Dogs deal with many of the same medical problems that humans do. While it was originally believed that dogs didn’t have strokes (because they don’t have the same risk factors as humans do) it has been proven that dogs can and do have strokes.
You may know a person who has a had a stroke that now suffers from some kind of permanent damage, so hearing that your dog has had a stroke can be very scary. In dogs, you won’t notice memory loss or slurred speech, but there are possible brain damage effects from a stroke in pets. Just like in humans, the faster animals are treated, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.
Signs Your Dog is Having a Stroke
When your pet is having a stroke, symptoms will usually be immediate and sudden. The signs may not automatically lead you to believe that your pet is having a stroke, however. It is likely that you will notice your dog having trouble walking or balancing. Coordination may seem off. During a stroke, dogs are often disoriented and weak.
In some cases, you may see problems with your dog’s eyes or believe that they have suddenly gone blind. Loss of bowel control and inappropriate urination are other indicators of a stroke. In addition, dogs having a stroke may collapse, become comatose, or have seizures. Unfortunately, there are no hallmark symptoms of a stroke, and your dog could suffer from one or more of these symptoms.
There are times where your dog will seem perfectly normal one minute, but they be unable to stand up or walk the next. While these episodes could last for only a few minutes, they could also continue for hours or even days.
If your pet recovers from the signs of a stroke in less than 24 hours, it is typically considered a transient ischemic attack, which don’t normally result in brain damage.
- Head tilting
- Body freezing
- Urine sprinkling
- Urination and bowel control problems
- Vision problems or sudden blindness
- Inability to stand up or walk
History of Dogs Having Strokes
Originally, veterinarians didn’t believe that dogs could have strokes, because the things that lead to stroke in humans are not present in dogs. For example, humans that drink and smoke are more likely to have a stroke. Greasy foods can clog arteries and lead to stroke. Unless you are allowing your pet to participate in activities (that are extremely dangerous for dogs), these vices shouldn’t be a problem for your pooch.
In dogs, strokes can be caused by Cushing’s disease, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, bleeding disorders, cancer, hypothyroidism, and medications such as steroids. Even though there are no breeds that are more prone to strokes than the others, there are breeds that are more likely to develop the diseases that may cause a stroke. For example, King Charles Cavalier Spaniels are prone to heart disease, which can make them more likely to suffer a stroke.
Since strokes can be fatal, it is important that you bring your dog to the veterinarian right away. Historically speaking, strokes used to be much more fatal in dogs than they are today. Dogs have a greater chance at making a full recovery after a stroke than humans do, however, regardless of the severity of the stroke.
Science Behind Strokes in Dogs
Looking at dogs' brains with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) proved that dogs and cats can have strokes. Dogs can have two different kinds of stroke. An ischemic stroke is caused by an insufficient blood supply, and a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by too much blood. Using MRI and CT scans, veterinarians can spot the stroke and determine its type.
Once the type of stroke is determined, the veterinarian will determine treatments, which can range from oxygen and fluid therapy to physical therapy and surgery.
In some cases, strokes are caused by other conditions, such
as Cushing’s disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and hyperthyroidism.
Helping Your Dog After a Stroke
It can be hard to cope with the fact that your dog has had a stroke. In most cases, dogs who are treated quickly have no adverse effects after treatment. Some dogs, however, will have permanent problems. Since strokes affect the brain, brain damage is a possibility after a dog has a stroke.
Treatment isn’t always easy. Some dogs require supportive care, and physical therapy might also be another necessity. Physical therapy will require you to bring your dog in for additional care, but it can help your dog get some of its lost function back.
Initial treatments generally include IVs and corticosteroids to reduce brain swelling and to help with blood circulation to the brain. Oxygen therapy and fluid therapy are other treatment options that can help keep the brain healthy throughout the aftermath of the stroke. If your dog is having a seizure, veterinarians will give anti-seizure drugs.
Neurologic symptoms of a stroke typically go away on their own, blood flow is reestablished to the brain, and swelling reduces. At this point, dogs can receive acupuncture therapy or take antioxidants to help improve their health. After a stroke, dogs should be given a nattokinase supplement that can prevent future strokes. In addition, physical therapy may be needed to help your dog return to normal.
Most dogs make a full recovery if they make it past the first few days after a stroke. Dogs have a better chance at making a full recovery than humans do, which is good news for pet owners. If your dog has a stroke, it isn’t a death sentence, and it doesn’t mean that your dog will be left with permanent problems. The key is early treatment, however, so get your dog to a veterinarian right away if you see symptoms of a stroke.
How to Manage a Dog After a Stroke:
Provide them with any treatments that your veterinarian recommends.
Do your best to provide additional care during the recovery process.
Watch out for future strokes.