Stroke in Dogs: A Closer Look Symptoms and Treatment Options of a Dog Stroke

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Let's take a look at how stroke affects your dog, what are the signs and symptoms of it, and how you can manage your dogโ€™s stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 40 seconds,  someone in America has a stroke, and every 3.5 minutes, someone dies of a stroke.

Stroke is a serious condition that can affect dogs too, but it is also something that you may be able to recognize and treat at home. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and signs of stroke in dogs, treatment options for canine strokes, and how to help your dog recover from one.

What Is a Stroke

A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. The cells in your pet's brain are damaged or die when they don't get enough blood flow. It depends on which part of the brain was affected, but most strokes will cause paralysis or weakness on one side of your dog's body.

Types of Strokes in Dogs

Four kinds of strokes can affect a dog. They are:

  • Ischemic Stroke: This type of stroke is caused by a blockage in an artery, which prevents blood from reaching your dog's brain. The most common cause is a clot (thrombus) that forms inside the artery. According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), the majority of strokes in dogs is ischemic stroke, where an insufficient blood supply diminishes the maintenance of normal cellular functions.

  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: This type of stroke is caused by bleeding in or around your dog's brain, often due to a rupture in one of his arteries.

  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is like a mini-stroke where there are no lasting effects. However, these episodes can be a warning sign that something more serious could happen if you don't get treatment immediately. According to the American Stroke Association, 15% of all strokes are foretold by a TIA.

  • Cerebral Hemorrhage: This occurs when blood vessels burst and bleed into your dog's brain tissue. It’s often linked to high blood pressure or trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke in Dogs

When it comes to stroke, the signs and symptoms are similar for dogs as they are for humans:

  • Seizures

  • Weakness or paralysis of one or both sides of the body

  • Difficulty walking

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Drooling 

This list is not all-inclusive because strokes can present themselves differently in each animal. Some may experience these symptoms while others don't, depending on the severity of their stroke and other factors that affect them individually.

How Is a Stroke Diagnosed

Once a stroke is suspected, the veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam. This includes a neurological exam and blood tests to check for any underlying health issues contributing to your dog's symptoms.

Blood tests may include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) 

  • Liver enzyme tests 

  • Blood clotting times or coagulation function tests 

Treatment of Stroke

The treatment of stroke in dogs is nontrivial, but it's also not impossible. To start with, you should stabilize your dog by ensuring that he or she is well-supported and doesn't have any external injuries. The vet may prescribe pet medications to help reduce inflammation and swelling and prevent blood clots from forming.

Physical therapy can help regain strength and mobility, while rehabilitation focuses on strengthening the muscles in the arms and legs so they can be used more easily again. This process may take months or even years, depending on how severe your dog's stroke was initially.

To make your dog more comfortable during his recovery period, you can get him things like a large dog crate, a large dog bed, a no-pull dog harness, and some of his favorite milk bone dog treats.

How Can You Help Your Dog Recover From a Stroke

To help your dog recover from a stroke, follow this:

  • Exercise is important, but it's important to avoid overdoing it. You should not push your dog to run or climb stairs too soon after a stroke. If your dog wants to be active, go for short walks or play with non-strenuous interactive dog toys.

  • Keep the area around your dog clean, particularly if he or she is having trouble swallowing food and water by mouth. This can help prevent infections from developing in your pet's throat and lungs.

  • If you notice that your canine companion has trouble swallowing food, don't force him or her onto any diet plan until you've discussed it with his veterinarian first.

Conclusion

If your dog shows any signs of a stroke, it's important to seek treatment immediately. In some cases, symptoms may resolve, and the dog can return to normal activities. 

However, in other cases where there is permanent damage or paralysis, therapy and rehabilitation may be necessary to help your pet regain mobility or improve his quality of life.

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