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While strokes are less common in dogs than they are in humans, but they are equally as serious. Pet owners often don’t notice signs of a mild stroke in their companions. Animals cannot tell you when they feel dizzy, lose sight, or have memory problems which in itself makes it difficult.

A stroke happens when there is loss of blood flow to portions of the brain. More than any other organ, the brain relies on a constant blood supply to bring oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products. If the blood supply to the brain fails then brain function is severely disrupted. Parts of the brain can be destroyed in a specific region of the brain fed by the affected artery.

Strokes In dogs occurs due to blood vessel blockage and bleeds. Unseen blood clots, tumors, bacteria, parasites, ruptures, and clotting disorders can all be contributors.

There are two mechanisms that cause strokes in dogs:

  • ischemic strokes; an obstruction in blood vessels which occur due to blood clots, tumor cells, clumps of platelets, bacteria and parasites.
  • hemorrhagic strokes; bleeds in the brain which result from the rupture of blood vessels or clotting disorders.

The symptoms of stroke in dogs may mimic those of other medical conditions. So you must consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment if you see potential signs of a stroke.

Symptoms of Strokes in Dogs

Signs of strokes in animals can be similar to those in people. Although animals obviously do not suffer from slurred speech or loss of memory, and symptoms vary depending on the location in the brain where the stroke occurred.

Symptoms of strokes in dogs can include;

  • Inability to walk or walking with an uncoordinated gait
  • Head tilt
  • Abnormal eye movements, side to side or rotary (nystagmus)
  • Abnormal eye positioning (strabismus)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Falling to one side
  • Blindness
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Rapid onset of symptoms

What causes strokes in dogs?

Most strokes involve blood clots, but some are caused by tumor cells, bacteria, and parasites. This material can become lodged in a blood vessel, preventing blood and oxygen flow, which causes the tissue around the blood vessel to die. Other situations, such as trauma, disease, or clotting disorders, can cause vessels to rupture and blood to leak into the brain.

Our pets don’t eat greasy foods, smoke, or drink alcohol, which are the most common risk factors for many human stroke victims. This makes it so difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of strokes in dogs . Underlying disease often is the culprit. Dogs who have been diagnosed with the following diseases are at increased risk of a stroke:

  • Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease (especially in cats)
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cancer

No specific breed has been linked to a higher incidence of strokes. Breeds prone to the diseases above might suffer from higher stroke rates.

Treatments For Stroke In Dogs

Treatment for dogs who have strokes focuses on restoring oxygen flow to the brain, reducing swelling, and treating possible underlying causes.

Veterinarians may use several medications to reduce symptoms. Sedatives can help reduce disorientation, antiemitics may help with nausea. Anti-inflammatories like corticosteroids can reduce swelling and inflammation, and anticonvulsants can control seizures.

Vets may prescribe some dietary restrictions. Usually dogs return to normal after a few weeks. It is rare for seizures to recur unless there’s an underlying condition that goes untreated.

Treatments for the causes of stroke in dogs vary and will likely be ongoing. Blood thinners can be prescribed to reduce blood clots, and high blood pressure medication might be given to dogs with hypertension. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection can’t be ruled out.

Other drugs, surgery, or therapy may be used to treat underlying conditions that cause a stroke, as well.

Recovery and Care

A change in diet may be in order, based on whether there are any underlying conditions. A diet sufficient in essential fatty acids and Omega 3 is thought to be beneficial to dog stroke patients.

As your beloved canine companion recovers, you will need to be in communication with the veterinary care team. They will want to be kept well informed on the progression of the recovery. If your dog does not seem to be getting better, or if symptoms are worsening, the veterinarian may want to pursue further testing.

The prognosis for stroke in dogs will depend on the severity of the cerebrovascular accident. Patience, reasonable expectations, and consistent care will be necessary. Your pet may have a change in personality, or ability to keep up his usual level of activity.


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