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Nursing the seizure patient

02 July 2021
15 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 6
Figure 1. A transverse MRI image of a canine brain showing pre- and post-contrast administration with gadolinium (Dotarem, Guerbet). The contrast images, on the right, shows enhancement in areas of the brain with neoplastic or inflammatory processes.
Table 1. Seizure terminology and definitions


Seizures are a common emergency presentation to veterinary practice and can be challenging cases to treat and nurse. There are a large variety of underlying causes for seizures in companion animals, and nursing care can vary depending on the differential diagnoses. Nursing interventions such as seizure plans, intravenous catheter placement and constant rate infusions can all help to provide a rewarding outcome for both the nurse and the patient.

Seizures can present to veterinary practice as an emergency with an actively seizuring patient, or as a consultation following seizures at home. Seizures can be upsetting for owners to witness, so nursing care can often extend to the client as well as the patient. Because of the wide variety of underlying causes for a seizure, there are a wide variety of nursing interventions that can be implemented, making the role of the registered veterinary nurse (RVN) vital in providing a suitable and holistic level of care to the patient. Ultimately the goal of nursing care and veterinary treatment is to allow the patient to continue to have a reasonable quality of life; whether this means a complete seizure-free status or merely a reduced frequency or intensity is determined by the client and the veterinary team.

Seizure is a broad term, but in veterinary medicine most commonly refers to a clinical manifestation of excessive hyperexcitability in the cerebral cortex (Meland and Carrera-Justiz, 2018). This hyperexcitability of neurons can occur in the entire cerebrum, leading to a generalised seizure, or in one specific lobe or region of the brain, creating a focal seizure (Thomas and Dewey, 2016). Prolonged or recurrent seizure activity and overstimulation of neurons can lead to cellular damage, necessitating the need for prompt treatment (Thomas and Dewey, 2016; Packer, et al, 2017). Classification and description of seizure activity varies hugely among veterinary professionals (Packer et al, 2015), and some of the more common terminology used is summarised in Table 1.

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