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Grand Mal Seizures in Cats | Causes and Symptoms

Seizures are not as common in cats as much as in dogs, however, they do occur. Cats of all ages (mostly between two to three years of age), breeds and both sexes are seen to be at risk, and they may suffer from generalized or partial seizures. Of those, grand mal seizures are seen to be most common and more conspicuous than petit mal seizures. It’s important to know the background and features of a grand mal seizure so that the right therapy and treatment can be administered to prevent the pet from going into status.

Certain Causal Factors of Grand Mal Seizures in Cats

As in humans, it is hard to classify the causes behind seizures for cats in many situations. However, it has been found that certain diseases and medical issues may present with grand mal seizures, hence a grand mal seizure usually pinpoints to the actual problem and is a symptom in itself. Here are some root causes of grand mal seizures in cats:

  • Much like a stroke in humans, which constricts the blood vessels so that the blood supply to the brain is reduced, is seen to be the cause of up to 20% seizures in cats.
  • Severe parasite invasion which makes the cat immunocompromised
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Hypocalcaemia (low calcium)
  • Low oxygen levels in blood caused by anemia, heart disease or respiratory problems
  • Lead poisoning
  • Toxins like antifreeze or chocolate
  • Liver or kidney problems, such as hepatic encephalopathy
  • Thyroid problems
  • Hypertension
  • Feline Diabetes
  • Cancers inclusive of brain tumors and lymphomas
  • Hyperthermia (fever)
  • Head trauma
  • Congenital malformation within brain
  • Vascular disorders
  • Some inflammatory diseases or infections like feline infectious peritonitis, feline leukemia virus or feline immune-deficiency virus can lead to frequent seizures. Cryptococcosis (a fungal infestation that spreads from the lungs to the nervous system) and rabies also cause seizures.
  • Grand mal seizures can be genetically predisposed or familial in nature, passed down from one generation to another.

In a lot of cases your vet may be unable to determine a true cause for the grand mal seizures and would diagnose the cat with primary or idiopathic epilepsy, characterized by seizures having no apparent cause.

Triggers for Grand Mal Seizures in Cats

Grand Mal Seizures in Cats Causes and Symptoms Little cat

Kitten Suffering from Grand Mal Seizure


Besides accompanying ailments or inborn tendencies, the frequency and trend of seizures in cats also depends on their diet. Most regular, packaged cat foods available at grocery stores contain additives such as chemicals, colouring agents, stabilizers and fillers which can be unhealthy for your cat. Dry cat food contains sodium nitrate, which has been demonstrated to cause seizures in cats during clinical trials. Hence, it is better to shop at your local pet supply store instead and buy additive-free, natural cat food. Other than what cats eat, chemicals present in their environment also have a fundamental role. Quite a few household cleaners and floor polishes are composed of chemicals detrimental to the cats’ nervous systems and can cause cancer. Intelligent alternatives can be usage of green products, or if not that, then you should minimize the feline’s exposure to such chemicals by keeping it away from the room that is being cleaned with these products.

How to Tell if Your Cat’s Having a Grand Mal Seizure

There are three stages associated with a grand mal seizure in cats. Identification of these three states will make it easier for you to observe whether or not your cat is experiencing grand mal seizures.

  • The pre-seizure phase, also called the aura, lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. The cat might exhibit nervousness or anxiousness. It might seek your affection, salivate, meow or hide. Cats possibly seek the owner for comfort because they sense the seizure coming on.
  • During the seizure itself, the ictus, all the muscles in the cat’s body would contract. It would fall on its side with its head drawn back. The cat might vomit, salivate, urinate, defecate, collapse, display uncoordinated muscle activity or appear excited. This stage should last less than five minutes, but if it goes beyond five minutes it becomes a medical emergency, known as status epilepticus, which can cause brain damage and death.
  • After the seizure is over, known as the post-ictal (recovery) period, the cat would be confused or disoriented. It might drool and experience temporary loss of vision. It would have no recollection of the seizure itself.


Final words on grand mal seizure in cats – causes and symptoms

I hope this “Grand Mal Seizures in Cats | Causes and Symptoms” article was helpful to you and you are able to assess possible diagnoses for cats associated with grand mal seizures, would be able to overcome any triggers and can better understand the grand mal seizures a cat experiences.

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