Although seizures in pets are a common neurologic problem, they are distressing to witness. Our team at Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County knows that witnessing a pet experience a seizure can be frightening, especially for the first time. We are here to help you understand seizure causes, and how you should react if your pet has a seizure to alleviate your pet’s—and your—fear and stress. 

What causes seizures in pets?

A seizure is a sudden surge in the brain’s electrical activity that causes a temporary, involuntary disturbance of normal brain function that is often accompanied by uncontrollable muscle movements, such as shaking, trembling, twitching, or convulsing. Seizures can occur from an issue inside or outside the brain that results in abnormal brain motor activity. Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in pets and is considered an inherited condition, but the exact cause is unknown. Idiopathic epilepsy can be diagnosed only after other potential causes of seizures have been ruled out. These other causes include:

  • Brain tumors 
  • Low blood sugar levels  
  • Head trauma 
  • Metabolic disease
  • Exposure to toxins or poisons
  • Liver disease 
  • Kidney failure
  • Heat exhaustion 
  • Infectious disease 

What does a seizure look like in pets?

Seizures can range from a slight twitch to uncontrollable shaking, with most lasting less than a minute to several minutes. During a seizure, your pet may display these signs:

  • Jerky movements
  • Drooling
  • Rolling of the eyes
  • Chomping or chewing motions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Urinating or defecating
  • Vomiting

What should be done if a pet has a seizure?

When your pet has a seizure, you may feel frightened and helpless, but knowing what to do can empower you to forget fears and focus on supporting your pet.

  • Remain calm — Remaining calm can be a challenge during your pet’s seizure, but that is one of best ways to support them. Your pet will likely be unaware of their surroundings and behavior during and immediately after a seizure, and you can help when they recover by staying grounded, speaking to them in a soft, gentle voice, and remaining present during your pet’s experience. 
  • Do not restrain your pet — As much as you may want to lovingly hold your pet, do not try to stroke or restrain them during a seizure. Seizures can cause unusual movements and behavior, and a startled pet can unintentionally injure themselves or you. Despite the common misconception, pets cannot swallow their tongues, so keep your hands away from their mouth to prevent accidental bite wounds.
  • Secure the area — While you should not restrain your seizing pet, you should move them away from stairs and sharp corners, and protect their head if they are on a hard surface, like a wood floor, to prevent injury. 
  • Keep track of the time — Try to time your pet’s seizure, or record a video on your phone. You may have difficulty focusing on anything other than your pet, but this information can help your veterinarian diagnose your pet and provide appropriate treatment.  
  • Contact Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County — After your pet’s seizure, contact our team to determine the appropriate next steps. We should evaluate a pet with no previous seizure history, while pets who have multiple seizures back-to-back, or one seizure that continues for more than five minutes, are in a life-threatening situation and require emergency treatment. 

Can seizures in pets be treated?

A pet who has had multiple seizures over a few months, or who experiences severe, prolonged, or clustered seizures needs treatment. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and diagnostic testing to rule out underlying conditions and evaluate your pet’s health to determine the cause and the appropriate post-seizure treatment. The information you can share about each episode’s frequency and length will help with the diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Watching your pet go through a seizure can be terrifying, but knowing how to handle the situation will allow you to focus on supporting your pet before, during, and after a seizure. If your pet has a seizure, stay calm, and contact our Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County team right away for an evaluation.