Can Dogs Live After a Stroke?

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Introduction

Much like humans, dogs can have strokes. While veterinarians and scientists didn’t originally think that dogs could have strokes, it was proven that they can, even though they don’t have the same risk factors as humans do. Some humans can live perfectly normal lives after having a stroke, but what about a dog?

Fortunately, most dogs can make a full recovery after a stroke. In fact, dogs are more likely to make a full recovery after a stroke than humans are. Most cases don’t involve permanent damage, and dogs are completely healthy after post-stroke treatments. But, you still need to be prepared to know what a stroke looks like in dogs.

Signs Dogs Can Live After a Stroke

In most cases, dogs will seem perfectly fine one minute, but the next, they will be experiencing some strange symptoms that are not only scary but can also be very dangerous. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your dog’s head is abnormal. While some cases will present after not enough blood reaches the brain, other cases occur when too much blood gets into the brain.

If treated quickly, the symptoms of a stroke are usually reversible. But, there is always a chance that permanent damage has been done. In these cases, your dog may deal with partial paralysis, brain damage, and more.

A few symptoms that you should watch for include lack of coordination, inability to walk or balance, suspected blindness, loss of bowel control, and inappropriate urination. Your dog may also appear to be weak, comatose, or having a seizure. It can be hard to determine if your dog is having a seizure, because not all dogs suffer from the same symptoms, and they could have just one or numerous signs of stroke.

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, and these don’t normally result in brain damage. If recovery takes longer, there may be permanent damage, or your dog could die.

Body Language

If your dog is having a stroke, watch out for the following body language symptoms:
  • Head tilting
  • Weakness
  • Body freezing
  • Urine sprinkling

Other Signs

Other signs your dog is having a stroke include:
  • Lack of coordination
  • Inability to stand or walk
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or coma
  • Loss of bowel control and inappropriate urination

History of Dogs Having Strokes

When dogs used to have the symptoms of strokes, veterinarians were stumped. Because dogs don’t drink, smoke, or eat unhealthy, fatty foods like humans do, it was believed that dogs couldn’t have a stroke. However, since that time, we have learned that there are other reasons that people have strokes, and dogs can have strokes, too.

There are a number of different diseases that can lead to strokes. In dogs, these diseases include hypertension, Cushing’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, bleeding disorders, hypothyroidism, cancer, and medications like steroids.

No specific breeds are more prone to strokes than others, but there are breeds that are predisposed to the diseases that can cause strokes. For example, King Charles Cavalier Spaniels are prone to heart disease, which can make them more likely to suffer a stroke.

If you believe that your dog is having a stroke, you should get them in to see a veterinarian right away. Strokes can be fatal, but they are much more likely to be fatal in humans than they are in dogs. Also, dogs have a greater chance of making a full recovery than humans do after a stroke, regardless of how severe the stroke is. For these reasons, your dog should be given medical help immediately.

Science Behind Dogs Living After a Stroke

Science can prove that dogs have strokes. Machines like the computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging machines can give veterinarians the chance to look at a dog’s brain to see if there are signs of stroke.

Dogs can have either an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic strokes are caused by an insufficient blood supply to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by too much blood reaching the brain. MRI and CT scan can show veterinarians the kind of stroke your pet is having and help your pet with a variety of treatments, ranging from oxygen and fluid therapy to physical therapy and surgery.

Helping Your Dog After a Stroke

If your dog has a stroke, it can be difficult to deal with the news. While most dogs who receive timely treatment will have no adverse effects post-treatment, some dogs can have permanent problems that are caused by the stroke. Strokes can lead to brain damage, which makes it much harder to care for your dog.

Treatment for stroke can be difficult. Some dogs will need supportive care, IVs, corticosteroids, and physical therapy. These treatments are done to help your dog regain full function after a stroke. Oxygen and fluid therapies can help keep your pet’s brain healthy after a stroke. These methods of supportive care can be crucial to your dog’s survival. IVs and corticosteroids can help reduce the swelling in the brain and promote blood circulation to the brain. If your dog is having a seizure, veterinarians will give anti-seizure drugs.

In most cases, neurologic symptoms from the stroke will go away on their own. Blood flow is often reestablished and the brain swelling will decrease. At this point, your dog may be given acupuncture therapy or antioxidants that will help improve their health. If your dog has had a stroke, you should give them nattokinase, a supplement that can help prevent future strokes. Physical therapy may also be necessary for dogs that have had a stroke.

If your dog makes it past the first few days after a stroke, there is a high possibility that they will pull through. Dogs generally have a better chance at making a full recovery than humans do, so that is good news for owners of dogs that have had a stroke. 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. Early treatment is a key, however.

How to Manage a Dog After a Stroke:

  • Be sure your pet follows its treatment plan.
  • Provide extra care during the recovery period.
  • Know the signs of stroke so you can watch for future problems.