Medications for the Treatment of Cat Epilepsy and Seizures

Scratching head of grey fat cat lying on sofa

Cats are susceptible to seizures, which can have a variety of reasons. Finding the root cause of your might help you and your veterinarian choose the most effective course of action. The underlying cause of feline seizures may, however, not always be treatable. The best course of action may be to use medicine to control the seizures in your cat because she may have a sickness or condition that cannot be treated. Your cat may potentially have idiopathic epilepsy, in which case there is no known underlying reason for the cat's recurrent seizures.

Anticonvulsant drugs may be required for the treatment of cats that experience frequent recurring seizures. Before giving your cat an anticonvulsant, there are several things to think about.

Should Your Cat Be Treated for Seizures?

The decision to start medication will be based on several factors:

  • Does your cat have frequent seizures? How often? If the seizures are occurring infrequently (less than once every four to six weeks), it may not be necessary to treat your cat for the seizures.
  • Are your cat's seizures severe? If your cat's seizures are especially severe, meaning they last more than 1 minute, or result in a prolonged state of disorientation or more severe signs, regardless of how frequently they occur, it may be advisable to start treatment.
  • Has your cat suffered from status epilepticus? This is defined as a single seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or multiple seizures in a short time period without fully recovering in between. Or has she had cluster seizures (more than two seizures in a 24 hour period)?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then your cat should likely be started on medication to improve its quality of life and reduce the risk of serious complications from seizures.

Managing Seizure Medications for Your Cat

Understand that once your cat starts on an anticonvulsant medication to treat his seizures, he will likely need to be on medication for the rest of his life.

For your cat, stopping an anticonvulsant medicine abruptly might be quite risky. Never stop administering a medicine or adjust the dosage without first consulting your veterinarian. When anticonvulsant drugs must be stopped, it is recommended to do so gradually and slowly, weaning your cat off the medication under the guidance of your veterinarian.

Medications Used to Treat Feline Seizures and/or Epilepsy

Most people agree that the first drug of choice for treating feline epilepsy is phenobarbital. It is now the most widely used anticonvulsant medication for cats. To be sure it is the best option for your cat given its potential adverse effects, it is crucial to talk this over with your veterinarian.

Cats have also been treated with (Keppra) to prevent seizures. It is a more recent anticonvulsant drug that is typically prescribed to cats whose seizures are not adequately controlled by a single drug. Levetiracetam is currently being used as a first-choice medication by certain veterinarians because they think it may have fewer negative effects; nonetheless, it has not been well researched as some other medications for this purpose.

Another seizure drug that is more frequently prescribed to cats is zonisamide. Although the study on this drug's usage in cats is still in its infancy, thus far, it seems to be quite safe and effective. In contrast to some of the others that may require every 8 or 12 hours dosage, it also offers the advantage and convenience of being administered once daily to cats.

Cat seizures were once managed with diazepam (Valium), however this is no longer advised. In certain cats, it can result in a severe, deadly response in the liver. Diazepam is not advised for continued therapy due to the availability of newer, safer medicines. Status epilepticus can occasionally be briefly stopped in an emergency situation.

Potassium Bromide is not recommended for use in cats. While it is used in some dogs with seizures, in cats it can cause lung disease.

The anticonvulsant effects of drugs like chlorazepam, pregabalin, and gabapentin have not been well investigated in cats. Some vets do use them to manage seizures, particularly as an additional therapy for cats who are still suffering convulsions while being on another anticonvulsant. Little is known about how these drugs function in cats or the kinds of long-term negative effects that could occur. These medications may be increasingly frequently suggested for cats who are having seizures as long as research on them continues. They should currently only be used in refractory situations, when seizures are not well controlled by another medicine, or in cats that are unable to tolerate the more often prescribed drugs.

Note: This article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

CITATION

"Seizures In CatsThe Drake Center for Veterinary Care, 2020", "Anticonvulsants Or Antiepileptic DrugsVeterinary Manual, 2020", "Barnes Heller, Heidi et al. Serum Levetiracetam Concentrations And Adverse Events After Multiple Dose Extended Release Levetiracetam Administration To Healthy CatsJournal Of Veterinary Internal Medicine, vol 32, no. 3, 2018, pp. 1145-1148. Wiley, doi:10.1111/jvim.15129", "Zonisamide. Bush Veterinary Neurology Service, 2020" ;

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