Why does my cat keep having seizures?


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Vet Andrea Harvey explains the possible causes of seizures or fits in cats, and how to treat them.

(Q) My cat has started having seizures about every two months. They last about 45 seconds and after a little while she is fine again. It's very distressing to watch and we feel helpless. What treatment would you advise?

Vet Andrea Harvey suggests: Fits are very distressing to watch so I understand your concern. It is good though that they don't last too long and that she returns to normal afterwards.

There are many causes of fits in cats. They can suffer from what is called idiopathic epilepsy, where there is an electrical problem within the brain but no underlying cause is found.

More commonly, there is an underlying cause for the fits, and broadly we split these into two groups: disease outside the brain that affects the way the brain works, or diseases within the brain.

Examples in the first category would include things like low blood sugar or severe liver disease, where toxins build up in the blood and affect the brain, causing high blood pressure. Most of these causes can be excluded by performing blood tests and measuring blood pressure.

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The second category, 'diseases within the brain', would include things like brain tumours. To investigate these, a neurological examination and then an MRI scan of the brain is needed. This involves a general anaesthetic and is a costly procedure that is only available at a few practices.

If after basic tests no obvious underlying reason is found that can be specifically treated, then often we will start anti-epileptic treatments. These may not stop fits altogether - the aim is usually to try and reduce the frequency and severity of the fits, and the treatments are not without potential side effects so we always weigh up how severe and how frequent the fits are before treatment.

I would advise discussing these options with your vet. He or she may want to discuss the best anti-seizure treatment options with a feline medicine or neurology specialist, and they may wish to refer you to a specialist for investigations. This doesn't mean you have to pursue all the investigations, but it is worth ruling out things like low blood sugar etc, since these conditions would require specific treatment to help the fits, rather than just the anti-seizure medication.