Seizures and epilepsy in pets
It can be very upsetting if your pet unexpectedly has a seizure. The best thing to do for your pet is to stay calm. Try and remember our helpful seizure management tips below and then get help from a vet straight away.
What are seizures?
Seizures are more commonly called 'fits'. They happen when usual electrical activity in your pet's braqin causes them to lose control of their muscles.
A fit, which can look like a twitch or uncontrollable shaking, can last for a few seconds or for several minutes. Your pet might have one seizure in their lifetime or they could have a condition called epilepsy, which can cause frequent fits if your pet doesn’t get treatment.
The signs your pet is having a fit
If your pet is about to have a fit, you might notice them behaving oddly. Some animals may look dazed or stare off into the distance before a seizure. They can seem confused or nervous. If your pet has regular fits you might learn to notice these signs so you can tell when a fit is coming.
Although seizures aren’t immediately life-threatening, your pet may lose control of their body, which can be frightening.
Here are some things that usually happen if your pet has a fit:
- Fierce trembling or jerking.
- Glazed eyes.
- They may dribble.
- Their jaw could be clamped shut.
- They might wee or poo during the fit.
- They might stop reacting to your voice or touch.
What to do if your pet has a fit
It can be very scary if your pet is having a seizure, especially for the first time. The best thing you can do is keep calm and follow our first aid advice.
Call your vet straight away for advice. They might not tell you to bring your pet in right away – it depends on how long the fit lasted and any other symptoms that came with it. Their fit may have been caused by an underlying illness which you don’t know about. The fits could get worse with time and, if they aren’t treated, your pet’s life could be in danger so getting advice from a vet on this is essential.
If your pet has had a seizure which lasts over five minutes or has more than one seizure in a day, it’s important to get them seen by a vet immediately.
Helping your pet recover
Your pet will probably be very dazed and confused after they’ve had a fit. Give them somewhere calm and comfortable to recover. Your vet can offer more advice about how to help your pet recover. Try speaking softly and gently to your pet. This might help them keep calm, especially as they come round after their fit.
What causes pets to have fits?
There are many reasons your pet might have a fit. Sometimes it’s a one-off episode, but a seizure can also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.
Common causes are:
- Pets suffering from epilepsy can have regular fits and sometimes need medication to keep them under control.
- If your pet has an untreated illness – such as kidney disease or diabetes – they might have fits.
- Head trauma. If your pet has fallen over or knocked their head on something, they could have a fit.
- Heat stroke. Overheating is very serious for pets and could cause them to have a seizure. You can find out more about the signs and symptoms of heatstroke here.
- Some poisons can affect your pet’s brain and cause them to have a fit. If you’ve noticed them eating or drinking anything them shouldn’t, speak to your vet immediately. You can find out more about common poisons and hazards here.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition that can cause regular fits. Seizures might be triggered by something in the pet’s environment, like bright lights or loud noises, or even high levels of excitement or stress.
There’s no cure for epilepsy and we’re still not sure what causes some pets to have it and not others. The good news is that epilepsy can usually be managed with medication and regular check-ups. Most epileptic pets go on to live very happy and normal lives, so long as their owner works with their vet to keep on top of the condition.
Epilepsy can happen in any pet, but dogs are more likely to suffer from it. They usually start to show signs of epilepsy at around 2-3 years old, although it can develop at any age. Certain breeds are more likely to develop it than others, including:
- Irish Setters
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds.