Epilepsy and Seizures in Dogs & Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Aimee Beck
5 min readMay 31, 2021

It can be more than a little scary, not to mention confusing, to see your pet suddenly spasm uncontrollably. It may be that your fur baby has had an epileptic seizure. Here’s what you need to know about epilepsy in dogs and cats.

First, what’s the difference between a seizure and epilepsy?

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a term used to describe a chronic neurologic (brain) disorder that causes recurrent seizures. While there is no cure for epilepsy in dogs and cats (or humans for that matter), there are medications you can give to manage the condition. We’ll get to that shortly.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells that causes temporary abnormalities in muscle tone (stiffness, limpness) or movement (shaking, twitching), behaviour or states of awareness.

What’s the difference between epilepsy and a seizure?

Seizures aren’t always caused by epilepsy. But epilepsy does always cause seizures.

If your dog has a seizure, it’s not necessarily epilepsy. It could be caused by:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Brain tumours
  • Brain trauma (traumatic brain injury, aka TBI)
  • Toxins or poisons
  • Embolism (or vascular disease)
  • Anemia
  • Encephalitis
  • High (or low) blood sugar
  • Electrolyte imbalance

Seizures are more likely to happen during times when the brain is alert and active, like when your pet is excited (suppertime!) or when he’s just waking up.

Types of seizures in dogs

There are four common types of seizures that affect dogs:

Grand Mal Seizures: Known as “generalized” seizures, they’re typically caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Episodes can last a few seconds to a few minutes.

Aimee Beck

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