Understanding Canine Stroke

A canine stroke, also known as a cerebro vascular accident (CVA) or a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a severe condition that can lead to irreversible brain damage. A stroke in dogs may be caused by a head injury or bleeding in the brain, or the lack of blood or oxygen in the brain. Recurrent strokes are also dangerous, so understanding a canine stroke is essential to prevent future occurrences.

Causes of Canine Strokes

A canine stroke can be caused by:

  • A blood vessel that bursts in the brain
  • Hemorrhaging in the brain
  • Lack of blood in the brain, caused by an embolism or artery blockage
  • Lack of oxygen in the brain

Dogs with head trauma or having the following health issues are more exposed to strokes:

Symptoms of a Stroke

When a dog is having a stroke he may display the following symptoms:

  • Head tilt
  • Lack of balance and sudden falling or circling in confusion
  • Weak limbs that may result in limping

Diagnosing a Stroke

A canine stroke has similar symptoms as canine vestibular syndrome, so the vet will have to give a proper diagnosis. A stroke can be diagnosed by performing several tests. A CT scan (computer tomography) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) should be performed to see if there are tumors and to determine if there is any damage in the brain. The vet may also require a sample of spinal fluid, which can indicate if there is an infection in the blood that could lead to stroke-like symptoms. Blood tests will show the possible causes of strokes, so that they can possibly be prevented in the future.

Results of a Stroke

If the dog is bleeding in his brain, this can result in brain tissue damage. Blood can accumulate between the skull bone and the brain tissue, so there will be pressure on the brain, resulting in dead brain tissues. Following a stroke, a dog may lose his sight or become paralyzed, depending on which part of the brain is affected.  However, in most cases of canine stroke the dog will get back to his normal life.

Treating and Preventing Dog Strokes

A dog with a stroke does not require treatment, but should be offered special care to make sure he recovers. If the stroke’s cause was identified (i.e., diabetes or kidney problems), you should focus on managing these conditions. You can prevent future strokes by treating or controlling the underlying conditions.

Some dogs may not recover from a stroke, depending on which part of the brain was affected. In this case, the vet will assess the situation and give you tips for management. In rare cases, the best solution will be euthanasia, as the dog may be severely affected.

However, there are strong chances of full recovery, so you should take good care of him to prevent further canine strokes.