You may think of a stroke as a condition experienced by humans, but dogs can also have strokes, so it's useful to be aware of the signs. There are two types of strokes your dog can experience. An ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood vessels, which can occur due to sluggish blood flow and blood clots. A haemorrhagic stroke is caused by a bleed in the brain, which can occur due to trauma and ruptured blood vessels. It's not always possible to determine why a dog has a stroke, and any dog can suffer a stroke, but there are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of your dog having a stroke. These include being elderly, having a blood clotting disorder and having certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for stroke in dogs:
The symptoms displayed by a dog that's had a stroke can vary depending on the area of the brain that's been affected, but some common symptoms include abnormal eye movement or positioning, the head tilting to one side, loss of coordination and loss of sight. You may also notice behavioural changes, such as irritability or withdrawal from social contact.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Your vet will diagnose your dog by taking details of their symptoms and conducting a thorough examination. Blood tests will be carried out to check organ function and blood health, and a urine sample will be collected to check for signs of inflammation and infection in the body, such as high levels of protein in the urine. Your dog will undergo diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or CT scan, which can help your vet establish the area of the brain affected and determine if there's damage to the surrounding tissues.
Your dog will be admitted as an inpatient for a few days to get their treatment underway, and the exact treatment approach will depend on the severity of your dog's symptoms and the identified cause of the stroke, but treatment can include blood-thinning medication, corticosteroids and hypertonic saline, which can reduce swelling in the brain. Your dog may also receive physical therapy if their gait and coordination have been affected.
Strokes can be fatal, as both blood vessel blockages and brain bleeds can interfere with oxygen delivery. Additionally, dogs that have a stroke are at risk of having another stroke. So, if you think your dog may have had a stroke, contact a veterinary hospital immediately.