Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can affect nearly every species of mammal. Well-studied in humans but still not fully understood, epilepsy has also been known to affect cats. The disorder is characterized by recurring seizures usually as a result of uncoordinated firing of neurons in the cerebrum. The exact mechanism of the disease is not understood although it has been related to other sensory stimuli and the improper balance of particular neurotransmitters.
Generally speaking, when cats have seizures, this is not always an indication of epilepsy. Indeed, seizures are merely a symptom of the condition but they may occur for a wide range of reasons. For example, seizures are also a symptom of heat stroke, brain trauma, and other chronic diseases. Seizures have been caused by a range of conditions:
- Congenital defects
- High blood glucose levels (usually in association with diabetes)
- Low oxygen levels
- Kidney disease
- Brain tumors
Clearly, the causes of seizures are quite varied. Epilepsy in cats is only diagnosed when cats have had recurring seizures over a period of time. Your veterinarian will need to take a full history as well as conduct neurological exams, x-rays, and a panel of laboratory tests before diagnosing feline epilepsy. When the cause of the seizures cannot be identified, an epilepsy diagnosis is usually given. Some cat owners are surprised to learn that there is no specific test for epilepsy and some expert argue that epilepsy is not a single condition.
Nevertheless, when feline epilepsy has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will normally prescribe an anticonvulsant. Unfortunately, there are no cures for feline epilepsy and treatment focuses on controlling epileptic fits, or seizures. Currently, Phenobarbital and potassium bromide are the most common medications for treating feline epilepsy. As an owner with a cat suffering from epilepsy, it is important to remember that while epilepsy cannot be cured, it is possible to control the seizures for improved quality of life.