Dog stroke symptoms differ from stroke symptoms in people. When a person has a stroke, paralysis of one side of the face or body can result. This is not the case in dogs. Strokes in dogs can cause symptoms such as circling, head tilt, loss of balance and falling; these are not due to paralysis on one side, but rather disorientation. If you start to see signs of a stroke in your dog, have your veterinarian do a pet health assessment to determine if the dog had a stroke, or if there is some other cause for the symptoms.
What Is a Dog Stroke?
There are two types of strokes that can happen in dogs. They are Cerebro-Vascular Accidents (CVAs) and Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs). CVAs occur as a result of bleeding into the brain from an aneurysm, which is a weakness in a blood vessel wall. Blood leaking into the brain puts pressure on brain tissue and causes damage.
TIAs are caused by a blockage that stops blood from flowing to the dog's brain. In each case, the symptoms are the same. Dogs who have other health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid problems, kidney problems or diabetes, may be more susceptible to canine strokes. Brain tumors or head injuries can also cause strokes in dogs.
Diagnosis of a Stroke
Your veterinarian will evaluate the dog's symptoms first. Then the dog's brain needs to be scanned via CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). For either scan, the dog will need to be sedated throughout the procedure. Your vet may also take some spinal fluid for evaluation to see if there is an infection present, or inflammation that might contribute to or be the cause of the symptoms.
Will Your Dog Recover?
Most dogs recover from a stroke without specific treatment. If the stroke was due to a disease or imbalance, treating these underlying causes will help prevent future strokes.
Many dogs regain complete functionality after a stroke. In some cases, if the brain damage is in a critical area, a dog may not regain all of its previous abilities. The support of a caring and experienced veterinarian is important to help your dog recover after a stroke, as a veterinarian can lay out a treatment plan that will give your dog the best chance of regaining functions.
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