Seizures Horses

Seizures

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

Seizures are caused by abnormal brain electrical activity. Seizures are sudden and can end abruptly. Sometimes they can occur again. There are three types of seizures.

Partial seizures (or focused seizures) affect only one brain part, which leads to symptoms in only that part of the body. This type of seizure lasts for a very short time. The symptoms include twitching of the face or limbs, self-harming behaviors and running in circles compulsively. A seizure can start out as focused and then become generalized.Generalized seizures affect a larger area of the brain, which then affects the entire body. These seizures are the most common in horses. They can last anywhere from 5 to 60 seconds. A generalized seizure in horses can cause a horse to fall on its side, make twitching movements or defecate, urine, or salivate.
Status epilepticus refers to a form of seizure that causes several generalized seizures to occur quickly one after another. These seizures are rare in horses.

Seizures Horses

Causes and Treatments for Seizures

Horse seizures can be caused either by intracranial disease (brain tumors or injuries) or something else. Extracranial diseases, which can include toxins and metabolic problems, can also cause seizures in horses.

Fetuses less than two weeks old are most likely to experience seizures.

Bacterial meningitis
Brain injury
Neonatal maladjustment syndrome

The most common causes for seizures in foals younger than one year old include:

Brain injury
Epilepsy idiopathic

The threshold for seizures in adult horses is higher, meaning that they must suffer more brain damage before having a seizure. Seizures in horses older than 1 year are most common.

Brain injury
Consumption of toxic substances
Liver disease
Tumors in horses older than 7 years old

Treatment for Seizures

It can be difficult to diagnose a horse suffering from seizures because the horse’s veterinarian is usually not there during the seizure. These are some possible ways to determine the cause.

History of medical conditions, including symptoms, previous illnesses, vaccinations, and diet
To check for any signs like fever, head injury or infection, a physical exam is performed.
A neurologic exam is used to assess mental health, posture, and gait.
Labor tests for blood and urine
To look for signs of head injuries, imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans or X-rays are used.

The cause of seizures will determine the treatment. For example, a person who has consumed toxins may need to be treated differently than someone who has suffered a head injury. Treatment options for seizures include:

Anticonvulsant medications to reduce seizures such as pentobarbital, diazepam and phenobarbital
The use of drugs that maintain blood flow to the brain, and lessen the damage to brain tissue.
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids are used to stabilize brain cell membranes.

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