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Treating Cats with Epilepsy and/or Seizures

Medications to Treat Feline Seizures or Epilepsy

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Seizures in Cats

Phenobarbital is one of the most commonly used medications to treat seizures or epilepsy in cats.
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Seizures can occur in cats and can have many different causes. If it is possible to locate the cause for your cat's seizures and treat that cause, this is the best treatment option.

However, in many cases, treating the underlying cause of feline seizures may not be possible. Your cat may suffer from a disease or condition for which treatment is not possible or practical. Your cat may also suffer from idiopathic epilepsy, in which the cause of the seizures is unknown.

Cats with frequent recurrent seizures may need to be treated with anticonvulsant medications. However, there are a few things to consider before starting your cat on an anticonvulsant.

Should Your Cat Be Treated for His Seizures

The first decision to make is whether your cat needs to be treated for his seizures. This decision will be based on several factors:

  • How often does your cat have seizures? If the seizures are occurring infrequently (less than once per month), it may not be necessary to treat your cat for the seizures.
  • How severe are the seizures? If your cat's seizures are especially severe, regardless of how frequently they occur, it may be advisable to start treatment.
  • Has your cat suffered from status epilepticus or from cluster seizures? If so, then your cat should be started on treatment to prevent further seizures.

It is important to realize that once your cat starts on an anticonvulsant medication to treat his seizures, he will probably need to receive that medication for the rest of his life.

Discontinuing an anticonvulsant medication suddenly can be quite dangerous for your cat. Never stop giving the medication or change the dosage without checking with your veterinarian first. When anticonvulsant medications need to be discontinued, it is best to withdraw the medication in a slow and gradual manner.

Medications Used to Treat Feline Seizures and/or Epilepsy

Phenobarbital is generally considered to be the first choice in treating feline seizures or epilepsy. Currently, it is the most commonly used anticonvulsant drug in cats.

Benzodiazepine medications such as diazepam (Valium®) can be used effectively to control seizures in cats also. Diazepam can be combined with phenobarbital to treat cats that still have seizures while receiving phenobarbital alone or for cats that require a larger than recommended dose of phenobarbital to control their seizures. The addition of diazepam may allow you to lower the dosage of phenobarbital and obtain better seizure control.

Potassium bromide is a commonly used medication for controlling seizures in dogs. However, in cats, the risk of side effects from using potassium bromide is higher than in dogs. Many veterinarians feel that the risk of side effects is too high to justify the use of potassium bromide in cats.

Levetiracetam (Keppra®) has been used in cats to control seizures and epilepsy. It is a newer anticonvulsant medication that may be an alternative for those cats that do not respond well to phenobarbital and/or diazepam. Some veterinarians are now using levetiracetam as a first choice drug rather than phenobarbital because they believe it may have fewer side effects. However, it has not, as of this time, been studied as thoroughly as phenobarbital.

Medications such as zonisamide, felbamate, pregabalin and gabapentin have not been well-studied in cats. Though some veterinarians do use them to control seizures and epilepsy in cats, there is not a lot known about how these medications affect cats on a long-term basis and what types of side effects to expect. As research continues with these drugs, they may become more widely recommended for cats with seizures and epilepsy.

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