Seizures in Pets
Witnessing your precious dog or cat having a seizure can be a most frightening experience. During seizures pets often lose control, fall over, chomp their teeth, salivate or drool, whine, paddle with their feet, and begin to urinate or deficate on themselves. Their eyes become large (dilated) and unresponsive. A pet caregiver feels panicked and helpless while watching it all happen.
Hopefully, you and your pet have never, and will never, have to experience this shocking event. But, if you have, or if you experience it in the future, this article will help you to understand what causes seizures, what you can do while your pet is having a seizure, and the various treatment options available.
What causes seizures? Epilepsy is one cause. Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to epilepsy. These include: cocker spaniels; poodles; collies; german shepherds; irish setters; golden retrievers; dachshunds, labrador retrievers, saint bernards, miniature schnauzers, siberian huskies, and wire-haired terriers. Veterinarians are not sure what causes this “hereditary” epilepsy.
In cats hereditary epilepsy is unusual. Vets can normally find the cause of seizures. These include chemical toxins (which includes chemical preservatives used in many pet foods), brain tumors, feline leukemia, feline infections, peritonitis, feline AIDS, head trauma, and problems with the liver and kidneys.
In dogs there are many causes of seizures besides hereditary epilepsy. Allergies to food and the chemicals, preservatives, and artificial flavors put into the foods can cause seizures. Other causes include liver and kidney disease, tumors, poisonings, and low blood sugars.
What can you do while your pet is having a seizure? Try to stay calm. This is hard to do, but using a calm, reassuring quiet voice will comfort your dog or cat. Move any furniture or other objects on which your pet could hurt itself. If you’re unable to move the object, place pillows or wrap blankets between the pet and the object. Slide something soft under your pet’s head, but be sure to keep your hands and face away from his head so that you don’t risk a possible bite. You can gently stroke his hip or side, but position yourself opposite the side of the feet and toenails as the muscle spasms make the feet curl into claws that can gouge or rake your skin. Dim the lights, and keep the environment as quiet as possible by turning off the TV and loud music.
If possible take notes about the seizure so that you can give details to your vet. Jot down the time of day it occurred, the length of each seizure, and the time in between each seizure if they are
recurrent. Your vet will also want to know whether your pet urinated or deficated, if the seizure hit suddenly or progressed from mere body twitching, whether your pet regained consciousness, and how long it took before your pet appeared normal again. In addition, you’ll need to figure out whether there were any possible triggering events. These include loud noises such as fireworks, unusual items that were eaten, and excessive playing or exercise.
After the seizure, pets usually appear lost or drugged. This drugged state can last a few minutes to several hours depending on the severity of the seizure. Your pet may respond to you, but do so in a very slow manner. Since seizures are exhausting for your pet, he will probably want to sleep afterwards. It is best to allow him to sleep, but check in on him occasionally without disturbing his rest.
If this is your pet’s first seizure, call your vet as soon as possible. Some vets will want to see if another seizure occurs, while others will perform a variety of blood tests to check for anemia, liver & heart functions, calcium, glucose, & electrolyte levels. Your vet may even run a screen for possible toxins, take x-rays, or perform an electroencephalogram.
The test results may not indicate the specific reason for the seizure. In this case, your vet may wait to see if another seizure occurs or he/she may suggest medications. If the diagnosis is epilepsy, pets have an excellent chance to live a normal life as long as proper medical care and follow-up are provided.
If you discover the cause of the seizure, you may be able to eliminate future seizures by eliminating the seizure’s source. For instance, if the seizure is due to chemical toxins, make sure your pet remains as free of toxins as possible. Provide human grade food and treats that do not contain chemical preservatives, fillers, or byproducts. Clean your house with chemical-free products. Also, use more natural flea, tick, & heartworm prevention products as some of these products may lower your pet’s seizure threshold and make seizures more difficult to control. Avoid products containing organophosphate insecticides. For safer heartworm prevention, use products containing interceptor and filaribits.
What can you do if your pet’s seizure condition cannot be cured and you realize you and your pet may have to live with the seizures? In the past, the only treatment options available were strong anticonvulsants that could have serious side effects. These still may be your only option. But, more natural approaches have been found to help some pets, either prior to stronger medications or in addition to them so that you may be able to lower the dose. There are a variety of treatment options that include a natural diet, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, homeopathy, herbs, and conventional medications.
As mentioned above, give your pet a human grade diet, free of chemicals and additives. Also, remove other toxins from your pet’s environment. Clean with natural products and use more natural flea, tick, and heartworm prevention measures.
Minimize stress in your pet’s life. Try to avoid sudden changes in his environment, loud noises, and other stressful situations.
You can also try herbs that act as sedatives. These include valerian root, kava, skullcap and oatstraw. Skullcap is one of the key ingredients in Pet Alive’s product EaseSure. EaseSure helps in preventing and treating seizures. Note that when using herbs and supplements, you may need to lower the dosage of other anticonvulsants.
Several supplements appear to help in preventing seizures. Try an antioxidant combination of Vitamin C, E, B-6, and selenium. Your vet can recommend the dosage for your pet. Magnesium and DMG (dimethyl glycine) are other helpful supplements.
Acupuncture is another helpful option which has helped to control seizures in many pets. Sometimes just placing an ear acupuncture tack in a dog’s ear will stop seizures, and this only requires one acupuncture visit.
If the ear tack doesn’t work, gold implants can be placed in different locations under a pet’s head. Or your pet can be treated with traditional chinese acupuncture.
As you can see, there are many natural approaches to treating seizures in pets. These should help your beloved pet to live a normal and comfortable life.
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