Do dogs even have strokes? You wonder as you rush your injured pet to the veterinarian. Regardless, you know that your dog is in serious trouble and must be treated immediately.
Veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby reveals dog stroke signs to look out for and dog stroke treatments that may help your aging friend recover after a stroke. Strokes are common in humans, but did you know dogs are also sometimes prone to them?
Upon returning home one afternoon, you discover your senior dog stumbling around the house, acting dizzy. He falls over, cannot get up, and his eyes are now moving back and forth erratically. You are alarmed as your mind races.
Is it possible for a dog to have a stroke? You wonder as you rush your wounded canine to the veterinarian. Regardless, you understand that your dog is in need of immediate medical attention.
Is it possible that I have vertibular disease instead of a stroke?
I’d like to address one condition that frequently misdiagnosed as a stroke in dogs before we dive into true strokes (i.e. blood flow to the brain disruption). Old dog vestibular disease is a condition characterized by a malfunction in the vestibular system and occurs much more frequently than strokes in dogs.
The inner ear, brain, and cranial nerves make up the vestibular system, which helps the body maintain balance. It lets the body know if it is upright, if it is moving or still, and which direction is forward.
There are signs of vertibral disease.
A dog may experience the following when the vestibular system is dysfunctional:
Being able to relate to a canine with vestibular disease is probably how vertigo feels. Thankfully, most dogs recover from this condition and enjoy a long, healthy life.
Learn more about vestibular disease (which isn’t the subject of this article) in Old Dog Vestibular Disease: A True Story About Doggie Vertigo. Your veterinarian may also recommend these 10 tips and exercises for dogs with vestibular disease if your dog has the condition.
What is Stroke?
A true stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. Normally, arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the brain. This blood carries glucose, a type of sugar that is critical for brain cell health. You can think of glucose as brain ‘food.’ In other words, the brain must have blood and its life-sustaining elements to function properly.
Strokes can be classified into four types.
An physical obstruction or a leaking blood vessel may cause blood flow to the brain to be impaired, resulting in a stroke. The condition is characterized by whichever of these situations occurred.
Are dogs susceptible to strokes?
According to veterinary school, strokes do not occur in dogs. We now know, however, that they do occasionally occur for unknown reasons or because the dog has an underlying condition that boosts the chance of stroke.
Senior or young adult Greyhounds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may have a higher risk of stroke. Strokes are also more commonly seen in these dogs.
What are the symptoms of a dog stroke?
Stroke victims may begin to slur their speech, become disoriented, experience dizziness and imbalance, or experience numbness or weakness in their arms, legs, or face. Since our dogs cannot tell us how they feel in words, we must rely on our observations.
A canine stroke might be recognized by observing the following symptoms:
Strokes may be indicated by these signs, but they aren’t always specific to strokes. Seizures and vestibular disease, among other neurologic conditions, may also display these symptoms. If your dog shows these symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately, as all of these conditions are medical emergencies.
Canines may experience stroke because of several reasons.
There are many reasons why a dog might experience a stroke, so it is critical to determine the cause in order to know if treatment will be effective. We will discuss a few of them here.
Having high blood pressure (hypertension).
It is simpler for blood clots to form in dogs with high blood pressure, resulting in physical vessel obstructions. Blood vessels become very narrow and stiff over time as a result of high blood pressure.
Strokes are one of the most common causes of hypertension in dogs, so I want to spend a little more time discussing the ailments that might cause your dog’s blood pressure to rise:
An increased or abnormal amount of blood clotting
Certain conditions increase the chance of a blood clot forming and lodging in a blood vessel, resulting in a stroke. These conditions include:
Bleeding is more likely.
Increased chances of bleeding occur in dogs, making a hemorrhagic stroke more probable, owing to these conditions:
A stroke is diagnosed by how?
Strokes can be devastating without prompt medical attention. Therefore, it is critical to seek assistance for your dog as soon as stroke symptoms are identified. Your vet will perform a comprehensive physical and neurological examination and provide you with information about your dog’s history and clinical signs. You may then be referred to a veterinary laboratory for blood testing, urinalysis, and X-rays, for example.
Blood clots and bleeding in your dog’s brain can be located using advanced imaging (MRI or CT scans), but your vet will only suspect a stroke based on the dog’s symptoms and diagnostic tests. Specialty clinics and university veterinary hospitals are the most common places where these scans are performed.
What are the symptoms of dog stroke?
Your dog’s stroke might be treated by addressing its underlying cause or by addressing his symptoms. These treatments are available:
Stroke patients in human medicine are treated with thrombolytic (clot-busting) medications, but they have not yet been thoroughly studied in veterinary medicine. Despite some success with urokinase in cats, streptokinase—a similar thrombolytic drug—has had very serious adverse side effects including bleeding and even death as a result of its thrombolytic (clot-busting) properties.
What care instructions do I need to know for my dog who had a stroke?
The level of your dog’s stroke and the underlying cause will determine some of the at-home recommendations your veterinarian will make. These measures may be beneficial:
Dog parents may wonder if there is anything that can be done to decrease a dog’s stroke risk, knowing that some conditions predispose dogs to strokes.
Certain drugs, including clopidogrel (Plavix®), decrease platelet stickiness and thus reduce the risk of clotting where it is undesirable, such as in the brain, and hence strokes. Amlodipine, a medicine used to control hypertension, may also reduce the risk of blood clots.
Blocking portions of the RAAS system with an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor) such as enalapril, can decrease blood pressure in heart disease and thus decrease the risk of stroke.
The prognosis for strokes in dogs is good.
Strokes are a common occurrence in dogs and most of them will be able to return to their normal lives. However, there are some cases where a severe stroke results in long-lasting mobility issues or behavioral alterations. Veterinarians can assist these dogs with physical therapy in order to help them learn how to walk again. Additionally, a veterinary behavior specialist may also provide you with exercises that can help re-train your dog’s brain.
When your dog acts oddly and appears to be unsteady on his feet, it can be worrisome. Don’t panic; contact your vet immediately! With fast diagnosis and therapy, your dog may be able to make a full recovery.
Has your dog experienced a stroke?
It would be wonderful if we could all learn from each other’s experiences.