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In this lesson, we'll be covering cat and dog seizures – what they look like, the stages or phases of a seizure, and how your dog or cat will typically respond to a seizure. At the end of the lesson, we'll provide you with a Word about ear wounds.

A seizure is a startling sign of abnormal activity in the brain. While there are many different types of seizures, our focus will be on grand mal seizures — also known as generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

During the Seizure

During the seizure, your pet will lose consciousness, then become stiff. This is the tonic phase of the seizure and can last anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. This is followed up with repetitive jerking movements that can last anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds.

During this jerking stage of a seizure, your pet may also urinate or defecate. You might also notice a repetitive biting motion. This is common in both dogs and cats during a seizure.

After the tonic-clonic phase, your pet will transition into what's known as the postictal phase. During this stage, your pet won't be completely back to normal, although she will have regained consciousness. She may also become glassy eyed and unsteady or uncoordinated. This phase can last a few minutes up to several hours.

Pro Tip: Safety First! When caring for your pet during a seizure, the most important thing to keep in mind is not letting your pet or yourself become injured. Never put your hand in or around your pet's mouth while she is having a seizure.

Also, while you should never try and restrain a pet that is having a seizure, you should make sure that your pet won't injure herself by falling off a piece of furniture or down the stairs during a seizure.

After the Seizure

Although it will likely be difficult to remain calm during a seizure, it's really important to take note of what happened so you can inform your veterinarian. Specifically, try to note:

  • What happened right before the seizure began?
  • How long did the seizure last?
  • How long did the tonic-clonic activity or phase last?
  • How long did the postictal phase last?

Also, after the seizure has ended, remember to get your pet's vital signs. This information will also be important for your vet.

Warning: Most seizures will stop on their own after a minute or two. If your pet has a seizure lasting longer than five minutes or has multiple seizures in a 24-hour period, this should be considered an emergency and should warrant an immediate trip to your veterinarian.

If your pet has ongoing seizure activity, she could overheat as a result, which means you'll need to help keep her cool. Consider bathing her with cool water after a seizure or have air conditioning or cool air blowing on her during transport to the vet.

It's also important to keep her temperature below 104°F. Once you get to the vet's office, they'll be able to help take control of her post seizure care and keep her temperature down as well.

A Word About Ear Wounds

Ear wounds are notoriously severe bleeders. If your pet suffers an ear injury, here's what pet expert Cara Armour recommends you do.

  1. Remain calm. Try to keep your pet from thrashing around and shaking his head.
  2. Get your pet into a comfortable position so you can examine the wound, maybe sitting or lying down.
  3. Identify the wound. How bad is it? Does it look like stitches will be required?
  4. Get your pet first aid kit. You'll need clean gauze, styptic powder, and an antiseptic like saline, betadine, or iodine. If you need to substitute, try using corn starch or baby powder if you don't have styptic powder and paper towels, a clean cloth, and a pantyhose if you don't have gauze and/or bandages.
  5. Get help if possible. Also decide if you want to move your pet first. A bathroom is a small room with a door so your pet can't run off, and the floor is likely tile, which means easier cleanup after.
  6. Locate the wound. Clean it using antiseptic. Gently remove all dirt and debris.
  7. Apply pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding; at least two minutes.
  8. Release and check to see if the wound is still bleeding.
  9. Cover the wound with gauze. Use a small piece of medical tape if necessary; just keep in mind that pulling it off later may be a little painful for your pet.
  10. Wrap the wound using some roll gauze or pantyhose or similar substitute. You may have to pin the hear backward to the head, then wrap the entire head as well.
  11. Decide on whether or not your pet needs to see a vet. Has the bleeding stopped completely? That's often going to be the determining factor with an ear cut or abrasion.