Added by Russell Tofts
“Epileptic fits of the type Kate describes can affect most species – gerbils, dogs, and humans seeming especially prone), although this is the first time I have heard of such fits occuring in a rat. Whenever this happens, the best thing to do is not to panic, cut out all external stimuli (reduce noise, draw the curtains or dim the lights, switch off the television set etc.) and usher all people out of the room so that just one person supervises the animal until it has recovered. Remove anything in the proximity that may injure the animal. Do not touch the animal, however. After a few minutes it should start to recover and then behave as if nothing has happened. If it is the first time it has been seen to “fit”, it is a good idea to have it examined by a veterinary surgeon to see if a cause can be isolated.”
Added by Joolz
It is important to understand the difference between epilepsy and seizures. Causes of seizures include infections, tumours, toxic chemicals, and epilepsy. Most seizures have a cause other than epilepsy.
It’s most useful to think of epilepsy as a word for seizures for which no other cause has been found. Seizures are rare in rats, but can be caused by many different things. Some that I have heard mentioned are:
- Liver failure – I recently saw a vet on TV who said this was the most common reason for rodents to have a seizure.
- Kidney failure – Usually short seizures in end stages of renal failure.
- High fevers – high body temperature due to an infection somewhere in the body.
- Extensive ear infection or other pressure on the brain or brain membranes.
- Pituitary gland or brain tumour.
- Vitamin B6 (Thiamine) deficiency. Sugar can be a trigger sometimes, in which case a lower sugar diet should produce less frequent seizures. Sugar robs the body of B vitamins, so could contribute to a Thiamine deficiency.
- Magnesium deficiency, in which case a magnesium or general vitamin/mineral supplement added to the diet should help.
- Diabetes and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
- Hormonal imbalance (in humans, females can get them at puberty and menopause or during each cycle). If you have a young female rat with seizures, keep a record of her seasons which are every 4 to 5 days in a normal healthy doe, and see if the seizures coincide at all.
- Poisons such as excessive pesticides in the diet or something accidentally ingested in the household could be another possible trigger.