Tuesday, June 21, 2022

What Causes Seizures In Older Cats

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What Are Cat Seizures In Older Cats

A Little Known Cause Of Seizures In Older Cats

Cat seizures in older cats are increased synchronous abnormal electrical activity in the brains cerebral cortex, which leads to physical signs such as shaking, twitching, convulsions, and spasms. Older cats can be affected differently by seizures than younger cats which we expand on in this article.

Seeing a seizure in your pet can be a traumatic experience for any cat owner, but having some information to help you understand what is happening can keep you informed and calm, which not only helps you as the owner but also your cat.

Epilepsy is a condition where an animal has repeated episodes of seizures.

Seizures can have many different signs, causes, and treatments, and in this article, we will explain these so that you feel better equipped to deal with seizures should they occur in your cat.

What Are The Symptoms Of Epilepsy In Cats

Seizures in cats typically only last a couple of minutes although in some cases animals can experience cluster seizures where there are multiple seizures over the course of a few hours or a few days. If your cat is having a seizure their symptoms will depend upon whether the seizure is generalized or partial.

Partial Seizures
  • Signs of a partial seizure include uncharacteristic behavior, abnormal posture, unusual vocalizations, drooling or twitching.
Generalized Seizures
  • Generalized seizures in cats often begin with behavioral changes quickly followed by symptoms such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, chewing, twitching, salivating, defecation or urination.

What Causes Seizures In Cats

In some cases, seizures in cats is an unavoidable condition. Your veterinarian may not be able to pinpoint the underlying cause, and there may not have been anything the pet owner could have done to prevent its development.

However, in other cases, seizures are the result of a specific event or sequence of events.

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Causes Of Seizures In Cats

Multiple conditions can interrupt brain functioning and lead to seizures, including:

  • Head trauma
  • High fever and infections
  • Neurologic conditions such as epilepsy

We often see seizures in cats with diabetes. Cats with the disease can develop low blood sugar that triggers seizures, Mears says. Other common drivers of seizures in cats are infections that cause inflammation in the spinal cord or brain as well as tumors, especially in older cats.

Preventing Future Seizures Will Depend On The Specific Cause

What Causes Seizures in Older Cats?

Most age-related diseases in cats are managed with their own specific treatment plans successful treatment should prevent seizure activity. Cancers causing seizures may be able to be removed surgically or with chemotherapy. There are also a number of drugs available that prevent seizures phenobarbital is the cheapest and most common, although less well tolerated by cats than dogs but other options include imepitoin, levetiracetam and gabapentin.

It can initially be difficult calculating the ideal dose for individual cats, so treatment often starts with some trial and error. Most drugs will need to be given orally at least once a day, which requires a lot of input from you. Furthermore, the drugs do have a lot of side-effects that need to be managed. All of this information will be given to you by your vet, if they feel your cat needs long-term anti-seizure medication.

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How Long Can A Cat Live With Untreated Lymphoma

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, it may not be appropriate to deny treatment to a cat with lymphoma and your vet may recommend euthanasia to protect your cat’s quality of life if treatment is not pursued. However, cheap and simple at-home steroid therapy can be used to reduce symptoms and buy the cat some time- typically a month or two.

Diagnostic Testing For Adult Onset Seizures In Dogs And Cats

Initial diagnostic testing in any patient presenting with new onset seizures should include baseline bloodwork . Bloodwork is used to help rule in/out causes for reactive seizures, identify co-morbidities that may affect further diagnostic or treatment choices, and document a baseline for monitoring if starting anticonvulsant medication.

Further diagnostics choices are then guided by clinical reasoning. For many senior animals this may include thoracic radiographs +/- abdominal imaging.

Three view thoracic radiographs are recommended prior to MRI to screen for cardiopulmonary disease and metastatic disease. Abdominal ultrasound may be recommended if there is concern for abdominal disease from clinical history, physical exam, or bloodwork.

