Dogs share a lot of health issues as people. They can get diabetes, they can go blind, they can lose their ability to walk due to arthritis and nerve damage, and they can also suffer from stroke and heart attack.
Yes, the same brutal killer of people can also harm your dog.
The good news is that strokes are less common in dogs than in humans. However, stroke is equally serious and damaging.
When you notice your dog having a stroke, you have to react swiftly and immediately.
What is a stroke?
You’ve heard the word for a thousand times before. But it is still helpful to understand what is happening in your dog’s body.
Stroke is a sudden death of brain cells in a localized area. It happens due to lack of blood flow, and most frequently, a blood clot is to blame.
However, strokes can also happen if a piece of fat, bacteria, or cartilage breaks loose in another part of the body, and then travels to the brain of the dog.
A stroke occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain, which deprives the brain cells of oxygen supply.
Strokes happen suddenly and without warning. But the signs are evident, and the quicker you react, the higher are your dog’s chances of survival.
Ischemic stroke occurs when blood supplying vessels become blocked. As a result, damage to the brain tissue occurs.
Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a vessel in the brain bleeds, resulting in swelling and pressure. The severity of strokes in dogs depend on the time the brain goes without any blood flow.
What a stroke looks like in dogs?
Signs of stroke in dogs are similar to those in people. However, as you can assume, animals do not suffer from loss of memory and slurred speech.
Symptoms vary depending on the location where the stroke occurred.
Same as in people, the signs of stroke in dogs can be subtle, and they might even go unnoticed. Remember, dogs cannot tell us they feel dizzy, or they cannot tell us that they no longer see out of their right eye.
With that in mind, here are the common signs of strokes you should watch for:
- Head tilt
- Inability to walk
- Walking with an uncoordinated gait
- Abnormal eye positioning
- Abnormal eye movements
- Falling to one side
- Abnormal behavior
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid onset of symptoms
You might notice that the pet is fine one moment, and the very next one, he cannot get up.
This is the warning sign you need to pay attention to. If the signs last for a few minutes, you should take your dog to the vet.
Causes of strokes
Because strokes usually appear in very old dogs, and they are not common, it is hard for veterinarians to define the causes of strokes in dogs. Age and diseases are definitely risk factors.
In terms of diseases, kidney disease is one of the most common that can result in a stroke.
In addition, hypertension, diabetes, bleeding disorders, heart disease, cancer, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease can also cause strokes.
High doses of steroids can also lead to stroke. There are no breeds that are more prone to strokes. However, there are breeds that are prone to the risk factors and diseases linked with stroke in dogs.
For example, King Charles Cavalier Spaniel has a high rate of heart disease.
Can my Dog Recover from a Stroke?
Whether your dog will recover from the stroke or not, depends on the type of stroke, severity, medical conditions, and of course, your reaction time.
As mentioned previously, once you notice the symptoms of stroke in dogs, you should react immediately.
Some dogs might show signs later than others, but the moment you notice the signs, it is time to go to the vet. Sadly, some dogs might never fully recover from a stroke.
However, with the appropriate care, and a dedicated owner, most dogs return to their happy life and live for a long period after the incident.
Any treatment begins with a diagnosis. Proper diagnosis is the most important part of the treatment, both for humans and dogs.
In terms of immediate care, in most cases, a vet will give your dog intravenous fluids. These fluids help your dog’s brain maintain oxygen and nutrients, all while flushing any waste products.
In addition to veterinary care, dedicated owner and care from his owner is crucial for the dog to go back to normal. Stroke patients require intensive support care that will help them regain the ability to eat and drink.
We also have to point that in some cases, it happens for dogs to see worsening of signs in the first 24 to 72 hours, but then make a full recovery.
The first three to five days are crucial. Managing urination and defecation, all while maintaining good nutrition are parts where the owner has to react.
Once you take your dog to the vet, he might make a MRI or CAT scan to check the brain, and then check the heart of your dog.
Can strokes be prevented?
Sadly, there is no way to predict if stroke is going to happen. However, what can be prevented is the disease and conditions linked with strokes.
For example, if your dog is obese, you should try and get his weight to an optimal and healthy level. Regular veterinarian checkups and screening of blood work can identify potential issues.
How common is stroke among dogs?
As mentioned previously, dogs do not suffer from strokes as often as humans do. However, there is no study that shows how common strokes are. One thing is clear, they are more common than we think.
Veterinarians agree that strokes are one of the top neurological diseases among dogs. Dogs that are in their middle age, or in their elderly years are more prone to stroke.
Dogs that have blood-related issues common in their lineage, like King Charles and greyhounds, are more susceptible to strokes.