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Seizures in Pets

Seizures in Pets

You are probably aware that pets can have seizures, and you may want to learn about the signs of seizures so that you can identify them in your beloved furkids. Read on to learn what seizures are, how to recognise seizures, potential causes of seizures and the first aid measures that you can take.

What is a seizure?

A seizure refers to temporary, abnormal and involuntary electrical activity in the brain that often results in loss of control over the body (e.g. uncontrollable muscle movement). At this point, you may then wonder about the difference between seizure-related terms (e.g. epilepsy, status epilepticus)

A seizure is a single event, whereas “epilepsy” refers to a chronic condition that leads to multiple seizure episodes. “Status epilepticus” refers to a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes, or multiple seizures within a 5-minute period without normal consciousness in between seizures. Although “seizures” and “convulsions” are often used interchangeably, they do not have identical meanings. “Convulsions” refer to uncontrolled shaking that’s due to rapid muscle contracting and relaxing rapidly. However, seizures may or may not include convulsions.

Are there different types of seizures?

Yes. Pets can have generalised seizures, focal seizures or focal seizures that morph into generalised seizures.

Focal seizures occur in one area of the body, and often occur due to abnormal electrical activity in one spot of the brain. Pets may remain conscious during focal seizures, though the level of consciousness may be altered.

Generalised seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activity in both sides of the brain. Pets lose consciousness during generalised seizures.

Is a seizure dangerous? If so, why?

A seizure is a medical emergency. Seizures can be very dangerous- especially if multiple seizures occur in a row or if the seizure is prolonged - as they can cause abnormally high temperatures. Abnormally high temperatures will cause multiple organ damage.

Causes of seizures

Causes of seizures are categorised as “intra-cranial” (cause of seizure is within the brain) or extra-cranial (cause of seizure is outside the brain). Intra-cranial causes include (but are not limited to):

-Genetic problems
-Brain trauma
-Birth defects inside the brain
-Brain infections
-Brain inflammation

and so on.

Extra-cranial causes include (but are not limited to):

-Swallowing poisons (.e.g rat bait)
-Inhalation of strong scents (e.g. strongly scented candles, some essential oils)
-Metabolic problems (e.g. low blood sugar, low blood calcium)
-Severe organ function issues (e.g. kidney failure)
-Birth defects outside the brain

and so on.

There are also “idiopathic seizures”, which refer to seizures without a known root cause. An idiopathic seizure is diagnosed after ruling out known causes of seizures.

What are the signs of seizures?

Signs of focal seizures

As focal seizures affect one part of the body, they can show up in various forms (including but not limited to):

-Paddling of a single limb
-Repeatedly snapping at the air (“fly-biting”)
-Abnormal facial twitches

Signs of generalized seizures

Signs of generalized seizures include (but are not limited to):

-Body convulsions
-Paddling of multiple limbs
-Involuntary urination/defecation
-Rigid, stiff limbs
If you notice any of the above signs in your pet and/or if you suspect your pet has a seizure, please contact your vet immediately!

What else should I do if my pet has a seizure?

There are do’s and don’ts when it comes to a seizure pet. First of all, as mentioned before, call your vet immediately for advice.

In the meantime, please be mindful of the following general tips:


-As mentioned above, call your vet for advice.
-If your pet is near a water body or about to fall from a height, move your pet to safety
-Keep sharp objects and other animals away
-You can try to place a cushion under your pet’s head to reduce the risk of head trauma from repeated banging.
-Take a video of the seizure pet if possible. While a seizure is a distressing event and taking a video may be the last thing on your mind, a video is important for the vet to see if it is a seizure or another similar-looking condition (e.g. fainting episode). This can help with your pet’s treatment plan.
-If your vet has given rectal suppositories (e.g. rectal diazepam) to administer during a seizure, please do so and follow the instructions on the labels


-Do NOT try to place anything in your pet’s mouth. This will increase your risk of getting bitten
There is a myth that putting an object in a human or pet’s mouth will prevent the tongue from rolling back and choking the pet. This is untrue. Pets do not swallow their tongues.
-Do NOT try to hold your pet down. This will increase your risk of getting bitten.

Even if your pet has stopped seizure by the time you’ve called the vet, it is still important to contact the vet. They will advise you on whether you should bring your pet in.

Does my pet need medication for seizures?

Your vet will consider several factors (e.g. frequency of seizures, duration of seizures) when deciding whether your pet needs to go on anti-seizure medication. Depending on your pet’s needs, your vet may place your pet on anti-seizure medication. Possibilities include phenobarbitone, potassium bromide, levetiracetam, rectal diazepam and so on.

If your pet goes on seizure medication, they will need follow-up blood tests to check whether the drug has reached therapeutic levels in the pet’s bloodstream, and also to check if the organs are coping well with the anti-seizure drug. Therefore, it’s important to attend these follow-up visits even if your pet appears physically fine.

If your pet has been placed on anti-seizure medication, you can consider asking your vet for a prescription to purchase anti-seizure medications from My Animal Dispensary. Do note that we cannot sell these medications without prescriptions!
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