Epilepsy in animals

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Epilepsy can occur in animals other than humans (see main article Epilepsy). It is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. Canine epilepsy is often genetic. Epilepsy in cats and other pets is rarer, likely because there is no hereditary component to epilepsy in these animals.

Canine epilepsy[edit]

A bottle of PRN Pharmaceutical Company (Pensacola, FL) K•BroVet veterinary pharmaceutical potassium bromide oral solution (250 mg / mL). The product is intended to be used in dogs, primarily as an antiepileptic (to stop seizures).

In dogs, epilepsy is often an inherited condition. The incidence of epilepsy/seizures in the general dog population is estimated at between 0.5% and 5.7%.[1] In certain breeds, such as the Belgian Shepherd varieties, the incidence may be much higher.


There are three types of epilepsy in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary.[2] Reactive epileptic seizures are caused by metabolic issues, such as low blood sugar or kidney or liver failure. Epilepsy caused by problems such as a brain tumor, stroke or other trauma is known as secondary or symptomatic epilepsy.

In primary or idiopathic epilepsy, there is no known cause. This type of epilepsy is diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes for the seizures. Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy experience their first seizure between the ages of one and three. However, the age of diagnosis is only one factor in diagnosing canine epilepsy. One study found a cause for the seizures in one-third of dogs between the ages of one and three, indicating secondary or reactive rather than primary epilepsy.[3]

When an animal who has suffered a seizure is presented to a veterinarian, the veterinarian will do an initial work-up. This work-up may include a physical and neurological exam, a complete blood count, serum chemistry profile, urinalysis, bile tests, and thyroid function tests.[4] These tests will help the veterinarian determine whether the animal is in fact experiencing seizures, and may help determine a cause for the seizures if there is one. Veterinarians may also request that dog owners keep a "seizure log" documenting the timing, length, severity, and recovery of each seizure, as well as any other factors that might be helpful, such as dietary or environmental changes.


Many antiepileptic drugs are used for the management of canine epilepsy. Oral phenobarbital, in particular, and imepitoin are considered to be the most effective antiepileptic drugs and usually used as ‘first line’ medications.[5] Other anti-epileptic such as zonisamide, primidone, gabapentin, pregabalin, sodium valproate, felbamate and topiramate are also effective and used in various combinations.[5][6] A crucial part of the treatment of pets with epilepsy is education of the client by the veterinarian to ensure compliance and successful management of the disease.[7]

Feline epilepsy[edit]

Complex partial seizures are more common in cats than generalized convulsions. These partial seizures may be shown by either bizarre behavior or a complete lack of movement, accompanied by facial tics or excessive salivation. Cats may experience foaming round the mouth or loss of muscle and bladder control.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ K9web.com, Wiersma-Aylward, A. 1995. Canine Epilepsy. Retrieved August 6, 2007
  2. ^ Peterson, M., "Inherited epilepsy can be devastating in dogs". essfta.org
  3. ^ Podell, M, Seizure classification in dogs from non-referral based population. JAVMA 6 pp 1721-1728 (1995).
  4. ^ The Canine Epilepsy Network, canine-epilepsy.net
  5. ^ a b Charalambous, M, Brodbelt, D and Volk, HA, Treatment in canine epilepsy–a systematic review. BMC veterinary research 10(1) pp 257 (2014)
  6. ^ Thomas, W, Idiopathic epilepsy in dogs and cats. Vet Clin Small Anim 40 pp 161-179 (2010).
  7. ^ De Risio, L and Platt, S. 2014. Canine and feline epilepsy: diagnosis and management. CAB International: Wallingford, UK. ISBN 9781780641096.

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