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.

Knut the polar bear

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

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3 Responses to Could My Pet Die from Epilepsy?

  1. […] Collapse, loss of consciousness or a possible seizure. Early intervention could prevent another one of these frightening […]

  2. Thanks so much for reading our blog and for sharing this information.

  3. Arden Townsend says:

    Unfortunately I can say that I know many dogs that have crossed over the rainbow bridge because of the complications of seizures. I know when Precious had her first seizure we took her to the vet and our vet told us he almost lost her 3 times that night. Many of us in the k9epileptic group on yahoo support each other through this monster. We celebrate sometimes just going 1 day (Or 1 year) without a seizure and then mourn and support each other when this horrible monster of a disease takes one of our members across the rainbow bridge.

    Many of us in this seizure group plan everything around the strict medication schedule we must maintain to try to keep the seizures under control. We are ones that when we plan trips we know where the nearest vet office is or arrange to have someone watch our dogs when we go out.

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