In cats, lymphoma is the second most common intracranial neoplasia after meningioma. Lymphoma can often be a multicentric process so may be found through abdominal imaging and sampling. Hemangiosarcoma is the most common metastatic tumor to the canine brain, with other commonly affected sites including the lung, liver, heart, kidney, and spleen. After these initial screening tests are performed, the remaining diagnostics include magnetic resonance imaging of the brain +/- CSF analysis to determine if there is intracranial pathology.

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Causes Of Seizures In Older Cats

Most cats will never experience a seizure in their lives. Some seizures occur randomly with no identifiable cause, however they can also be caused from previous brain damage even if the cat has no symptoms. If your cat has experienced a seizure, it could be due to one of the following reasons:

  • Stroke
  • Medications

What Is Causing The Epileptic Seizure

Seizures in a Kitten

Causes of epileptic seizures can be found inside the brain or outside the brain .

Poisons and metabolic diseases represent extracranial causes. In these cases, the brain is perfectly healthy but reacts by seizuring to a toxin ingested by or applied to the animal, a change in the blood composition caused by a metabolic problem , high blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythm. Hence the term reactive epileptic seizures is often used to describe this category of causes. With toxic causes, recurrent seizures are not expected unless the cat is exposed again to the toxin.

Intracranial causes are divided into primary and secondary epilepsy. In the case of secondary epilepsy, the epileptic seizures are a sign of a structural disease in the brain. This disease might be a brain tumour, an inflammation or infection of the brain , a brain malformation, a recent or previous stroke or head trauma. Epileptic seizures may occur alone or be associated with other symptoms .

In the case of primary epilepsy , there is no disease in the brain but the epileptic seizures are caused by a functional problem . Cats with primary epilepsy tend to experience their first seizure at a young adult age. While the true incidence of primary epilepsy in cats is unknown, it has been suggested that between 21 and 59% of cats with seizures are primary epileptics. Primary epilepsy in dogs is usually genetic in origin however, there is little evidence of this in the cat.

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How To Treat Seizures In Cats

When your cat comes out of a seizure and is in a calm state, immediately take her to your veterinarian. If your vets office is closed, proceed to an emergency veterinary clinic.

Although the seizure has passed, your cat could have another one, Mears explains. To break a cycle of seizures often requires intravenous medications.

Your veterinarian will run diagnostic tests to determine whats causing the seizures. Tests include blood and urine samples and imaging tests like Xrays and MRI. What treatment your veterinarian recommends depends on the underlying cause of seizures.

Are There Any Special Considerations If My Cat Is Put On Anticonvulsant Medication

In general, once a cat is put on anticonvulsant medication, it will require this medication for life. It is important that you understand the following “golden rules of seizure treatment”:

  • ALWAYS follow the instructions on the label. Both the dose and timing of the medication are important to maintain adequate drug levels in the bloodstream.
  • NEVER run out of the medication as sudden withdrawal of treatment can lead to uncontrollable seizures.
  • INFORM your veterinarian when your supply is running low so a refill prescription can be arranged. This is particularly important if the treatment needs to be ordered specially for your cat.
  • KEEP these drugs safe and away from children, as they can be powerful sedatives.
  • BE CAREFUL about other medications, including herbs and supplements, that you give your cat. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian before giving your cat anything.

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What Causes Seizures In Older Cats

  • Fact Checked

Just like people, some pets will suffer from seizures throughout their lives. Of household pets, dogs are the most likely to have seizures, as many suffer from Idiopathic Epilepsy. But cats can suffer from seizures too especially older cats.

While Idiopathic Epilepsy is generally a lifelong condition that appears young in dogs and cats up to about 4 years of age for cats it is far less common in cats than it is in dogs. Only about 25% of cat seizures are attributed to Idiopathic Epilepsy.

Most seizures in cats are caused by brain disease and brain damage. Brain damage, of course, sounds scary. But not all brain damage is serious or life-threatening. Minor brain damage may be almost impossible to detect in cats but it can also lead to seizures.

How Is Epilepsy In Cats Diagnosed

What Causes Seizures in Older Cats?

Diagnosis is essential when it comes to seizures in cats, due to the many possible causes. Diagnostic testing can include blood tests, urinalysis, spinal fluid testing, x-rays, CT scans or MRIs.

