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Dr. Brian
Dr. Brian, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 1231
Experience:  34 years in private practice, 2008 WA State Vet of the Year
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My 16 year old cat just had a seizure, his first major one

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My 16 year old cat just had a seizure, his first major one as far as we know. Over the past few days, he's had 3-4 episodes of growling and drooling that we feared were mild seizures, but they only lasted 30 seconds and he recovered quickly from them, so we called the vet and were waiting for her to get back to us. He had no history of this in the past, but he's always had a noisy breathing problem that we feared was a tumor.

About an hour ago, we heard him start to trash upstairs. We ran up and wrapped him in a towel immediately. He seized for about 1 minute, then relaxed, and came back to us. After about 3-5 minutes, he seemed normal, hungry, and very affectionate, albeit with eyes dilated.

We cannot bring him into the ER vet now. He's calm now, so we plan to watch him all tonight and bring him in to our regular vet (who has been following him) first thing in the morning.

Can you please advise if you think this might be consistent with our theory about a progressive tumor? What kind of prognosis can we hope for if it is a tumor that is impacting his brain? Is phenobarbital be a common option or is this primarily for cats with epilepsy (unlikely, I would imagine, since he is 16 and this has come on suddenly). What tests might be offered tomorrow? Basically, I am asking you to share your expertise on what generally happens to a geriatric cat in this situation.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Brian replied 5 years ago.

Dr. Brian :

Hi and welcome the Just Answer.

Dr. Brian :

Has she shown any other problems recently- circling, confusion, changes in vocalization, changes in appetite, weight loss?

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hello. I would appreciate your advice on this matter.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
A few days ago, he started having episodes of growling and hissing at nothing. One time, his eye was twitching quite a bit. This is very odd behavior for him, which is why we contacted our vet this AM. Today is her day off, so we expected a call back tomorrow. Our fear that these were seizures were confirmed tonight.
Expert:  Dr. Brian replied 5 years ago.

While there may be a tumor, I doubt it has been there as long as the breathing problem- they most likely are unrelated. Diagnosing a brain tumor is difficult in that it takes specialized imaging tools to see it, usually a CT scan or MRI. From a practical basis it probably doesn't matter since brain surgery or gamma knife surgery, as done in people, isn't available. Brain will cause progressive disease with more frequent seizures and, in time other neurological signs that will be constantly present. Examples would include circling, blindness, head pressing against walls and general confusion. There are many other things that can result in seizures, so I expect your vet may do some bloodwork tomorrow to check. If it is indeed a tumor the prognosis is very poor.

Treatment of seizures in cats is usually phenobarb first, unless there is liver disease. A second choice, though more expensive is Keppra. These products are usually not started unless your cat is having an average of one or more seizures per month, clusters of several in a few days, or seizures that last for 15 minutes or more. In general it is better not to intervene during a seizure since you put yourself at risk of injury for no benefit to the cat.

Here is more reading for you:

Edited by Dr. Brian on 12/21/2010 at 5:42 AM EST
Expert:  Dr. Brian replied 5 years ago.
The eye twitching may be related if it persists.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
He does have mild to moderate CRF, but we've been having his blood tested every 3 months and his numbers were stable. Since he's had a few smaller episodes since Saturday night (these almost seemed like he was in pre-ictal phase without actually having the seizure), building up to this actual seizure tonight, we can assume that the situation is getting worse. We will watch him closely tonight and bring him in asap tomorrow AM. Thank you.
Expert:  Dr. Brian replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for using Just answer and Happy Holidays.

Dr. Brian

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