Seizures, or convulsions, are characterized by uncontrolled muscle movements. Cats can have seizures and they are an extremely alarming incident. Seizures in cats can vary in cause and severity. Affected animals will often seem “out of sorts” both immediately prior to and after the seizure event. They will usually seem unaware of their surroundings during the actual seizure, but the convulsions do not last very long (usually a minute or so). But to the cat owner, it is a very long minute because seizures are more painful to watch than they are for the cat to experience.
1. Poisoning and toxic ingestion can lead to staggering and seizures. Toxicity can come from external sources, like toxic plants or chemicals, but even advanced metabolic disease (like kidney failure or diabetes) can seem like a toxicity to the body because of the imbalance of chemicals. The most notorious causes of toxic events that can lead to seizures include antifreeze poisoning and topical insecticides meant for dogs.
2. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) can also occur in cats. Like any inflammation, it can be infectious, parasitic or auto-immune. Sometimes if no one is able to figure out the exact etiology, it is called idiopathic. Cats suffering from encephalitis are very ill, often progressing from uncoordinated movements to seizures and unresponsiveness. Common feline infections, Feline Leukemia can be an underlying factor for seizure disorder as can certain parasites.
3. Developmental disorders are defined as conditions that occur during an animal’s formation and growth. These things can be secondary to infectious processes or just a mishap in development. An example of developmental disorder in cats can occur when a mother cat becomes infected with feline panleukopenia (a very contagious virus that we routinely vaccinate for) during her pregnancy. The virus can infect the brains of developing kittens and cause seizure disorders. There are other developmental troubles that can affect the way that the brain is formed and functions. Seizures associated with developmental problems are usually noticed in young animals.
4. Injuries to the head can cause seizures also. Cats that routinely spend time outdoors often get struck by cars and suffer head trauma. Sometimes head injury cats will have a bloody nose or unequal pupils, in addition to the staggering and seizures.
5. Other causes can progress to seizures for cats. Cancerous processes can be a reason, depending upon where the tumor is located. Sometimes the exact source is never determined, but patients can be treated and have a high quality of life.
Your veterinarian will be help you to differentiate between these major causes of seizures and explain the prognosis and treatment options. Sometimes diagnostic tests will be required.
Not all of these causes carry a guarded prognosis and early intervention can be the difference between life and death. Seizures are not an issue that can managed at home without veterinary supervision.