The goal of testing and diagnosis is to pinpoint the underlying cause of your cat’s seizures in order to determine the best possible treatment.

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Systemic Or Environmental Causes

Sometimes, conditions outside the brain can affect its function and induce seizures. For example, untreated hypertension, most commonly from kidney disease, can result in seizures. The liver filters out many potentially seizure-causing compounds, such as dietary protein products that result after a typical meal. Young cats with a particular type of abnormal blood vessel that directs blood away from the liver can experience seizures because the shunt prevents these toxins from being filtered. Seizures can also result from exposure to toxins like antifreeze or the application of flea and tick medications intended for use only on dogs and not cats. Accidental ingestion of certain human prescription medications, such as antidepressants and ADHD medications, can land many feline patients in the ICU with seizures.

What Information Can I Provide To My Veterinarian To Help Determine The Cause Of Seizures In My Cat

Information about your cat’s lifestyle and history may also be important, including:

  • What age did the seizures begin and are they getting worse?
  • Are the seizures intermittent or do they occur at regular intervals?
  • What is the frequency and duration of seizures?
  • Have you noticed any association between the seizures and sleep, excitement, feeding, etc.?
  • Are there any other signs of illness such poor appetite, excessive drinking, reduced exercise, etc.?
  • Has the cat received any medications or supplements recently, including any flea control products or over-the-counter deworming medicine?
  • What diet and nutritional supplements are given?
  • Has there been any access or exposure to poisons or toxins?

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What Are Cat Seizures And Epilepsy

We may have some idea of what a seizure is as it relates to humans, and understand they come in different forms, for different reasons, with different levels of severity and concern level. The same is actually true for cats.

A seizure is simply a sudden burst of electrical activity occurring within the brain. âThis abnormal activity can lead to an array of abnormal body movements, ranging from violent convulsing to mild tremors,â says Amber LaRock, a licensed vet tech and veterinary consultant at catpet.club. Some seizures will only occur on one side of the brain, while some will involve both hemispheres.

Available Treatment Options For Cat Seizures In Older Cats

Seizures: An 8-year-old female cat has fits from midnight to 5 am. Part 2

The good news is that seizures can be treated better with modern medicine than in the past. The treatment varies on the cause.

Seizures caused by toxins will require treatment through helping to remove the toxin from your cats body, potentially through hospitalization and medications. Toxic causes can be suspected by your veterinarian from a thorough history and sometimes through blood and urine testing.

When a cat has seizures from diseases outside of the brain, such as liver disease or hyperthyroidism, these conditions will need to be treated to stop the seizures. These diseases are often diagnosed through blood and urine tests and sometimes imaging such as ultrasound and radiographs.

When toxins and extracranial causes are eliminated, then your veterinarian will suspect something in the brain. Diagnostic tests such as blood and urine tests will usually be performed before advanced imaging. To see inside the skull, CT or MRI is required.

This is usually only available at referral hospitals. When a cause in the brain is suspected or confirmed, then specific treatment can be started. For example, if a brain tumor is found, then radiation therapy might be considered.

Where an exact cause isnt found or if seizures cant be managed, there is medication to help prevent seizures. Two examples include phenobarbital and imepitoin. These medications are long-term treatments and should not be stopped without a veterinarians advice.

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Treatment Of Epilepsy In Cats

Treatment of seizures is focused on managing the underlying condition if it can be diagnosed. In any case, your veterinarian may recommend medication to help reduce the risk and severity of seizures.

Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s dosage instructions carefully. If you change the dose amount or stop the medication suddenly, the seizures may resume and even get worse.

Do you need to give your cat a pill? You can try hiding it in their regular food or use a pill pocket, which is a treat with a hollow center that can hold a pill.

Cat Seizures: Causes Symptoms & What You Should Do


Seeing a cat having seizures is scary for any pet parent. Caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, seizures can cause concerning behaviors, including thrashing, drooling and teeth chomping. But thankfully, even though they look frightening, they’re not always a medical emergency.

