Can dogs have strokes? What should I do if my dog has a stroke?

Photo by Anna Dudkova / Unsplash

This article treats a serious and sensitive subject: stroke in dogs. Nothing is more horrible to know your dog just had a stroke. Unfortunately, I've experienced this situation with my old 17 years old dog and it is hard.

Don't be afraid though, in many happy cases dogs that received proper and quick treatment recovered and lived a long happy life after.

In the following paragraphs, you will read about:

  • the meaning of a stroke in dogs
  • signs of stroke in dogs
  • the causes of stroke in dogs
  • what can you do when your dog had a stroke
  • if your dog will completely recover from a stroke

Can my dog have a stroke?

What is a Stroke?

According to the National Stroke Association, a stroke happens when blood circulation to the brain is interrupted, limiting brain cells of oxygen. This frequently occurs unexpectedly and without explanation. Depending on whatever section of the brain is injured, the extent of the injury and its influence on the dog differs.

Strokes are classed as either ischemic or hemorrhagic that starve the brain of blood and oxygen, resulting in the death of brain cells for both dogs and humans. An ischemic stroke usually happens when a blood vessel supplying blood to a portion of the brain becomes clogged, causing damage to brain tissue. A vessel in the brain bleeds in a hemorrhagic stroke, causing swelling and increased pressure Also, you must know that ischemic strokes are more prevalent than hemorrhagic strokes.

How severe a stroke can be? Well, it depends on how long the brain is deprived of blood flow. If a dog suffers a huge, traumatic stroke in a specific section of the brain, he may not be able to recover because vital brain areas have been destroyed. Therefore, the stroke can have a negative impact on your dog's life quality and can also be deadly. The good thing is that a stroke does not always result in permanent disability. Dogs who are treated immediately and provided the necessary care they require can enjoy a favorable lengthy life.

How can I tell if my dog has had a stroke?

dog stroke
Photo by Jesse Schoff / Unsplash

The symptoms of a stroke can be minor and difficult to detect. There are no warning signals that a stroke is approaching. A dog can suddenly go from apparently normal and healthy to severely disabled.  If you won't treat the problem from the beginning, it might cause substantial damage.

The following are common indicators that your dog is having a stroke: Loss of balance

  • Walking in circle, pacing, or turning the wrong way
  • Head tilt
  • Acute weakness
  • Paralysis in one or more limbs
  • Falling to one side
  • Loss of consciousness, collapse
  • Change in personality
  • Eye movements or facial expressions that are abnormal
  • Bladder and bowels incontinence
  • Vomiting
  • Impaired vision

What causes a stroke in dogs?

The most common cause of a stroke is a blood clot. However, tumor cells, bacteria, and parasites can all cause strokes. All these can become trapped in a blood vessel, obstructing blood and oxygen flow and causing tissue around the vessel to perish.

Usually, strokes occur in a very old dog who has diseases that can increase the risk of clots or bleeding like:

  • Hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

No specific breed is more likely to suffer a stroke than another. Usually, the mentioned above diseases lead to strokes in dogs.

What should I do if my dog has a stroke?

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, dark red mucous membranes in spots like your dog's gums or inner eyelids can imply a lack of oxygenation. If your best bud is experiencing any of these dog stroke symptoms mentioned, it's critical to contact a veterinary neurologist. If left untreated, your dog may have further strokes. Immediate and proper treatment is required to restore normal blood flow.  It is also, highly recommended to keep your dog calm, away from any injuries that may cause him to fall or strike his head.

Dog stroke treatment includes addressing any underlying metabolic condition as well as providing comfort measures. Because dogs' ability to deal with severe injuries is often resilient, the long-term prognosis is generally excellent.

Another reason to visit a neurologist is that dog stroke symptoms can be caused by a variety of other serious neurological system conditions. You must know that neurologic symptoms are usually more of a clue about where the problem is in the nervous system than they are an indication of what the problem is. Therefore, just a vet neurologist can accurately identify your dog's problem and recommend the safest option.

Will my dog recover completely from a stroke?

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The type of stroke, its severity, any underlying medical concerns, and how soon your dog receives adequate care all affect your dog's capacity to recover from a stroke. Some dogs will show signs of healing within just a few weeks, while others will take longer. Sadly, some dogs never fully recover from a stroke, and the stroke or its complications might be fatal in rare situations.

If your furry best friend just had a stroke, I hope it will live a long and happy time after. Just follow every indication your vet gives you and make your dog's life the best by loving him even more. All these small things matter.

I really hope all the best for your pup's health! Love and paws until the next article! 🐾

Bianca Muche

Bianca Muche