Witnessing your pet have a seizure is at the very least worrying and can really be quite a frightening experience as South Down’s Veterinary Nurse Anna can attest to. “Our Hungarian Vizsla, Crumble, has had a few random seizures over the past couple of years and when they happen – always out of the blue – I find it distressing, even with my many years of experience of dealing with just this situation at work.”
Seizures are caused by a sudden episode of abnormal brain activity which can have quite a wide range of causes. Some pets may demonstrate unusual behaviour – such anxiety, disorientation or loss of balance – just before a seizure begins. If this happens you may be able to lead them to a soft, safe area. During the seizure itself your dog or cat may have small localised spasms or a full on convulsive fit. During a convulsive fit the pet will fall to the ground, the legs will stretch out and be stiff, the whole body will violently shake, there may be vocalisations, foaming at the mouth and often the pet will lose control of their bladder and bowels. It’s hardly surprising that for most owners this can be an overwhelming and emotionally traumatic experience.
This is one of the very few emergency situations where we DON’T want you to rush your pet down to us at the surgery – during a seizure there is heightened activity in the brain and nervous system and any stimulation such as movement, light and the noise of the car can prolong or make the seizure worse. In most cases it is better for your pet to stay at home in a familiar place with familiar people around to provide comfort during the recovery period.
There are though some exceptions to the rule which we shall come to later on. If in doubt please call us – we can talk you through what is happening and tell you if we need to see your pet.
- Don’t panic
- If you find the situation too distressing please call us, we are happy to talk things through over the phone whilst the seizure is happening
- Do try to keep calm, your dog or cat needs comfort and reassurance during recovery
- Do look at the time – note how long the seizure lasts
What can seem like an age during a stressful event may actually be a lot shorter than you think and it will help us to know how long the seizure has lasted. Many seizures are over very quickly.
- Do move items that your pet may bang into away from them. Do not attempt to move your pet during a seizure
- Do turn off the TV, Radio and any source of noise. Keep your voice soft and quiet.
- Do turn off bright lights and close curtains to subdue lighting in the room
- DO NOT try to touch your dog or cat during a seizure and DO NOT try to restrain him or her
During a seizure your pet is unlikely to be aware of his or her surroundings and even the most placid of pets can respond to stimuli in an unpredictable way. Please do not risk getting bitten. Your pet will not know that you are there and will not be in pain so during the seizure remember it’s hands off!
During the recovery period your pet may be confused and disorientated, they may struggle to get up. If they do stand they will be wobbly and may have problems with their balance. At this time the best thing you can do is offer quiet and calm reassurance and discourage them from moving around too much until they appear to be back to normal. Just like the seizure, the recovery period can vary in time so again, if you are worried, please call us for advice.
We will ask you to come to the surgery if:
The seizure has lasted longer than 5 minutes
There are repeated seizures within a short space of time (sometimes called cluster seizures)
Your pet has or may have ingested a toxic substance
Your pet already has an underlying illness or disease
At the surgery:
Firstly we will want to take control of the seizure activity. This may involve placing an intravenous catheter and administering fast acting medication. Further diagnostic tests and management will depend on several factors but may involve a medication trial or in more severe cases we may admit him or her to the hospital where he or she can be closely monitored.
Remember… if in doubt please call us – we are here to help