What to Do When Your Pet is Having a Seizure

A seizure can happen to anybody, or any pet. A seizure is characterized by a neuronal excitation leading to dysfunction, and can be extremely distressing, and usually comes at times when it’s the last thing we’d expect to happen. It’s important to be mindful of how best to handle the situation, should you happen to find yourself confronted with one. Our specialists here at Atlantic Coast Veterinary Specialists have some very useful tips on the best way to navigate your pet’s seizures, what to remember, and what to look out for.

  • ALWAYS remain calm.

When your dog/cat is having a generalized (“grand mal”) seizure, it looks a lot more horrific than it really is. It’s difficult to disassociate yourself from the terrifying sight of your pet having a seizure, but rest assured: they are not suffering in the slightest. During a seizure, they’re unconscious and have no idea what is happening, so it’s always infinitely more traumatizing for you, the witness, than the afflicted pet.

  • Time the length of the seizure.

It might seem impossible to disregard how frightened you are, but you’ll be helping your pet more by using a stopwatch/clock or timer to document the length of the seizure than by watching in horror. Most seizures are less than two minutes in length, although it may feel like an eternity for you. Keeping track of how long seizures last can prove enormously beneficial for your veterinarian’s diagnosis and treatment.

  • Keep notes on what is happening.

Very often, it can be equally practical to document anything that your pet might be doing or any physical behavior during the seizure such as paddling/rigid limbs, foaming at the mouth, jaw clenching or chomping. Remain observant even after they regain consciousness and document what they’re doing immediately after the seizure. Some distinctive post-seizure behaviors might be urinating, defecating, vomiting, disorientation and bumping into things, lethargy, aggression or hyperactivity. It’s also important to keep track of how long it takes for them to return to their normal selves. Do not rely on memory alone to retain these details, many times there are seemingly-inconsequential factors that are easily forgotten that ultimately wind up being very imperative. Record everything in a notebook or calendar to ensure that nothing goes overlooked and your veterinarian receives any potentially-vital information.

  • NEVER PUT YOUR HAND IN THEIR MOUTH.

Do not, under any circumstances, place your hand in your pet’s mouth while they are having a seizure. A common misconception about seizures (whether dog, cat or human) is that they’ll somehow swallow their tongue during the episode. This is simply a myth; there is no need for you to have your hand in their mouth to try and obstruct their tongue. Your pet is unconscious and unaware of what’s happening, and it is very likely that they will bite down on your hand, resulting in a painful injury. It is also very unnecessary to place an inanimate object in their mouth, again: they will not swallow their tongue.

  • Make sure they’re in a safe area.

One of the more important safety issues concerning seizures in pets is the environment in which they’re having a seizure. Try to ensure they’re nowhere near furniture or objects that could cause pain or injury if bumped into during a seizure. A flat, level surface with few obstructions is preferable, away from stairs or furniture during the phase of the seizure.

  • Take a video.

It might seem a bit uncomfortable to be video-taping with your phone while your pet is in the midst of a seizure, but for the sake of treatment, it may prove to be incredibly imperative. In many cases, a video of the episode shown to a veterinarian provides a greater understanding of the specifics of the case and clarity towards finding a solution.

  • Notify your vet.

Always inform your veterinarian when your pet has had a seizure. They will provide you instructions on what you should do next, any precautions you may need to take, and proper steps to follow in regards to work-up, diagnosis and treatment. A seizure is not always an emergency, however, you should seek immediate medical attention if: – The actual seizure (ictal phase) lasts longer than 5-6 minutes – The pet has had multiple seizures in a 24-hour period (also known as “cluster” seizures) – The pet is unable to come out of the seizure (also known as status epilepticus) – The pet stops breathing If you have any concerns regarding your pet, for seizures or otherwise, it is recommended that you have them examined by a veterinarian. Seizures and all other neurological concerns can be brought to our two Neurology specialists: Dr. Berg and Dr. Lopez. If you’d like to make an appointment with either of them, call (631) 285-7780.