Seizures are common in dogs, but more unusual in cats. Seizures are just symptoms which can occur with many kinds of diseases. They can happen because of diseases outside the brain or inside the brain. Low blood sugar that can happen with an overdose of insulin or with a tumor of the pancreas can cause seizures. They can happen with diseases of the liver or kidneys. Ingestion of toxins such as snail bait can cause seizures. Lesions of the brain such as tumors, abscesses, granulomas, infections, or inflammatory diseases can cause seizures. Epilepsy may also cause seizures.
Seizures most commonly last for a few seconds to a couple minutes. Grand mal seizures cause the head to go back and the legs stiffen with rhythmic jerking. The pet is usually unconscious. Smaller partial seizures may be more difficult to recognize, but you should be suspicious of any repetitive rhythmic movements. After the seizure, the pet usually enters the post ictal phase where it is dazed, lethargic, and not able to walk normally. This phase may last for minutes, hours, or days. Testing should be done to try to determine the cause of the seizures. Blood testing, urinalysis, and liver function tests are commonly done. An MRI of the brain or a spinal tap may also be needed.
Intravenous medication can be given by a veterinarian to stop a seizure. If the seizures become too frequent, usually any more than every four to six weeks, anti- convulsant medication can be given to try to reduce future seizures. Anti-convulsant medicine does not guarantee a pet will never have another seizure, but it tends to make the seizures shorter in duration and less frequent. Phenobarbitol is the most common anti-convulsant medicine prescribed.