Pet Product News Editorial Blog:
September 29, 2011
Treating Epilepsy in Cats
By David Alderton
To most people, the term epilepsy conjures up images of generalized convulsive seizures with salivation and loss of consciousness for several minutes. However, cats are known to show strange types of seizures in which consciousness is usually impaired, although not all of the body is affected.
New research by Akos Pakozdy and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, indicates that cats that suffer in this way have changes in the hippocampus. Although cats with such epileptic seizures may not respond immediately to treatment, they sometimes do so within a few days, and if treatment continues, then they may once again show normal behavior.
Hard to Spot
Many cat owners are not sure how to react when their animals start behaving abnormally. The diagnosis of epilepsy and similar conditions is particularly difficult because the symptoms are so variable. In some cases, the first sign has been described as “looking into space,” which is generally considered to be how most cats spend the majority of their time anyway. But when it is followed by twitching of facial muscles, chewing and swallowing and excessive salivation, even the most unobservant owners are likely to consult a veterinarian.
Akos Pakozdy and colleagues carried out an investigation into a total of 17 cats that were presented to the Clinic for Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases with specific epileptic symptoms. The condition of nine of them was unfortunately so severe that nothing more could be done.
In the other cases, the researchers noticed that treatment seemed ineffectual for the first four to 11 days, which made many owners fear their animals would never recover. But when treatment was continued beyond this period, a good number of the cats responded well, and in four cases, the animals survived even longer than it took the scientists to prepare their results for publication.
All the affected cats were found to have changes in the hippocampus and related structures, which is the part of the brain most commonly affected in human epilepsy. Importantly, no structural problems could be found in other areas of the brain. The changes in the hippocampus appeared similar to those observed in a special type of human epilepsy (MTLE-HS), although the researchers reported some differences.
There are several indications that the seizures directly lead to hippocampal damage. Although the evidence is not clear-cut, it is therefore clearly better to treat the condition as soon as possible to minimize this possibility.
Pakozdy noted that some cats may be particularly susceptible to hippocampal damage and thus will not respond to treatment, but in other cases “if the cat is treated early, it may not develop severe lesions with refractory seizures and the final outcome will be better.”
This new work at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna suggests that cats with hippocampal damage may have a better prognosis than indicated by previous studies and the condition is not necessarily fatal. The owners of the surviving cats reported their pets enjoy a good quality of life, so it is clear this type of epilepsy in cats can be treated effectively.
*“Complex Partial Cluster Seizures in Cats with Orofacial Involvement” by Akos Pakozdy, Andrea Gruber, Sibylle Kneissl, Michael Leschnik, Peter Halasz and Johann G Thalhammer, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, is available on-line: doi:10.1016/j.jfms.2011.05.014
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