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Fitting in Dogs and Cats

How to care for a fitting pet

Witnessing your pet having a fit is very upsetting situation, if this happens to your pet try to remain calm - observe them and try to ensure they do not hurt themselves. Do not try to intervene or put your hand near or in their mouth as you may be injured. It is generally not advisable to move your pet during a fit unless they require immediate veterinary intervention - please read on for further advice regarding this. In general its important to time the episode and when they start to recover, allow them peace, quiet and dim the lights a little. The following is a little more advice about fits - but please do contact us as soon as possible for first aid advice and support if this happens to your pet.

Pets have seizures for different reasons that will require investigation -  these reasons could be something that has happened inside the brain, something that has happened outside the brain, or idiopathic epilepsy.  Whatever has caused the seizure may require emergency intervention - so always contact your vet for advice if your pet suffers a seizure.

Has my pet had a fit?

A seizure occurs when there is an abnormal burst of electrical activity within the brain, leading to the following signs in your pet:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shaking and convulsions
  • Lying on their side, scrambling or 'paddling' with their paws
  • Loss of control of motions and urine
  • Stiffness of the body
  • Drooling
  • Whining
  • Arching of back
  • Loss of balance
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • They may also act strangely before or after the fit 

The fit may last for 30 seconds to a few minutes, however:- If a seizure lasts longer than 4 minutes THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

Cats may more often exhibit partial seizures - the signs may be subtle and only effect part of the body, such as face/eyelid twitching, abnormal movements or drooling, vocalisation and growling - these signs may then progress to a more obvious seizure resulting in loss of awareness, violent shaking and chewing.

What to do if your pet has a seizure:

  • Time the seizure if you can as this is important information for your vet. It is likely to seem like an eternity but it may only be 20 seconds, so try and get an accurate time - most seizures will stop within one to three minutes.
  • Avoid injury to your pet during the seizure by removing obstacles out of their way, and try to ensure they are not in a dangerous area. If possible, pad around them and under their head to prevent further injury.
  • Make notes of what your animal is doing physically during the seizure if you feel able, as your vet may ask about it.   
  • Do not attempt to open your animal's mouth and pull out their tongue to stop choking as this is unlikely to happen and you may get bitten.   
  • Call your vet immediately if the seizure is lasting more than 4 minutes - Also if more seizures follow or begin before your animal has recovered from the previous one. FAST INTERVENTION WILL BE NEEDED IN THESE SITUATIONS do not wait to see what happens  -  call your vet for advice.
  • Try not to panic

What to do after the seizure is finished:

  • Observe your pet's behaviour - keep an eye on them for signs of another onset.
  • Allow them time to recover in a quiet, dark area -  they will be confused and disorientated - soothe and reassure them - offer them a cool drink
  • Call your vet and let them know what happened

Aftercare : When you bring your pet to see the vet after a seizure they will try to identify the underlying cause - this will involve physical and neurological examinations, then further diagnostics as required. If the vet can identify no other cause they may diagnose primary idiopathic epilepsy. The vet will discuss what this means for your pet but it can often be well managed and there are some good support groups out there.The vet will discuss the best treatment options with you depending on how your pet is doing and the types of seizures they are experiencing - medications if prescribed aim to reduce the frequency, the severity and length of your pets seizures. Keeping a diary will be a good idea.

There are also other types of fits that may be confused for a seizure:
Petite Mal: This is less severe than a grand mal seizure, and you may not even notice it has occurred. Brain activity is only mildly disrupted. Your pet will still have some control of their movement, only appearing slightly uncoordinated. They may stagger about, lose focus, tremor and drool.

Syncope: This is defined by your pet passing out and possibly remaining unconscious for a few seconds, then they may get up immediately. Syncope is usually associated with exercise, but can occur when resting. Your pet may urinate, also brief stiffening of the body might be seen, but no paddling or vocalisation (unlike a seizure). Minor twitching may be seen all over. Syncope is a circulatory problem not epilepsy but both conditions can look very similar. If you notice any signs such as these in your pet, no matter how subtle - please contact us straight away.

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