Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can cause your cat to experience seizures, and this can be distressing for them and you. It's not always possible to identify the cause when a cat develops epilepsy, and the condition can develop at any point during your cat's life. Potential triggers can include infection, a tumour, exposure to poisonous substances and trauma. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for epilepsy in cats:
Although seizures are the most common symptom of epilepsy in cats, there are certain behaviours or symptoms to be on the lookout for that tend to manifest just before a seizure occurs. Being aware of these pre-seizure symptoms can help you care for your cat by moving them to a safe place before they begin to have a seizure. These symptoms include pacing back and forth or in circles, appearing disoriented, vomiting, losing control of their bladder or bowels and increased salivation. During a seizure, your cat may bang into furniture or fall over, and when the convulsions stop, they will present as exhausted and may be thirsty. It's not uncommon for a cat to take a long nap after a seizure, but your cat may need some comforting to settle them down.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose epilepsy by taking details of your cat's symptoms and ruling out conditions that can cause similar symptoms by analysing a blood sample for exposure to toxins and raised inflammatory markers, which can be indicative of some forms of cancer or the presence of a tumour. Diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI scan, can be carried out to check for the presence of lesions on your cat's brain, which are commonly found in epilepsy patients.
Once diagnosed, your cat will be prescribed an anticonvulsant to help manage their seizures. Some cats are able to become seizure free with the right anticonvulsant, while others are able to experience a significant reduction in the frequency of their seizures. Your cat may have to try a few different anticonvulsants to find the one that's most effective for them. These drugs shouldn't be stopped suddenly, and your vet will instruct you on how to gradually reduce your cat's dose if they are going to switch to a different drug.
Your vet will also give you advice on how to keep your cat safe when they are having an epileptic seizure and when to have your cat examined after a seizure. For example, if your cat falls or bangs into an object during a seizure and shows signs of physical or neurological trauma after the seizure, it's sensible to have them reviewed by your vet, as they may have sustained an injury.
Epileptic seizures can become more frequent and intense without treatment, so it's important to have your cat formally diagnosed by a vet as soon as you witness your cat having a seizure.