If you are serious about the cardiovascular health of your canine, then you may want to know, can dogs have strokes? The answer is yes, dogs do experience strokes. Many animals, from rabbits to mice to monkeys, have strokes, in part due to the similarities of their cardiovascular systems. The heart, blood vessels, and blood clotting components are just a few of the resemblances.
So, what exactly is a canine stroke, how can you tell if your dog is experiencing one, and what kinds of treatments are available? We explore these issues and other concerns in this guide.
Can Dogs Have Strokes And What Is A Stroke?
Now that you know that your canine can have a stroke, what exactly is a stroke? A stroke is a condition where a blood vessel can no longer carry blood and oxygen to the brain. The lack of oxygen can cause brain cell death. Sometimes small bits of the brain die, but large portions can also be affected. Most strokes involve blood clots, but ruptured blood vessels can lead to strokes too.
There are three different types of strokes that your canine may experience. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is the most common and involves the blockage of blood flow due to a blood clot. Hemorrhagic strokes are the second most common and are linked to brain bleeds due to the rupturing of a blood vessel. The third type of stroke is far less common and called a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE). This condition is a stroke-like event and does not affect the brain. The FCE involves the blockage of spinal blood vessels when a piece of cartilage breaks free from a spinal disc.
Is My Dog Having A Stroke?
Canine strokes are rare, but you should know the signs of a stroke so you can get treatment for your pup as soon as possible. So, what does a dog stroke look like?
Dog stroke symptoms come on suddenly and differ greatly from those that a human may experience. Disorientation, poor coordination, and loss of balance are the most common and noticeable signs. You also may notice vision difficulties with abnormal eye movements and general muscle weakness. The head may be tilted and your canine might collapse, fall unconscious, or lose bowel control.
Some dogs have seizures as well and lose consciousness after an episode. Your dog may fall into a coma at this time if the stroke event involves a significant brain bleed or a large clot.
Signs of stroke in dogs can last just a few minutes or your dog may seem ill for several days. If the symptoms last less than 24 hours, then your dog has experienced a TIA, which will resolve on its own. A TIA is often called a dog mini stroke for this reason.
What To Do If Your Dog Has A Stroke
If you think your canine is experiencing a stroke, take him to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. This is important to ensure a proper diagnosis and so your pup can receive the treatment he needs. The diagnosis helps to eliminate other health problems, especially since stroke symptoms can mimic a lot of other disorders. An MRI is almost always requested since the images show clots and brain bleeds clearly.
Strokes are often accompanied by other diseases and disorders. In fact, research studies show a number of ailments that are likely to be present at the time of a stroke. A few examples include diabetes, hypothyroidism, and blood parasites. Your veterinarian will test urine and blood to see if these ailments or others are underlying dog stroke causes.
High blood pressure and the buildup of plaque within the blood vessels can be contributing factors as well and so can injuries, blood vessel damage, and abnormalities of the blood. Specifically, blood disorders that involve clotting factors may be an issue. Expect an EKG as well as tests that determine blood clotting time and ability. These things will help you answer the question, “Can dogs have strokes?”
Dog Stroke Treatment
Dog stroke treatment is similar to what you would see if a loved one had a stroke. Oxygen may be necessary if your canine is still in a state of distress and IV fluids are usually needed to keep your dog hydrated. Also, steroids may be used to reduce brain inflammation along with pain relievers.
During the hospital visit, blood thinners are often started as well as medications to prevent blood clots. For example, Rivaroxaban is often used to inhibit a clotting factor that leads to problematic clots in canines. The drug is considered safe and effective for dogs, even if hemolytic anemia or other types of blood conditions are a concern.
Medications and other treatments may be necessary as well, to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments found during the veterinary examination. Medications and other types of conservative treatment are usually successful in treating canine strokes. Can dogs have strokes that require surgery? Yes, they sometimes will require surgical intervention to remove large clots or to repair ruptured blood vessels. Brain surgeries are risky, so make sure to speak with your veterinarian to see if this is wise.
Dog Stroke Recovery Time
So, can a dog recover from a stroke? Yes, and the prognosis is good for canines who receive proper treatment after having a stroke. However, there is a chance that a new clot or brain bleed will develop within 30 days after the first stroke event. Keep a close eye on your pet during this 30 day recovery period and seek out emergency medical care if you notice any stroke symptoms.
Your veterinarian may also ask for several imaging tests both during and after this 30 day period. Abnormalities in the brain can be located in this way after you dog has had a stroke. If an asymptomatic stroke is suspected, then medications can be adjusted or changed to prevent future episodes.
Future strokes can be prevented by following your veterinarian’s advice and supplying medication according to the treatment plan developed by the animal expert. A low-fat and reduced calorie diet can help with stroke prevention too, especially if your dog is overweight. A regular exercise plan that includes about an hour of activity is best to encourage cardiovascular health.
Can Dogs Have Strokes? – Conclusion
So, can dogs have strokes? Yes, they can, and they are usually caused by systemic diseases and injuries. A proper diagnosis of the stroke and of underlying canine diseases, like diabetes, is extremely important if you notice stroke symptoms. While dogs and strokes are scary, canines will often make a full recovery if treatment is provided right away.
Are you concerned about the possibility of your dog having a stroke or has your canine been diagnosed with a TIA in the past? Let us know in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
- C.F. Carvalho, J.P. Andrade Neto, S.A. Diniz. Small breed dogs with confirmed stroke: concurrent diseases and sonographic findings. Arq. Bras. Med. Vet. Zootec., v.64, n.5, p.1177-1183, 2012.
- Morassi, Bianco D, Park E, Nakamura R, White GA. Evaluation of the safety and tolerability of rivaroxaban in dogs with presumed primary immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2016 Jul;26(4):488-94. doi: 10.1111/vec.12480. Epub 2016 Apr 13.
- Gredal H, Toft N, Westrup U. Survival and clinical outcome of dogs with ischaemic stroke. Vet J. 2013 Jun;196(3):408-13. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2012.10.018. Epub 2012 Dec 1.
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