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Seizure or heart problem?

Species: Cat
Breed: shorthair, orange ta
Age: 11-15 years
My sister is younger and home alone until tomorrow. She called me freaking out about her cat, but I'm in another state and unable to help her so I'm hoping you can give me some insight. Morris was acting normal, crawling on her lap getting pet, when he suddenly jumped down and ran behind the couch and started howling as if in pain. She moved the couch to get to him and he ran into the kitchen where he laid down under the table. He was panting and drooling, and his eyes were black (sounds like pupils dilated). He lost control of his bowels and pooped all over himself and the floor. He laid there like that limp, panting, and drooling, for several minutes until he calmed down then laid there for about 5 minutes more. Then he got up, ate, drank, and was walking around again as if nothing ever happened. He is old (12), but has always been perfectly healthy. No issues, you would have no idea he was that old. He does go out in the yard occasionally (fenced yard, always supervised), but she said the last time was at least 3-4 days ago and wasn't for very long. We are both concerned for Morris, especially my sister who is now terrified he's going to die. I tried to do some research on the internet, but can't find anything of use. They can get him to a vet on Monday (no ER vets near them, they live out in the boonies). If he's acting OK now, is he OK? Is it poison? I thought seizures, but she said he was limp and laid still and that doesn't sound like a seizure to me so I am clueless. Any advice you can give would be very helpful. Thank you!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Sorry to hear that your sister's cat is potentially not feeling well.

I won't be able to say for certain what this is, but the most likely explanation to me is a seizure. Seizures do not always look the same. It sounds like he was unconscious for a period which fits. If this is a seizure, I have seen some cats that never have a seizure again and are fine. But, if this happens regularly then this is obviously more serious.

Sudden pain could certainly cause pupil dilation but really shouldn't caues him to go limp and pant and drool.

The other possibility is a heart condition. Cats don't really have heart attacks like people do but they can have cardiovascular incidents that are similar to strokes. These can be serious as well. Usually when a cat has a serious heart issue though they don't make a complete recovery so quickly.

At this point, if the cat is eating ok and seems to be comfortable then it is probably safe to just keep an eye on him. Regardless, when the vet is open on Monday I would recommend having him checked. Have your sister keep a close eye on his breathing and if she feels like it is labored or very fast then ideally it would be a good idea to make the drive to the closest vet if possible on ER.

I wish I could give you a more concrete answer. Hope things are ok from here.

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your quick response! If it is a seizure, what kinds of things cause seizures and recover so quickly? Could it be just because he's old, or is it more likely he got hold of some kind of toxin...? And would pain be involved or could it just have been a howl of fear for the oncoming seizure?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

A toxin or poison would be quite unlikely. If this were a crazy young dog who ate everything in site I could maybe make a case for something like ingestion of a poisonous mushroom in the yard or drug ingestion. But, this would be close to impossible for a cat.

Unfortunately the most common cause of a seizure in an older cat is a brain tumor. But, I must emphasize that I have seen many cats that have a single unexplained seizure and then never have another one. The only way to know for sure if this is a tumor would be to have an MRI done which is very expensive and really wouldn't change the outcome.

I know it's hard, but at this point don't be fearful about a brain tumor. If it happens frequently, then I would be more concerned.

It's hard to say why the howl happened. It could have been fear or pain.



Customer reply:

Thank you for your quick response! If it is a seizure, what kinds of things cause seizures and recover so quickly? Could it be just because he's old, or is it more likely he got hold of some kind of toxin...? And would pain be involved or could it just have been a howl of fear for the oncoming seizure?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Looks like we got a duplicate question in there. See above for my answer.



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.