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Humans aren’t the only ones that can have a stroke, strokes happen in dogs too. And the signs of a stroke in dogs can be very subtle and aren’t always noticeable. Our dog can’t tell us they’re dizzy and you won’t notice slurred speech, so how can you tell if your dog has had a stroke?
Understanding Strokes in Dogs
A stroke occurs when there is a blood clot or blockage of a vessel in your pet’s body. Most strokes in dogs are caused by a blood clot, but the blockages can also occur from a broken spinal disc, tumor cell, bacteria or parasite. When the blood vessel is blocked, the flow of oxygen and blood is stopped which damages the tissue around the blood vessel and causes the vessel itself to die. Dogs and cats diagnosed with conditions like: Cushing’s Disease, Hypertension, Hypothyroidism, and cancer are at a higher risk of stroke.
Humans aren’t the only ones that can have a stroke, strokes happen in dogs too. And the signs of a stroke in dogs can be very subtle and aren’t always noticeable. Our pets can’t tell us they’re dizzy and you won’t notice slurred speech, so how can you tell if your dog has had a stroke?
Uncoordinated movements, sudden lack of balance, and a sudden inability to support their own weight while walking are a few of the most common symptoms of a canine stroke. A stroke impacts a dog’s brain, disrupting their ability to stand upright.
If you see your dog stumbling, leaning against a wall to stand, or unable to stand up, contact your veterinarian immediately. Just like in human strokes, time is of the essence. The faster your dog is diagnosed and treated the better chance they have during recovery.
An animal suffering from a spinal stroke or FCE may experience partial or complete rear leg paralysis. Recovering from an FCE takes time, and may take upwards of six weeks for a dog to show signs of recovery.
Walking in Circles
Strokes can cause abnormal behavior in dogs, wandering aimlessly in circles can be triggered by their brain misfiring post-stroke. After a stroke dogs become confused and disoriented, and are often seen walking in circles. This behavior can also be linked to Vestibular Syndrome, an inner ear condition, and it can be very difficult to tell the difference between the two conditions without a pet professional’s help. Call for your dog, see if you can stop them from walking in a circle and direct them in another direction. If they are unable to respond, stop pacing, or walk in a straight line they need medical help immediately.
Unusual Eye Movements
Strokes in dogs can cause changes in the eye and how the eye moves. Rapid eye movements like darting or rolling eyes may be signs your dog has had a stroke. Look for rapid eye movements from side to side or even moving around in circles.
Strokes impact your dog’s eye control and may even cause your dog to look in two different directions at once. If your dog’s eye movement is unusual, it’s time to see the Vet immediately.
After having a stroke, it’s very common for a dog to be exhausted. Extreme tiredness, grogginess, and inability to respond are all indicators that there might be something wrong with your dog. Lethargy can be a hard sign to notice, especially if your dog requires a lot of rest normally. Your pet may not be sleeping, it is common for a dog to faint or lose conscious after a stroke. Extreme changes in a dog’s behavior such as sleepiness or an inability to wake your dog, mean it’s time to take them to the vets.
Loss of Bodily Function
Every dog will show signs of a stroke differently, but many pets will lose control of their bodily functions. Dogs experiencing a stroke may vomit, gasp for air, lose function of either their bowels or bladder control. Dry heaving uncontrollably is another stroke sign.
Recovery and Canine Stroke Rehabilitation
Diagnosing a stroke can be difficult and is often done by ruling out other possible conditions. Your veterinarian will likely run diagnostic testing, including an MRI to help diagnose a potential stroke.
Stroke recovery will be different for every dog depending on the severity of the stroke as well as the speed in which they received treatment. Physical therapy and exercise play a key part in canine stroke rehabilitation. A dog wheelchair may be used during rehab sessions to provide added support and to keep a paralyzed dog exercising.