the condition is known as idiopathic epilepsy. Treatment for idiopathic epilepsy focuses on managing symptoms instead of curing the condition. It’s quite possible your cat will need to be on medication for the rest of his life in order to control the seizures.
Symptoms of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats
There are three different stages of a seizure, including aura, ictus and postictal, each which have their own set of unique symptoms.
- During aura, cats may exhibit symptoms including:
- Restless behavior
The seizure will begin during the ictus stage, when you may notice some of these symptoms:
- Excessive salivation
- Loss of bladder control
- Jerking movements
- Partial or complete collapse
After the seizure, your cat will enter the postictal stage, when you will see these symptoms:
- Pacing or aimless wandering
Causes of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats
Seizures can be caused by a number of different factors, however, the cause of idiopathic epilepsy is unknown. Idiopathic epilepsy can affect any type of cat regardless of his age or current condition. Many veterinary experts believe some cats are genetically predisposed to developing idiopathic epilepsy, although this has not been confirmed via research.
Diagnosis of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats
If your cat begins to have a seizure, stay by his side and keep him as calm as possible until the episode is over. Then, carefully transport him to a vet’s office as soon as possible. The vet should be able to determine your cat is having seizures based on a description of the symptoms you provide. However, the vet will need to perform certain tests to see if there is an underlying cause of the seizures, or if it is idiopathic.
First, the vet will conduct complete blood count, urinalysis and blood chemistry profile tests. These tests will show the vet whether your cat is suffering from an infection or chemical imbalance that could be causing the seizures. It will also help the vet ensure your cat’s organs are functioning properly to eliminate this as a possible cause of the seizures. If nothing shows up on these tests, the vet may take a cat scan or MRI of the cat’s head to see if there are any intracranial issues that could cause seizures.
Once the vet has completed these tests, he should feel fairly confident in issuing an idiopathic epilepsy diagnosis since no clear cause can be identified.
Treatment of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats
Because there is no underlying cause of idiopathic epilepsy, treatment will focus on alleviating the cat’s symptoms and preventing additional seizures. The vet may administer anticonvulsant medication such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide to your cat to control the number and frequency of the seizures. These medications may make your cat feel disoriented at first, almost as if he is having trouble staying steady on his feet. But over time, your cat will adjust to the medication and these side effects should eventually vanish.
If your cat is in the midst of an extreme seizure while at the vet’s office, it’s possible he may administer Valium intravenously to stop the convulsions.
Most cats will need to remain on medication for the rest of their lives. Owners have a responsibility to always administer the medication as advised by the doctor. If even a single dose of the medication is missed, the cat may experience severe seizures as a result.
Recovery of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats
Cats usually do not recover from idiopathic epilepsy, but it is possible to manage their symptoms. You will need to closely monitor your cat to ensure he does not experience any other seizures. Anticonvulsant medication tends to work for a certain period of time and then become ineffective. When this happens, you will need to take your cat to the vet so he can adjust the dose.
If your cat does experience additional seizures, try to keep a log so you can track the frequency and duration of each episode. Bring this log into your vet’s office during the next check-up appointment.
Most vets will recommend that your cat stay on medication indefinitely. However, in some cases, the vet may allow you to wean the cat off of the medication if there have been no seizures within a year.