What Should I Do If My Pet Has a Seizure?
Like humans, dogs and cats sometimes suffer from seizures, and the first and most important thing a pet owner can do is not panic! Unfortunately, there is no known way to snap an animal out of a seizure, so the best thing you can do is make sure your pet is safe and comfortable until the episode is over. You do NOT need to roll the animal onto their side or try to help prevent them from choking. Stay away from your pet’s mouth to avoid accidental biting, and if they’re in a dangerous location like a bed or near a flight of stairs, try to move them to a more safe and stable location to ensure they don’t fall or hurt themselves.
How Long Does It Take for an Animal to Recover from a Seizure?
Most seizures only last for about a minute or two, though they can feel much longer. Afterward, the animal enters what is called the “postictal” period, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. During this post-seizure period, your pet may seem dazed or display compulsive behavior such as pacing or aimless wandering. More severe symptoms include temporary blindness, aggression, and anxiety; pet owners should take a “hands-off” approach and let the animal recover by itself in a quiet, low-light room. Once the animal has fully recovered, they can resume their regular lifestyle and diet.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs and Cats?
In dogs, the most common cause of seizures is primary or genetic epilepsy, however, the age, breed, and health of the animal can give veterinarians a clue as to the most likely cause. When a young or middle-aged but otherwise healthy dog develops seizures, the cause is typically epilepsy. For older dogs, the most common cause of seizures is brain tumors or strokes. Cats are much less likely to develop epilepsy than dogs and more commonly suffer from seizures as a result of an infection of the central nervous system or a brain tumor.
Are Pet Seizures Painful?
It is probably harder for us as pet owners to watch an animal experience a seizure than it is for them to go through it. While it’s impossible to know for certain whether or not a dog or cat feels pain during a seizure, humans who have had epileptic episodes do not often describe their experience as painful, and we presume the same is true for our pets. To the outside observer, the episode may look distressing and uncomfortable, and the animal may be confused, disoriented, or exhausted after the event. Still, they generally do not show any evidence of pain resulting from the seizure.
Is a Seizure an Emergency?
Seizures can be scary, but they are not always an emergency. If your pet experiences an isolated seizure lasting only a minute or two, let them recover at home and monitor their condition closely. Try to write down the time and length of the seizure for future reference. If your pet suffers from three or more seizures in 24 hours, or if they start to have very long seizures lasting more than five minutes, seek medical attention as soon as possible.