Dog Stroke Symptoms

Learn how to identify the signs of a dog stroke. While it is rare for a dog to suffer a stroke, it happens. Knowing the symptoms enables pet owners to seek immediate treatment, which helps prevent extreme brain damage.

If a dog has a stroke, the chances for survival are high. Most dogs recover fully in a matter of weeks if veterinary treatment was sought. Some pet owners report minor behavioral changes in their dog following a stroke. This depends on the amount of time blood flow to the brain was obstructed.

Two Kinds of Dog Strokes

A dog stroke will take one of two forms:

  • Hemorrhagic

  • Ichemic

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain breaks open, allowing blood to pool. The strokes often occur following a severe blow to the head, such as being hit by a car. Other situations also cause Hemorrhagic strokes:

  • Abnormalities in a blood vessel

  • Angiostrongylosis

  • Arterial inflammation

  • Defect of the immune system occurring in an attack of blood platelets

  • High blood pressure

  • Rat poison

  • Tumors

Ischemic strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. These strokes generally link to a specific condition, such as:

  • Cushing's disease

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Kidney disease

  • Liver disease

  • Overactive thyroid

  • Parasites

  • Suppressed thyroid function

  • Tumors

Symptoms of a Dog Stroke

There are twelve key symptoms of a dog stroke. They include:

  • Behavioral changes

  • Confusion

  • Depression

  • Falling down

  • Going in the wrong direction when called

  • Head tilts to one side

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

  • Only eats from one side of a food bowl

  • Seizures

  • Trouble balancing

  • Vision loss

How a Veterinarian Diagnoses a Stroke

As many of these symptoms appear commonly in other conditions or diseases, it's important to have your pet tested to rule out the possibility of a stroke. The veterinarian will draw blood and urine samples to rule out other diseases or conditions and then perform an MRI or CT scan. A spinal tap may also be ordered to rule out other diseases.

It's important to rule out other diseases and conditions first. Dogs must be administered anesthesia before an MRI or CT scan and there are risks involved with any dog given these medications. By checking for other possibilities first, the dog may not need to be anesthetized.

Treatments for a Dog Stroke

If your dog receives the diagnosis that he's had a stroke, medications are often given. The medications often include anti-seizure prescriptions, if seizures were present, medications to lower blood pressure or treatments to cure underlying diseases like diabetes.

If the dog suffered any paralysis, physical therapy may help the dog regain full use of all four limbs. There are simple exercises you can do with your dog at home to help him get back to his normal activity level.

Diet is also important. Most veterinarians will recommend changing your dog to a diet that is high in protein for weight management and that doesn't contain huge amounts of fat. Again, the diet will depend on the reason for the dog stroke.