How to Recognize If Your Dog Has a Brain Hemorrhage

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If your dog has a bleed on the brain, it's important to seek urgent veterinary attention. Would you recognize the warning signs?  What's most important is to spot tell-tale symptoms that clue you up that an urgent vet trip is needed. Don't worry about reaching a specific diagnosis - leave that to the vet.

The brain is the body's control center. When something affects its ability to work, such as a bleed, then the dog will show a range of symptoms that point towards brain injury. Seeking urgent treatment is important, but both minor and life-threatening problems can superficially look the same. If in doubt about your dog's health, err on the side of caution and see a vet who can drill down deeper and start the appropriate treatment.

Signs of a Brain Injury

Recognizing the signs relate to the brain is crucial. Seek help and let the vet reach a specific diagnosis. The symptoms of brain injury include:

  • Dull and Confused: Altered mental state is a significant sign that should press alarm bells. Taken to the extreme, this includes loss of consciousness and coma.

  • Poor Coordination: Such as staggering, walking in circles, or bumping into walls

  • Flicking Eyes: Known as 'nystagmus', eyes that flick from side to side can be a sign of inner ear disease or a brain disorder

  • Head Tilt: As for flicking eyes, this can be an ear-related or brain problem

  • Seizures: Fits have many causes, including brain injury.

  • A Recent Head Trauma: The 'smoking gun' clue is a recent accident, shortly after which the dog's demeanour changed markedly

Signs of a Bleeding Problem

If your dog is likely to throw a blood clot or has difficulty clotting blood, this raises the chances of a brain bleed. These dogs may have signs such as:

  • Bleeds Easily: Does your dog bleed heavily from minor injuries?

  • Coagulation Disorder: Does your dog have a diagnosis of an inherited clotting disorder or infection with lungworm or heartworm?

  • Heart Condition: Turbulent blood flow due to heart disease can predispose to blood clots

  • Bruised Gums: Does your dog have lots of tiny bruises on his gums? This is an indication he's struggling to clot his blood

Factors that Point Toward a Brain Bleed

Imagine your dog shows signs of a brain injury. In addition, he has a medical history of sky-high blood pressure. Marry the two things together and a brain bleed shoots up the list of likely problems.

What your dog has here is a predisposing factor (high blood pressure) which makes a brain bleed more likely. Accurately knowing your dog's medical history can point toward the cause of strange behavior and should prompt urgent action.

Other factors that predispose towards brain bleeds include:

  • Cushing's Disease: Common in older dogs, Cushing's disease has a strong link to high blood pressure.

  • Kidney Disease: Another predisposing factor for high blood pressure

  • Blood Clotting Problems: This may be an inherited condition such as hemophilia, the result of rodenticide toxicity, or clotting disorders caused by parasitic infections

Drawing everything together, the important thing is not to reach a specific diagnosis (leave that to the vet). Instead, be aware of worrying signs which show the dog needs urgent veterinary attention. If in doubt, phone your vet to discuss the signs and they can guide you from there.