Pet Tip: My pet started having seizures. What should I do until I see the neurologist?
Always contact your family veterinarian immediately if your pet has a seizure. Without proper treatment, seizures can continue and potentially become life threatening. The expertise of a Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist can often aid in the care of a seizuring pet. Have your veterinarian call us or recommend a referral for further assessment and therapy. We can help determine whether your pet needs assessment on an emergency basis.
A seizure is an emergency in the following circumstances:
- There is an onset of cluster seizures (3 or more seizures within a 24 hour period).
- A seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or,
- Seizures occur in succession without a break that allows your pet to recover, drink water and return to normal respirations.
- Your pet does not regain consciousness or responsiveness to verbal stimulation, including response to their name.
My pet has a history of seizures and is being treated with anticonvulsants. What can I do to help my pet through the seizure (ictus) and post-seizure (post-ictal) phase?
When a seizure occurs, ensuring the safety of your pet and your family is most important. Keep your pet away from stairs or ledges, where they may fall. Ensure family members do not come close enough to be accidentally bitten during or after the seizure. Animals do not choke or swallow their tongue during a seizure. Do not put your hand into your pet’s mouth during a seizure. Physical restraint during a seizure will not make the seizure any less violent or reduce the length of the seizure. Move furniture out of the way of your pet and allow the seizure to finish. A calm, quiet, dark environment may help to reduce your pet’s anxiety during recovery.
Understand what normal post-seizure recovery is for your pet. Assess each seizure episode and record the seizure and post-seizure changes. Note all vital changes that would necessitate immediate care and specialized therapy: continuous seizure activity of > 3 minutes without cessation, recurrent seizures without a break of 5-10 minutes and unresponsive mental and behavioral status with increased respirations, heart rate and central body temperature (104-107 degrees Fahrenheit) despite the absence of outward seizure activity. If any of these changes are noted in your pet’s status, please take your pet to the nearest emergency facility immediately for further management.
All pets react differently before, during and after a seizure. Notation of how your pet reacts will help you manage episodes better in the future. All pets become anxious, are disoriented and restless during the post-ictal phase. Allow your pet to wander and “walk it off” in a quiet area. Some pets become very hungry and/or thirsty after a seizure. Allow your pet to eat and drink small amounts of water, once consciousness has returned. Some pets become “clingy” or “needy” seeking attention and comfort. Other pets can become agitated and aggressive. Keeping your pet in a quiet, safe environment is essential in these cases.
I was told to keep a journal of seizure activity. What should I be recording and when should I report this to my veterinarian and/or neurologist?
A journal of seizure activity is one of the best ways to keep yourself, your neurologist and veterinarian involved and up to date. Your journal is one of the many tools needed, to assess current treatment and to determine whether medical treatment needs to be changed. Journal entries should be presented at the initial examination, all rechecks and annual assessments.
Things to note in the journal:
Number of seizures
Date of seizure(s)
Duration of seizure(s)
Duration of post-ictal phase
Medications given before, during and after seizure
Anticonvulsant blood level testing schedule
Any recent change to medication or dosing schedule
Any diet, vitamin or supplement change
When should I be concerned with my pet’s seizure pattern?
All epileptic and recurrent seizure patients will develop a seizure pattern unique to their own. Variation from this pattern and/or increased seizure frequency, duration and recovery from seizures are reasons to alert your veterinarian and/or veterinary neurologist.
My pet needs anticonvulsant level(s) testing. What do I need to do the day of the test?
Your veterinarian and/or veterinary neurologist will determine when anticonvulsant testing should occur. Inform your doctor if you have recently adjusted the dosage or dosing frequency. Your pet may eat and drink the morning of the blood test. Most anticonvulsant testing should be performed 6-8 hours after medication administration, although times will vary dependent upon the type of anticonvulsant(s) used. At the time of testing, please provide all medication dosages and administration times. Also, please request your pet’s body weight be recorded at the time of testing. This will aid your doctor’s interpretation and any dosage adjustments.