Published: 25 Sep 2020 | Last Updated: 28 Sep 2020 11:26:28

Neurological disorders are supposedly a leading cause of death in cats but, until now, there has been little information on how commonly cats are affected by seizure disorders or epilepsy.  The latest VetCompass study shines new light on these problems in cats. Using anonymised clinical data on 458 cases of recurrent seizure disorders (RSD) from over a quarter of a million cats attending primary-care clinics in the UK, this study reveals that 16 in every 10,000 cats are affected. Of these, a quarter are formally diagnosed with epilepsy.

Advancing age is the biggest risk factor for both RSD and epilepsy. Insured cats were over twice as likely to be diagnosed with RSD or epilepsy as uninsured cats, suggesting that many uninsured cases are going undiagnosed.

Key findings from the study included:

  • The prevalence of RSDs was 0.16%, whilst the prevalence of epilepsy was 0.04%.
  • Increasing age was significantly associated with increasing odds of RSD, with cats aged ≥ 15 years at 4.27 times the odds of RSDs compared with cats < 3 years.
  • Epilepsy was most frequently diagnosed in adult to middle-aged cats. Cats aged 3 to < 6 years had 3.32 times the odds of epilepsy diagnosis compared to cats < 3 years of age.
  • Breed, sex, neuter status, and body weight were not associated with RSD or epilepsy.
  • Insured cats were more likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy compared to noninsured cats.

Dr Dan O’Neill, lead author and RVC Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology said: “For a long time, cats have been treated as the poor relation to dogs when it comes to epidemiological research. This study has aimed to redress this imbalance and started to prioritise our understanding of feline health at a population. VetCompass offers a unique opportunity to unravel many of the big questions about feline health.”  

Full study freely available open access: O'Neill DG, Phillipps SA, Egan JR, Brodbelt D, Church DB, Volk HA. Epidemiology of recurrent seizure disorders and epilepsy in cats under primary veterinary care in the United Kingdom. J Vet Intern Med. 2020;1–13.

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