Around two to three out of every hundred cats will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives. The diagnosis is a shock for the owners. But with patience, an experienced veterinarian, and the right medication, they can get the disease under control.

What is Epilepsy

Epilepsy in Cats: How Do I Help My Four-Legged Friend? 7

Many convulsive seizures are associated with epilepsy in humans, in which the person affected falls on the floor and flinches uncontrollably. After a short time, the supposed spook is over. Many sufferers only remember the episode with fresh bruises, they are not consciously aware of the attack.

It is similar to dogs or cats. Epilepsy is the result of electrical discharges in the brain that cause short circuits in the nerves. These trigger uncontrolled muscle movements.

Experts differentiate between idiopathic and secondary epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is based on malfunctions of the brain and stands for “classic” epilepsy. In secondary epilepsy, there are other reasons for the disease. While idiopathic epilepsy is present in most cases in dogs, it is the other way around in cats:

Around 80 percent suffer from secondary epilepsy. So your epilepsy occurs as a result of another illness.

These can be brain tumors, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), worm infestation, a traumatic brain injury, or less common diseases such as feline hippocampal necrosis.

Symptoms of epilepsy in cats

We differentiate between focal and generalized seizures. A partial seizure only affects individual limbs that move uncontrollably. In a generalized seizure, the cat falls over and rows its legs. There may be tremors, strong jaw movements, or foam formation in front of the mouth. Sometimes, as in feline hippocampal necrosis, the cat is prone to uncontrolled swallowing and salivation in addition to generalized seizures.

Focal seizures are limited to individual muscle groups – for example, a wildly twitching leg. Some focal seizures are barely recognizable: the cat repeatedly snaps at imaginary flies, scratches itself noticeably, and runs back and forth wildly. A glassy, rigid look is usually noticeable. In addition, behavioral changes such as aggression or apathy can be related to the disease.

As in humans, cats have different stages of an epileptic seizure:

The aura phase heralds the attack

During this phase, many cats are restless, walking back and forth or meowing. If possible, lock the cat in a safe space where it cannot get injured.

The epileptic fit (ictus)

The actual seizure lasts up to two minutes in cats. Tip: If you think your cat is having an epileptic seizure, record it with your smartphone. You can show the recording to your vet later.

Do not touch your cat during a seizure – there is a great risk of injury!

Postictal phase

Many cats are disoriented and confused after a seizure. It takes a few hours for them to regain consciousness. In addition, many show great appetite at this stage.

Epilepsy diagnosis from the veterinarian

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If you suspect an epileptic seizure in your four-legged friend, you should consult a veterinarian. Even partial seizures that are limited to individual parts of the body can become dangerous if left untreated. This is because status epilepticus can occur – an extremely long-lasting seizure that can damage the brain. The same applies to so-called cluster seizures, i.e. two or more seizures within 24 hours.

Epilepsy is always a diagnosis of exclusion – especially since the seizures in cats usually have other causes. Your veterinarian will examine for any signs of poisoning or oxygen deficiency. He will ask you in detail about the history of the animal and the circumstances of the observed epileptic seizure. There will be a thorough examination including a blood sample, in many cases, the vet will order an MRI.

Therapy of epilepsy cats

Therapy is often based on the primary disease-causing epilepsy. It is not always possible to completely rule out the seizures in the future.

In the vast majority of animals, the owner and veterinarian can reduce the number of seizures by over 50 percent.

In cats, epilepsy itself is mainly treated with phenobarbital, which is administered twice a day. Many velvet paws can remain seizure-free with regular administration. This means that the cat owner has to familiarize himself with the administration of tablets. A reliable person should be instructed to administer the tablets when on vacation or in the event of illness. In some cases, potassium bromide or diazepam are used as an alternative. Your veterinarian will choose the optimal medication based on your cat’s general condition.

Especially at the beginning, patience and a few visits to the vet are required. It can take time to find the right dose for your cat. Too high a dose can cause liver damage. Do not discontinue therapy without consulting your veterinarian. A severe epileptic fit could occur.

Outdoor access for epilepsy cats?

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Basically, the goal of epilepsy therapy is to reduce the number of seizures. With primary epilepsy, it is not always possible for the cat to become completely free of seizures. Even if only two seizures occur per year, they can be fatal if they are released. For example, if the velvet paw is on the street while it is having a seizure.

It would be ideal to give epilepsy cats a safe walk with a cat fence.

Also, check whether there is any danger in your own four walls. If your velvet paw prefers to lie on a two-meter-high cupboard, offer an alternative sleeping place.