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Pet Seizures

One of the most traumatic events to witness is a pet that is having a seizure. Even though most of them last only a minute or two at most, they seem to go on forever.

It is helpful in making a diagnosis if you carefully keep track of the pattern of your pet’s seizures by marking on a calendar when they occur and a description of what took place.  It is important to differentiate a seizure from other problems that can cause a loss of consciousness and look similar, notably heart and breathing diseases.

When a seizure occurs one will usually observe the following signs, sometimes alone or in combination:

  • Stiff muscles followed by rhythmic contractions or running motion
  • Facial twitching and chomping of the jaws
  • Urination, defecation and extra salivation 

If your pet is experiencing a seizure it is important to minimize the chance your pet will hurt itself. Move furniture or other objects that can cause injury and keep children away. Do not put your hand in its mouth if it turns blue because it will not swallow its tongue. The blue color will go away when the seizure subsides.

Most seizures rapidly run their course and your pet returns to normal in a short period of time. If the seizure does not subside, or repeats itself in a short time, then your pet needs immediate veterinary care to stop the seizure.  Fortunately, this is a rare problem. 

A veterinarian should examine any pet that has a seizure since there are a multitude of causes, including epilepsy. Several different types of diagnostic tests will be recommended depending on your pet's breed, age, physical exam findings, and pattern of seizures. Sometimes a diagnosis can be made with a simple blood test, other times sophisticated tests like brain wave scans and MRIs are needed.

Depending on the diagnosis, your pet might be given a specific treatment to cure the problem, or put on anticonvulsant medication to control the problem.  The most common anticonvulsant medication used is Phenobarbital. It will be used for the rest of your pet's life. The blood level needs to be checked every 6 months to ensure we are at the proper dose; this is easily accomplished with a blood test.