What to do when your pet has a seizure

Seeing the furry friend you love have a seizure can be a very stressful and scary situation.

It’s important not to try to restrain your pet, especially in the facial area, when they are having a seizure.  If the seizure is generalized they will be unaware of what is going on around and you can be badly bitten if your hand accidentally gets near their mouth. Look around to make sure your pet is not going to be further injured during the seizure and if they are near stairs for example gently pulling them to a safer area.

Due to the subconscious brain activity occurring during a seizure it is very common for any animal to urinate and/or defecate. They may salivate and snap their mouths open and closed rapidly and their limbs may become rigid or they may paddle as if they are running.  Even once the seizure is over expect your pet to be disoriented for a few minutes.

If your pet has a seizure that lasts more than a couple of minutes you will need to move them to the car as they will require urgent veterinary attention. Some seizures will not stop without intravenous medications and can result in death if untreated. During a prolonged seizure the body temperature starts to rise and other complications in the body occur.  If you witness your pet ingest toxins such as snail bait or the plant Brunsfelsia you should seek veterinary attention immediately. If medical treatment can be started before seizures occur with these toxins then a seizure may be avoided altogether.

Even if your pet has a seizure lasting only a minute or so you should make a call to your veterinarian as soon as possible.  If your pet has never had a seizure previously a diagnostic work up is indicated that includes a physical exam, blood work, and a urinalysis to determine whether the seizure is due to a problem inside the brain or somewhere else in the body.  If an issue with the brain is suspected further diagnostics such as an MRI scan may be offered particularly in those pets that continue to show neurologic symptoms.

The term ‘epilepsy’ is not the same as ‘seizure’. Epilepsy is a diagnosis of exclusion where other causes of seizures (that may be treatable) have been ruled out. It is suspected to be due to abnormal brain electrical activity often genetic in origin and if seizure activity is occurring as frequently as every couple of weeks then long term medication is indicated.

It is a good idea to keep the number of your veterinarian on hand in the event of an emergency like a seizure.  If it is the weekend or the middle of the night call your nearest emergency veterinary hospital who will be able to provide you and your pet with support over the phone until you can get them to help.

Dr Alex Hynes

Dr Alex Hynes is a Veterinary Surgeon and Director at Animal Emergency Services who provide after hours emergency veterinary care for pets and wildlife. Dr Alex is a local public figure passionate about educating pet owners and dedicated to advancing emergency and critical care in veterinary medicine, so that sick and injured animals can have the care they need at any time of day or night. You can follow Dr Alex on Facebook or Instagram.

By Dr Alex Hynes BVSc (Hons) GP Cert (SAS) MVS MANZCVS (Emergency & Critical Care)

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