Seizures in Animals

Posted on June 12, 2015

Epileptic seizures in animals, no matter how sever or infrequent in occurrence, always pose a serious health hazard and must be addressed immediately for both the underlying cause and the cure.  An epileptic seizure is characterized by a disturbance in normal brain activity and can be identified as having several different stages of development.  The initial stage of epileptic seizure or more commonly referred to as the Aura, is the time frame at which point the animal begins to show signs and symptoms and can last from a few minutes to a few hours.  Typical symptoms exhibited during the aura include excessive salivation, panting and pacing, and even vomiting in more severe cases.

The actual onset of seizure, often characterized by involuntary muscle movements, is referred to as the Ictal period and can last up to a few minutes.  Shortly following the seizure, the animal enters what is known as the post-ictal period.  During this final phase of the seizure, the animal may seem disoriented or lethargic, experience uncontrollable bowel movements and even suffer from blindness.

Seizure can further be categorized into two categories, partial and generalized.  Partial seizures are normally a result of a centralized electrical abnormality in brain activity and are usually due to a presence of tumors.  Generalized seizures on the other hand are more extreme in nature and are typified by more severe symptoms such as muscle stiffening and loss of consciousness.  While more sever in manifestation, generalized seizures do not necessarily translate into more severe causes.  In fact, some generalized seizures maybe triggered without any identified underlying causes and are classified as idiopathic.  Several breeds of dogs such as Beagles, Siberian huskies and German shepherds have historically been know to be prone to such seizures.

In some cases, structural and neural damage in the brain, inflammation and stroke can lead to the onset of seizures in which case they are classified as secondary epileptic seizures.  In other cases diagnosed as reactive epileptic seizure, animals will suffer from an episode resulting from systemic or physiological stress.  Seizures triggered in animals younger than 1 or older than 5 can be cause for concern for being secondary or reactive in nature.

AED therapy (antiepileptic drug therapy) is the most common form of therapy used in animals.  AED is designed to minimize occurrences of seizures and is by no means administered as a means to eliminate the problem.  Daily dosage, reevaluation and close monitoring of the animal are all key factors in managing and controlling the risk of future epileptic episodes.  Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide are two of the most commonly used drugs in both dogs and cats and when titrated properly, have been proven to be extremely effective in long-term management of seizures.