What are Having Seizures?
Seizures can happen in all breeds of cats at any age. Seizures are the result of unusually large bursts of electrical activity in the brain. Most seizures in cats will be localized; you will notice that your cat’s facial muscles, eyelids, whiskers and ears are twitching. In some cases, your cat’s whole body will shake and he may accidentally bite his tongue. You may also hear a loud meow as if your cat is in pain and your cat can fall over, stare off into space or display uncontrolled jerky movements. A seizure may lead to your cat losing control over his limbs and you may notice that they are stiff and stretched out; your cat can even appear to paddle his legs as if he were swimming. Your cat can lose control of his bladder and bowels and you may observe heavy breathing and panting.
When thinking about seizures, epilepsy usually comes to mind, however that is not the only cause of seizures in cats. If you observe your cat having a seizure, it is important to identify the reason it has occurred so that you can prevent them from occurring down the road. Seizures can result from conditions or defects that originate inside the skull (intracranially) or outside the skull (extracranially) to include:
- Poisoning or allergic reaction
- Viruses like FIV, FIP and FeLV
- Head trauma
- Neurological problems
- Liver or kidney disease
- Low blood sugar levels
Your cat’s condition or defect will result in nerve cells over-firing in an unpredictable manner in his cerebral cortex. It is this action that will cause the seizure.
Seizures vary in their severity and how serious it is that your cat is experiencing them will be dependent upon the underlying condition causing it. Should your cat experience a seizure, you should contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for an examination.
Why Having Seizures Occurs in Cats
Why your cat has had a seizure will depend on its cause. For example:
Poisoning or Allergic Reaction
Should your cat be exposed to a toxic substance, the resulting poisoning can cause a seizure. Some plants that are toxic, as well as chocolate, can result in a seizure when consumed. An allergic reaction can also lead to seizures.
The cause of toxoplasmosis is a parasite; the parasite can cause an infection that can result in the central nervous system of your cat being damaged.
Viruses like FIV, FIP and FeLV
The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) will depress the immune system of an infected cat, which will make it harder for him to fend off bacteria or viruses. The viruses or bacteria that are contracted can lead to seizures. FIV will weaken your cat over time, making him more susceptible to infection.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease that can impact cats of all ages. It can attack different parts of a cat’s body; should it attack the brain of your cat, a symptom may be a seizure.
Feline leukemia (FeLV) will impact your cat’s immune system and can result in secondary infections or cancer. A symptom of FeLV is a neurological disorder, which includes seizures.
Epilepsy is a chronic condition that results in seizures; while it cannot be cured, it can be controlled.
If your cat experiences a head injury it can cause swelling in his brain, which can result in seizures.
Neurological problems can result in seizures. The nervous system of your cat can be inflamed resulting in extra pressure which can cause a seizure to occur. Brain cancer or a malformation can also cause additional pressure on the skull of your cat, which can result in seizures.
Liver or Kidney Disease
If your cat experiences late stage liver disease, neurological changes may occur. This is due to the high level of toxins that are not removed from his system as they would be if his liver were healthy. Hepatic encephalopathy can occur as a result of the accumulation of these toxins. In kidney disease, toxins can accumulate that will impact your cat’s brain and can result in seizures.
Low Blood Sugar Levels
Glucose, or sugar, is necessary for your cat to maintain his energy, which is imperative for his organs and cells to function. When blood sugar levels are reduced, the brain, unlike other organs, cannot absorb fatty acids from those stored in the liver and requires what is delivered by blood. Upon the drop in blood sugar levels, the brain cannot work at full strength, which can lead to seizures.
What to do if your Cat is Having Seizures
Should you see your cat have a seizure, it is a good idea to time the length of it. If your cat has landed on a hard surface, you can place a pillow between him and the floor to reduce the trauma he will experience; you can also move any furniture or other items that are near your cat out of the way. It is important that you don’t grab his tongue as if you put your fingers near his mouth he may accidentally bite you. While he is seizing he will create heat, so you will not want to wrap him in blankets even if he is shivering after seizing.
If your cat has not been examined since having seizures, you will want to have him evaluated by your veterinarian. You should provide your veterinarian with as much information as you can about what you have observed. You can let him know if there was anything that seemed to trigger the seizure, how long it lasted and how your cat behaved before and after the seizure occurred.
While your veterinarian can confirm that your cat has had a seizure, he will want to diagnose the condition that is resulting in the seizures. To do this, he may request a complete blood count (CBC) to see if your cat has an infection in his body. A blood chemistry profile will offer insight into how healthy your cat’s liver is, as well as his levels of calcium, sodium and potassium. A urinalysis will help to determine how well your cat’s kidneys are functioning. Depending on the results of these tests, further tests may be ordered. If nothing shows up on these, your veterinarian may choose to conduct an MRI or CT scan to get a closer view of your cat’s brain.
In some cases, a cause of the seizures will not be found, leading to a diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy.
Prevention of Having Seizures
There are things that you can do to minimize the chances of your cat experiencing seizures. Keeping your cat indoors will minimize his risk of experiencing head trauma as well as decrease his exposure to different viruses or bacteria that could infect him.
Regular visits with your veterinarian will allow early diagnosis of possible issues in your cat so that they can be treated before they become more problematic. In addition, you will want to speak with your veterinarian about the best diet for your cat to ensure that he receives the nutrients he needs in order to maintain his overall health.
Cost of Having Seizures
The cost of seizures in your cat will depend upon their cause. The national average for treating seizures, when considering all possible causes, is $1800, however treatment can range from $500 to $6,000. An example is FIV, which can cost $400 to treat. Early treatment of FeLV, which can eliminate the feline leukemia virus, may be treated for $650.