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What is a Dog Stroke?

If a dog has had a stroke, veterinary care should be sought immediately.
A stroke can be caused by a blocked or clotted artery.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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It is uncommon for a dog to have a stroke, but it is not unknown. There are essentially two types of stroke, which may each have a variety of causes. The first type, called an ischemic stroke, occurs when a blocked or clotted artery stops blood flow to the brain. Some dogs can also get conditions where they have significant bleeding in the brain. This is called a hemorrhagic stroke, and the abnormal bleeding actually blocks passage of blood to the brain.

Just as in people, a dog stroke can result in brain damage. When brain cells don’t get needed oxygen, they can quickly die. Dogs tend to recover from strokes better and with greater ease than do people, however, and some dogs may have a stroke that owners don’t even notice.

The symptoms of a stroke in a dog may be varied. The animal may seem disoriented, it may be blind, its head may be tilted in one direction, and it might seem off balance. Dogs affected may lose control of their bladder and bowels, and their behavior might be markedly different. They can also seem very sleepy. If a pet owner notices that his or her dog is behaving strangely, this could be due to a number of causes. Pet owners who suspect a stroke and should get veterinary care for the animal immediately.

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There are a number of things that can cause a dog stroke, including traumatic injury, a variety of blood abnormalities, malformation of veins and arteries, and even accumulation of fat in the veins. Dogs may also suffer a hemorrhagic stroke if exposed to certain common poisons. It's usually necessary to identify the cause before treatment can begin.

As stated, many dogs make a very good recovery from a stroke. This is not always the case, but many will be able to regain the function of their limbs, especially with lots of care and help from their owners and their vets. Treatment can be expensive, and if a dog is at an advanced age, some owners choose to euthanize their dogs after a stroke. This isn’t always necessary, however.

There are instances of dogs having some personality changes after a stroke, and this makes sense given some loss of brain function. These may be minor and a dog may regain its old personality over time. Understanding the cause of stroke may allow the dog’s vet to tell the owner what the likelihood of full recovery will be.

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Discuss this Article

anon321052
Post 4

Our vet thinks our 11 year old dog may have had a stroke. She was disoriented, had an extreme head tilt for three days, cried, walked to the side, and this formerly very active dog didn't move. The strangest thing is she has completely recovered and turned into a different dog. She has returned to a state of 11 year-old "puppyhood", will eat absolutely anything (She has always been incredibly picky to the point of frustration), and is no longer a cranky girl. She's super-sweet and affectionate now. All this within two weeks. So strange!

musicshaman
Post 3

What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs? I know that that's different from a regular stroke, but I wasn't really sure where else to ask. Thank you!

StreamFinder
Post 2

What are the chances of recovery after a brain stroke in a dog? I don't think that it was hemorrhagic, and I've put my dog on a stroke treatment, but I am really worried that he's going to have another one -- can somebody give me some more information please?

Charlie89
Post 1

For a long time we thought that our dog was having strokes, because he was showing all of the dog stroke signs -- loss of bladder control, general whacked-out-ness, going off balance, etc.

However, we had tried some stroke treatment on him and it didn't work, so we went back to get a second opinion, and it turned out that he was having seizures instead -- not great, but at least we know how to take care of him now, and why the stroke recovery techniques weren't working.

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