Diagnosing a Vascular Accident in Dogs

A vascular accident is more commonly known as a stroke. Typically, a stroke occurs due to a blood clot that will block a blood vessel that carries blood and oxygen to various parts of the dog’s body. The diagnosis of a vascular accident can be done judging by the symptoms displayed by the dog, but clinical tests will also be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Symptoms of a Vascular Accident

A stroke requires emergency treatment to save the dog’s life. This means that the early detection of the symptoms in your dog is essential.

The most commonly reported symptoms of a canine vascular accident include:

  • Unevenly dilated pupils
  • Crossed eyes or the eyes will move quickly from one side to the other
  • Excessive blinking or tearing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Walking in circles
  • Titled head, which can indicate the side that is affected
  • Delayed response to calls or other visual stimuli
  • Lack of sense of smell (i.e. your dog doesn’t respond when you prepare his food)
  • General state of weakness
  • Lack of balance
  • Impaired muscle function
  • Limping (depending on the location of the blood clot that causes the vascular accident)
  • Confusion
  • Irregular gait
  • Unconsciousness
  • Shaking
  • Seizures, only in advanced stages
  • Sudden collapse
  • Uncontrolled urination and defecation

These symptoms occur very suddenly and the dog’s condition may worsen within half an hour and he may develop additional symptoms.

The dog may have 1 visibly affected side (i.e. blinking only with 1 eye or only 1 dilated pupil) and this will indicate the origin of the problem.

Not all of the above mentioned symptoms will occur at once. Some dogs only display a few of these symptoms.

Clinical Tests for Dog Seizures

If you observe 1 or several of the above mentioned symptoms, you should get immediate veterinary help. The symptoms may point to other medical problems as well (typically a problem in the brain), so the vet needs to get a clear response.

A dog with a recent stroke should receive treatment; as otherwise, the vascular accident could be fatal or cause permanent cerebral damage.

The vet will perform a number of clinical tests which may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Measuring the blood pressure and if this is high, the symptom can be associated with a recent stroke
  • An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which will indicate the location of the blood clot and show if there are damaged areas in the dog’s brain
  • CT scans, which can be performed as an alternative to MRIs or can be performed in addition to the MRIs
  • Spinal fluid analysis

The vet will have to establish the type of stroke, which can be either ischemic (blood will not be provided to the brain or other areas of the body due to the blood clot that blocks the vessels) or hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain). The results will determine the best course of treatment.