Read on to learn why cat seizures happen and what you should do if your cat ever has one.

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How To Tell If Your Cats Having A Grand Mal Seizure

There are three stages associated with a grand mal seizure in cats. Identification of these three states will make it easier for you to observe whether or not your cat is experiencing grand mal seizures.

  • The pre-seizure phase, also called the aura, lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. The cat might exhibit nervousness or anxiousness. It might seek your affection, salivate, meow or hide. Cats possibly seek the owner for comfort because they sense the seizure coming on.
  • During the seizure itself, the ictus, all the muscles in the cats body would contract. It would fall on its side with its head drawn back. The cat might vomit, salivate, urinate, defecate, collapse, display uncoordinated muscle activity or appear excited. This stage should last less than five minutes, but if it goes beyond five minutes it becomes a medical emergency, known as status epilepticus, which can cause brain damage and death.
  • After the seizure is over, known as the post-ictal period, the cat would be confused or disoriented. It might drool and experience temporary loss of vision. It would have no recollection of the seizure itself.

Strange Seizure Abnormality Affects Some Older Cats

What Causes Seizures in Older Cats?

Dear Dr. Fox:

Out of the blue, my 12-year-old cat had a grand mal seizure. Our vet did blood work, checked her sugar level and sent us home for observation.

Our cat had four more large seizures in a 24-hour period. The blood work came back negative, and because she had no other medical problems, she was prescribed phenobarbital. That was 10 days ago, and she has had only two minor seizures since. The vet suspects a brain tumor, but without further testing, we are not sure.

Dr. Karen Becker for Mercola.com wrote about a bizarre seizure disorder in cats in Britain, called Tom and Jerry syndrome, triggered by everyday noises. Do you have any thoughts on this, or any idea what could be causing the seizures?

She eats a grain-free diet. Until the seizures, we were giving her diluted tuna juice to get her to drink water. She also begs for a vitamin E treat a day.

What do you think about putting her through an MRI, a spinal tap and possible surgery?

P.J., Chesapeake Beach

DF: Your cat might be suffering from what has been termed feline audiogenic reflex seizures , according to a survey by veterinarian M. Lowrie and associates published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

This condition, identified primarily in older cats, is triggered by sudden noises. The cats go into a grand mal seizure, with drooling, evacuation, extension and paddling of the feet after falling on to one side.

Dear Dr. Fox:

C.S., the District

Dear Dr. Fox:

R.P., Longmont, Colo.

Dear Dr. Fox:


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Petit Mal Seizure & Grand Mal Seizures

There are two general types of epileptic seizures in cats: petit mal and grand mal.

Petit mal seizures do not cause convulsions. Typically, the cat will suddenly collapse into an unconscious state.

Grand mal seizures cause the cat to fall on their side and experience muscle convulsions. Grand mal seizures are diagnosed much more frequently than petit mal seizures.

Neither petit mal or grand mal seizures will cause your feline to experience any pain. However, they will often be confused and disoriented once the seizure passes.

Lymphoma In Cats Treatment

Feline lymphoma can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, depending on the type, grade, and location of the cancer. The difficulty with treating lymphoma in cats is that the cancerous cells are generally spread over a large area, so its not as simple as just cutting them out.

Chemotherapy is the most common lymphoma treatment plan in cats, as it can help to kill all cancer cells including those not in the main location of the tumour. Chemotherapy for low-grade lymphoma usually involves tablets, whilst high grade lymphoma is more likely to require injectable chemotherapy.

Cats tolerate chemotherapy very well and dont suffer too badly with side effects- they rarely lose their hair or appear sick, but some will get mild vomiting or diarrhea. Oral chemotherapy with prednisone and chlorambucil is suitable for small cell lymphoma, but the more aggressive types of lymphoma need a more intense treatment including injectable chemotherapy drugs. This chemotherapy protocol is commonly called a CHOP protocol and includes cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, prednisolone, and vincristine.

There are several options for treatment of lymphoma in cats, with treatment routes varying in aggressiveness and which type of lymphoma they address.

We have listed the most common type of therapy pursued and the average survival times below:

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