This is a follow-up to an earlier blog about living with cat epilepsy where I introduced Emmy’s story.
Cat Epilepsy – A Quick Recap on Emmy’s Story
Emmy was diagnosed with epilepsy caused by a toxoplasmosis infection when she was born. We found her at three months old and have looked after her ever since.
It took a long time to stablize her condition and when I wrote the first blog about cat epilepsy and coping with it in August 2018 Emmy was three years old. We were settled into a routine, and as long as Emmy was given Keppra twice a day at the right time we were relatively seizure free.
Time for An Update
As with all conditions, cat epilepsy doesn’t stay still. Things change and we noticed towards the end of last year that Emmy was behaving more oddly than usual. She would drive us nuts, trying to climb up on high obsessively.
More Frequent Seizures
Then the seizures started to be more frequent and sometimes two in a row. Emmy was on the maximum dose of Keppra that she was allowed but we still had problems. Sometimes it was clear she could see things and she had strange head movements. She would obsessively try to get through closed doorways.
We reviewed the situation in January this year after Emmy had three seizures in a day (many hours between each). Our vet said if the Kepra did not do its job Emmy would have to go onto phenobarbital – something we were all trying to avoid.
Earlier this month, two months since Emmy’s last seizure, the dogs woke me up in the way they do to tell me Emmy has a problem. I have talked about this before, it is incredible that Ringo and Spud not only know that she is having a seizure but they come to wake me so that I will do something. I have read about people having assistance dogs who can sense seizures but it is the first time I have seen it in person.
Keeping Watch Over Emmy
Anyway, back to the story! It was 4.30am. I raced upstairs and to be honest I thought Emmy was dead. During a seizure she had managed to fall into a tiny space between pieces of furniture. With my heart in my mouth I pulled her out but then saw her move. It was such a relief to see her breathing. She was, of course, in a dreadful mess as was the floor and the sides of the furniture.
I cleaned Emmy up and then cleaned the floor etc. I thought I would sit up with her to check she was okay. Going into the living room it was clear that she had experienced an earlier seizure in there. Yet more cleaning up to do.
Emmy was in full post-seizure mode by this time, desperate to eat (no food allowed because she gobbles it after a seizure and could choke). Endless moving around. By the time Barnet Boy and the dogs got up it was 7.30am and I was a wreck but Emmy was quiet.
The Third Seizure
Post-breakfast we were all starting to calm down and it looked like Emmy was back to normal. Then at about 9am she just folded over sideways and had another seizure. After this one she was really weird. She paced in circles, yowling. We had a cat with dementia once (Bluebottle) and it reminded us of that, really quite upsetting.
Then Emmy started doing ridiculous things. For example, trying to get under the two inch gap at the bottom of a lit wood stove. We managed to pull her out before she burned herself and blocked the gap. She was obviously having a lot of visual disturbance. The vet had explained to us before that cat epilepsy didn’t just manifest in the obvious physical seizures, brain activity could occur with it being that obvious.
Along with the visual disturbance, Emmy occasionally did a sharp movement with her head at a funny angle.
Talking To The Vet
I spent some time talking to the vet over the telephone explaining what was going on. He said not to bring Emmy to the clinic unless the seizures were longer than the usual couple of minutes or if the seizures became one after the other. This is because the stress could make her worse. Of course if either of those two issues arose there was no question of a dash down there!
The vet said that clearly the Keppra was no longer controlling her epilepsy and we needed to change to phenobarbital. He and I both had reservations over this because of the side effects and long term impact on Emmy but really we were at the point of no choice.
I went down to the vet clinic and picked up the new meds and got my instructions on how to use them. The amount of tablet was based on her weight (luckily half a tablet, sometimes the ways you have to cut these tablets up are crazy!). He explained that she had to have half a tablet in the morning and again in the evening 12 hours apart at exactly the same time. He also pointed out the perils of forgetting to give her a dose – it can trigger severe epileptic seizures. We had to wait until the evening dose of Keppra would have been due (which was also given 12 hours apart) but from then on substitute the phenobarbital instead.
The possible side effects of phenobarbital in the treatment of cat epilepsy are:
- Appetite increase
- Increase in urination
- Weight gain.
You can read more about the side effects and treatment here. Many of the milder side effects are supposed to pass after a few days as the cat gets used to the medication.
I confess I shed a few tears when I gave Emmy the first dose of phenobarbital. We didn’t know how she would react!
Update Four Days Later
I sit writing this four days since we started Emmy on the new medication and here is a marked difference in her. No seizures or visual disturbances thank goodness. What we have seen is that she is thirsty and wants to eat all the time. We are having to be strict with food otherwise she will blow up like a balloon! She is also quite restless, on the move. This is quite a contrast from the little dreamy quiet little thing we are used to.
What has been nice though is an increase in interaction with both us and the other animals. It is almost as if Emmy has more energy and interest in what is going on around her.
Now we wait to see if the dose is correct, if the side effects ease as we expect and how she will be seizure-wise.
I tell you, it is a roller coaster ride!
Related Short Story
Have you read my short story where Stevie Mouse teaches Treacle about Emmy’s epilepsy? You can read it here.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound, an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!