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Recognizing seizures and other neurological diseases in cats

Always call your vet if your cat is acting unusual
Always call your vet if your cat is acting unusual
Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images

One of the most frightening events a cat guardian can witness is their precious kitty having a seizure. The feeling helplessness is quite overwhelming.

Although a seizure is a neurological problem, often times the root cause is from outside of the brain.

"Nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar, liver disease, kidney disease and toxins can all cause seizures," shared Dr. Cona Anwer, a veterinary neurologist with Southeast Veterinary Neurology in Miami, Florida.

"Unfortunately, too many cats do not see a veterinarian for yearly exams where many issues can be addressed early on," said Dr. Anwer.

If your cat suffers from a seizure, Dr. Anwer recommends taking him or her to your regular veterinarian for a complete health screening including blood work; an x-ray of the chest to rule out infection in the lungs or heart; and an ultrasound to determine if the liver is enlarged or the kidneys are too large or small.

"Having your cat's regular veterinarian run these tests can save precious time before visiting a neurologist," stated Dr. Anwer. "Of course, we can run these tests, too, if necessary."

Causes of seizures from inside the brain include head trauma/injury, a tumor, stroke, encephalitis (infection), and idiopathic epilepsy, which is uncommon in cats. These can be diagnosed via MRI and Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis (spinal tap).

There are other diseases including vestibular disease (dizzy kitty syndrome) that can be mistaken by guardians as seizures.

"Cats with mouth pain that having be salivating and moving their jaw, or have an orthopedic problem and are limping and crying in pain may appear to be having a seizure," pointed out Dr. Anwer.

Neurological problems include those in the brain, spinal cord, or neuromuscular system.

"Most cats are masters at concealing health problems," she continued. "Any changes in your cat's routine should be taken into consideration. Perhaps she isn't jumping up on things like she used to, or her water consumption has changed."

Other subtle clues of neurological disease to look for include:

• Walking lower to the ground
• Getting claws stuck in the carpet (due to being too weak to retract claws)
• Not scratching on posts and pads as often as usual
• Avoiding things they used to do with ease, but no longer can, like climbing the stairs or jumping to the top of the kitty condo

Because cats do not perform on demand, Dr. Anwer recommends making a video of your cat as he or she is experiencing problems or exhibiting symptoms. This way you can show the veterinary neurologist exactly what behaviors or movements are of concern.

If you live in South Florida and wish to make an appointment, please note that Southeast Veterinary Neurology does not require a referral. Simply call (305) 274-2777.

Founded in 2010, Southeast Veterinary Neurology is south Florida’s only hospital that exclusively treats medical and surgical diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. They offer the full spectrum of expertise, compassion, and state-of-the-art equipment to provide your pet with optimal care. Their veterinary neurologists use high-field MRI, CT scans, electrodiagnostics, CSF analysis and operating microscopes to diagnose and treat your pet’s neurological conditions. For more information, visit

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