March 31, 2011 Neurology

Could My Pet Die from Epilepsy?

Could My Pet Die from Epilepsy?

Learning a Lesson from Knut the Polar Bear

I have loved zoos since I was a child when my mother used to take me to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota to see the Sammy the Seal show. I am a regular at the Central Park Zoo polar bear enclosure here in Manhattan.

The death last week of 4 year old Knut, the celebrity polar bear, at the Berlin Zoo was exceptionally sad. On Monday, a Reuters news feed reported the cause of death as epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a caused by abnormal function of the brain. In its worst form, epilepsy causes loss of consciousness, recumbancy and generalized, uncontrolled movement of the body. Epilepsy is not the only cause of seizures, which can result from trauma, infection or tumor in the brain, or a low blood sugar depriving the brain of glucose for energy.

Several features of Knut’s case are apropos to our dog and cat companions who suffer from epilepsy. The Reuters article says Knut inherited epilepsy from his father, Lars. Epilepsy also runs in some dog breeds: border collies, Dalmatians, Siberian Huskies, German shepherds, golden retrievers and St. Bernards, who tend to have high frequency seizures. Some breeds seem to be less likely to have epilepsy such as the Doberman pinscher, Rottweiler and Newfoundland. Epilepsy is generally an uncommon diagnosis in cats.

A prolonged seizure, also called status epilepticus, demands a trip to the emergency room. Seizures occurring in rapid succession, also called cluster seizures, require an emergency room visit. There, testing will begin to determine if epilepsy is the cause of the seizure. If the seizures are recurrent or persistent, antiseizure medication will likely be administered. Like in the case of Knut, a severe or prolonged seizure can sometimes result in death if treatment is not immediately administered.

A word to the wise pet owner: know where your closest animal ER is and don’t hesitate to go — it just might save your pet’s life.

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on
For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Tags: AMC, animal, animal hospital, animal medical center, animals, ann hohenhaus, berlin zoo, canine, cat, central park, como park, dog, dogs, epilepsy, epileptic, feline, health, knut, pet, pet emergency, pet health, pet healthcare, pet owner, pets, polar bear, seizure, tales from the pet clinic, vet, veterinarian, veterinary care, WebMD, zoo,

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