Pet Articles

Seizures or Convulsions in Animals

What is a seizure?

A condition where neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain fire with an uncontrollable but synchronous fashion that never occurs during normal behavior. It’s kind of like a mini electrical shock occurring in a localized area of the brain. Seizures may manifest themselves as partial seizures if they only affect certain areas of the cerebral cortex while generalized seizures affect the entire cerebral of the brain.

When an animal experiences repeated episodes of seizures it is referred to as Epilepsy. Seizures (brief convulsions) usually last 30 seconds to a few minutes and are not in themselves harmful to the animal. However “status seizures ” that last longer and are repetitive can be very dangerous for an animal.


  • Tumors
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • trauma
  • Metabolic disease(kidney and liver)
  • Muscle- skeletal dysfunction
  • Infections/fever
  • Neurological dysfunction
  • Genetic predisposition’s
  • Intoxication (lead ,antifreeze, insecticides, rodenticides)


Animals can feel a seizure coming on and will generally show pre-seizure signs

  • Altered behavior – animal may appear lost or restless
  • Excessive licking of the lips
  • Twitching of the facial muscles and body

Signs of an actual seizure

  • Diminished level of consciousness to loss of consciousness
  • Involuntary movement of the limbs. Animal will lie on his side and paddle or make running movements with limbs.
  • Twitching of the skin muscles
  • Shaking of entire body
  • Excessive salivation
  • Involuntary urination or defecation

Signs after a seizure

  • Animal appears disoriented or dazed
  • Behavior change that can last up to 24 hours where the animal’s personality, gait and intellect is affected
  • Headaches ; (pressing head against a wall )

First Aid

Seizures cannot be shortened by first aid. They have to run their course.

  • Keep the environment quiet
  • Prevent the animal from injuring itself by removing obstacles in the way.
  • Place animal on the ground (to prevent a fall).
  • Be gentle as rough handling can prolong seizures.
  • Quietly and calmly reassure the animal as it emerges from the seizure.
  • Keep bright lights and loud noises down as these will prolong the seizure.
  • Seek veterinary care when the animal is more alert.
  • Epilepsy is a condition that is triggered by the onset of some other medical condition and not a disease in itself. That is why it is important to seek veterinary care if your pet has had an epileptic seizure.

Chantale Robinson AHT Bs.
Salaberry Veterinary Clinic
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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