What are seizures in dogs and cats and how are they treated?

A seizure is a symptom of certain diseases affecting the brain.  In medical terms, it's also referred to as 'hypersynchronous cerebrocortical discharge'.  That's because, in a healthy animal, the cells in the brain send electrical signals over relatively long distances and don't 'fire' all at once in any particular area.  On an EEG, this looks like little squiggly lines in health, but if enough cells fire together (hypersynchronous discharge) it looks like a big 'spike' on the EEG readout.

This is our Electroencephalogram in action ...

This is our Electroencephalogram in action ...

Like we said, seizures are a symptom of disease.  The most common disease to cause seizures in dogs is Idiopathic Epilepsy.  But liver disease, kidney disease, changes in calcium or sodium in the blood, even brain tumors and auto-immune diseases can cause seizures.  That's why we often recommend an MRI and a spinal tap to look at your pet's brain and determine the underlying cause.

Still, seizures as a symptom (even if the underlying cause isn't progressive - like Idiopathic Epilepsy or a 'stroke') are often progressive.  That means that, the more a pet has seizures, the more likely they are to have more seizures and the more severe the seizures are likely to become.

For this reason, we treat seizures to maintain a certain level of control.  While it is possible to make seizures go away completely; in many cases, the adverse effects of the drugs make this a terrible option.  You see,  the more we give drugs to control seizures, the more we sedate the patient.  If we go to far with the medications, there won't be any seizures but your pet might be mistaken for a doormat!

There are many different options for treating seizures in our pets.  First, we attempt to identify and treat the underlying cause of the seizures.  Then we try to find the right drug or combination of drugs for that particular pet and your particular situation.  That's why we call it the 'art of seizure management'.