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All Posts in Category: Seizures

Tremorgenic Mycotoxin Toxicity: The Moldy Shakes

The compost pile, a seemingly innocuous feature of your outside garden, can seem like a great idea, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, this kind of eco-friendly heap of decomposing organic matter can also look like a free meal to your dog. As food in a compost pile starts to decay, a variety of molds can grow on it — molds that won’t always deter a dog from wanting to enjoy an outside feast. Many of these molds (at least 20 varieties are known to inhabit compost piles) produce mycotoxins that can have negative health effects. Ingesting even a small amount of mold can cause small muscle tremors and ataxia (which will cause your pet to look like he/she is drunk or having trouble walking) for a period of hours or days. A large amount of mold exposure can cause severe tremors, seizures and even death.

Spoiled food and fats in the compost pile can also cause gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Moldy dairy products such as cheese, moldy nuts such as walnuts or peanuts, moldy grains, and pastas are often the culprits behind these kinds of issues.

Apart from food found in compost piles, moldy refrigerator food thrown outside or in the trash can also potentially expose your dog to toxic molds. If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a compost pile or moldy trash, please take him/her to a vet immediately. Depending on whether the pet is showing signs of toxicity, your dog may be made to vomit. We never recommend the inducing of vomiting at home, due to possible complications. For instance, if your pet isn’t stable, he/she could inhale their own vomit or bloat. At the vet, a dose of activated charcoal is also often given to help absorb toxins from the GI tract.

Most dogs with this kind of mold toxicity likely will be kept in the hospital on IV fluids and given muscle relaxants to address any tremors, until the tremors cease. Antibiotics are also sometimes used to treat any diarrhea. A hospital stay can range from one day to several days, depending on how much mold your pet consumed and how quickly they were treated by a veterinarian.

Just like anything else, with mold toxicity, prevention is key. Keep compost piles in areas out of reach of your pet, or keep the material in a secure composting container. Also, don’t throw food away in inside trash cans. Most outside trash cans are much sturdier, and some are made to be difficult for a dog to open — even if the can is overturned. Finally, avoid throwing moldy food from your refrigerator in your backyard.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Tremorgenic Mycotoxins

Tremorgenic mycotoxins produced by molds on foods are a relatively common — and possibly under-diagnosed — cause of tremors and seizures in pet animals. Because of their relatively indiscriminate appetites, dogs tend to be most commonly exposed to tremorgens. These toxins are produced by a variety of fungi, but tremorgens produced by Penicillium spp. are the most commonly encountered. The molds grow on practically any food, including dairy products, grains, nuts and legumes, and compost piles may also provide a source of tremorgens. Tremorgens have a several different mechanisms of action: some alter nerve action potentials, some affect neurotransmitter action, and others change neurotransmitter levels. The overall result is the development of muscle tremors and seizures.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Oh no!! My pet had a seizure!!

Seizures can have a number of causes, including toxins, low blood sugar, low calcium, kidney or liver problems, blood clots to the brain or “strokes,” infectious diseases, inflammation of or around the brain, cancer, epilepsy, and trauma. In pets that are predisposed to having seizures, stress and different medications can also cause seizures. In addition, stopping certain medications can cause seizures.

Both cats and dogs, along with our exotics, can have seizures. Seizures can be focal (isolated) or generalized. Although cats can experience either type of seizure, they more often have focal seizures, which may include symptoms such as facial twitching, dilated pupils and running into objects abnormally. Sometimes cats’ seizures can be so focal that they go unnoticed for periods of time.

Dogs can also have both generalized and focal seizures. Generalized seizures often involve severe muscle contractions, loss of consciousness and repeated jaw clamping. They may salivate, urinate and defecate as well. After the seizure subsides, your pet may be disoriented, start pacing, seem confused, be blind, or display other abnormal behaviors (e.g., aggression, fear, etc.). This period can last for anywhere from minutes to hours.

Seizure frequency is widely varied. Some pets have one seizure and never have another. Some have seizures more frequently (e.g., once every 6 months), but their seizures don’t significantly impact their quality of life. Others have more frequent episodes that do affect quality of life and therefore require medication. And still others have such severe seizures that medical management is ineffective.

So what should you do if your pet has a seizure? Bring him/her in to a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can administer medications to help stop the seizures and will also likely recommend blood work to rule out potential causes of the seizure. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to help prevent further seizures, depending on their severity. Not all pets require long-term medical therapy, however.

Seizures that repeat more than once during a 24-hour period, seizures that happen one after another, and seizures that last more than 4 minutes are medical emergencies that need to be seen immediately. If your pet is having a seizure, do not place anything — especially your fingers — in his/her mouth! During a seizure, a pet does not know what is going on and can bite without intending to. They will not swallow their tongue. Keep them away from stairs and other places where they can injure themselves. If your pet has had seizures previously, keep a seizure log of what time the seizure started, how long it lasted, whether there was anything different about the environment (stress and thunderstorms can actually precipitate seizures), whether it was a focal or generalized seizure, and any medications given.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Help! My Dog is Having a Seizure!

What is a seizure, and what causes a seizure?
A seizure is any sudden and uncontrolled movement of an animal’s body caused by abnormal brain activity. If you’ve ever seen your pet have a seizure, it can be very frightening. Seizures may be very severe, affecting the entire body, or more mild, affecting only a portion of your pet. During a seizure, your pet may or may not seem conscious or responsive, and could possibly urinate or have a bowel movement.

Seizures have a number of causes, including epilepsy, toxins, low blood sugar and brain tumors. If your pet has recently had or is currently having a seizure, we recommend that you bring your pet into Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital immediately. Our veterinarians can use diagnostic tools to help determine the cause of the seizure and treat the problem.

Diagnosis and treatment at the clinic
When you arrive at the clinic, your pet will be examined immediately, and a thorough neurological exam will be performed. If your pet is actively seizuring, an injection of valium or a muscle relaxer will likely be administered. Once your pet is stable, bloodwork will be recommended to help rule out metabolic disease and any possible toxins.

Some pets that have had a seizure get to go home that same day or night, but we may recommend that your pet stay with us for a longer period of time to monitor for additional seizures. We may also recommend inserting an IV catheter, so that we have access to a vein, should your pet start experiencing another seizure.

Depending on the results of the physical exam, neurological exam and bloodwork, your pet will be treated accordingly. If more advanced imaging diagnostic tools (e.g., CT scan or MRI) are needed, we may refer you to a specialty veterinary practice for further diagnosis.

What to do if your pet has a seizure
If you’re at home and your pet is having a seizure, and you are unsure whether or not to bring your pet in, please call Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital as soon as possible. If your animal is having a seizure, also be aware of the following recommendations:

  • Protect your pet during and after the seizure. Remove your pet from heights, and keep it away from water.
  • Remove other pets from the area. Sometimes, pets may act aggressively soon after the seizure has ended.
  • Keep your hands away from your pet’s mouth, as your pet may unintentionally bite you during a seizure. Pets do not swallow their tongues during a seizure.
  • Try to determine the length of the seizure, if possible.
  • If the seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, call Greenbrier or your family veterinarian immediately.
  • If your pet has more than two seizures in a 24-hour period, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Above all, don’t panic! Call us here at Greenbrier, and our doctors and staff will be here to help you and your pet!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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