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Seizures in Dogs and Cats

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Seizures have 3 phases:
Pre-ictal, ictal, post-ictal. "Ictal" means seizure.

  1. Pre-ictal. The "pre" phase often goes unnoticed, but you may notice an altered state of consciousness or restlessness, lasting for a few seconds or minutes.
  2. Ictus is the seizure itself, and it may last a few seconds or minutes.

    As mentioned above, a continual seizure, Status Epilepticus, is a medical emergency, and the pet should be rushed to the vet for medication to break the seizure and prevent brain and organ damage from hyperthermia (increased body temperature), acidosis (metabolic imbalance), hypoperfusion (reduced blood flow), and hypoxia (reduced oxygen to tissues). All of the above possibilities occur on a much reduced scale for small seizures, too, so control is important.

  3. Post-ictal phase is the time after the seizure where the animal appears dazed, confused, depressed. The animal may even appear blind - running into walls, etc. Some animals sleep a lot. This typically lasts several minutes, but can last hours, depending on the seizure duration and frequency.

When does a pet need medication to control seizures?
The general rule of thumb is more than one seizure every one or two months. The duration and severity of each seizure needs to be evaluated, too.

What are common seizure control medications?
The most common medication used for maintenance seizure control is Phenobarbital. Emergency situations usually call for the quick-acting Diazepam (Valium) to get immediate control of the seizure. Potassium Bromide (KBr) is an old anticonvulsant medication, used since the 1800's, that is used in veterinary medicine, often with positive results. It can be used in conjunction with Phenobarbital (lessening the amount of Phenobarbital that is needed) or it can be used alone. Potassium bromide does take several weeks to reach therapeutic levels in the blood. Phenobarbital takes several days-weeks, too.

During the initial period of Phenobarbital, the animal may appear groggy, this usually goes away with time. If not, your vet should be notified, and the dosage adjusted to maintain a 'normal' animal and not have seizures.

More: Additional medications to control seizures.

For more information on what medication is right for your pet, speak to your veterinarian.

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

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