Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke in Dogs

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If your dog begins to wobble, loses control of bodily functions or collapses, these may be signs of a stroke.
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Medical emergencies are one of the most frightening experiences for dog owners. A dog who collapses, becomes suddenly dazed and confused, or presents with other noteworthy symptoms may have had a stroke. There are two different types of strokes in canines, one of which is much more serious and rare than the other. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you and your vet determine if your dog has had a stroke.


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Understanding a Stroke

A stroke is the result of the restriction of blood flow to your dog's brain or an abnormality of the blood vessels. Stroke symptoms often mimic indicators of other ailments and health issues. There are two types of strokes that may afflict your dog. An ischemic stroke occurs due to lack of blood flow; a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a burst blood vessel, which causes bleeding, resulting in blood pooling in the dog's brain.


What to Look For

Any changes in your dog's behavior should be shared with his veterinarian, but certain symptoms, both physical and behavioral, are indicators that your dog may have suffered from a stroke. If your dog collapses, is unable to stand or walk, loses control of his bowels or bladder, tilts his head, has rapid eye movement from side to side, or begins to walk in circles, these physical signs may be indicative of a stroke. Additionally, changes in behavior such as the onset of confusion and lethargy, may be symptomatic of a canine stroke.


Cause and Effect

The occurrence of the canine stroke is sometimes associated with underlying health issues. Ischemic strokes, the more common of the two, are found to be caused by a health issue in about half the cases presented. Common conditions associated with ischemic strokes are chronic kidney disease, hypothyroid disease, high blood pressure and heart disease. Hemorrhagic strokes, which are more rare, are commonly seen in canine patients with brains tumors, lymphoma, vascular abnormalities and impaired blood coagulation.


Veterinary Care

Symptoms should be noted and shared with your veterinarian and treatment should be sought immediately. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam which may be accompanied by a CT scan and MRI. Many dogs recover from ischemic strokes within a few weeks. Hemorrhagic strokes have a higher mortality rate, but are considerably more rare in frequency.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.