Fits, Seizures and Epilepsy

What is a fit?

Your pet may lose control of some or all if its muscles. This may appear as trembling or twitching, or a fainting spell, or any range of behavior in between the two extremes. Your animal may appear to be mentally disoriented, dizzy or blind. It may also lose control of its bowels and/or bladder.

Is a fit the same as a convulsion?

Yes. The words “fit”, “seizure” , and “convulsion” all mean basically the same thing. The word “epilepsy”, however, means something different (see further below).

What should I do when my pet has a fit?

1. Don’t try to stop it.
2. Start counting or timing how many seconds it lasts.
3. Remove sharp objects or dangerous obstacles from the animal’s immediate area.
4. Contact your Vet as soon as possible.

Are fits painful to my pet?

No. while they may seem confused, there is no evidence that the pets experience physical pain.

fits_1What will my vet do to stop the fits?

Your pet may require sedatives to break a cycle of fits. Various other medicines might be prescribed. Laboratory tests may be necessary.

What causes pets to have a fit?

Fits are a sign of many different diseases.

fits_2They are a sign of the disease “epilepsy”, but they can also be a sign of other diseases in other parts of the body. Only after these other disease possibilities have been ruled out by tests can a diagnosis of epilepsy be decided.

Fits can be caused by problems outside the brain. E.g. liver disease, low blood sugar, lead poisoning, snailbait ingestion, heatstroke, or inside the brain. E.g. head trauma or distemper.

Is there a cure for fits?

Sometimes, it depends on what is causing them (see above)

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is the name for a very specific disease process within the brain. The exact cause is not known but the process can be likened to an electrical short circuit, or a “blown fuse”. The “blown fuse” causes temporary ‘crossed wires’, which you see as a fit – inco-ordinated activity.

Is there a cure for epilepsy?

No – remember that epilepsy is defined here as a particular disease of the brain. It can only be controlled with medication , not cured.

How often will epileptic pets have fits?

It is quite variable from animal to animal. The period between fits may be anywhere from one day to several weeks.

Is it important to try to control epilepsy?

Yes. If not controlled with medication (usually daily), the “blown fuse” will most likely affect a progressively larger area of the brain. This will result in more frequent and more severe “crossed wires”, which can eventually be fatal if they persist for long enough.

How long will my pet live with epilepsy?

That is impossible to predict, but most epileptic animals have normal lifespan. Regularly monitoring your pet’s medication, and maximizing seizure control are important factors that contribute to a normal life.

Responses by Dr Caitlin Logan

About the Author Alex

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