Strokes In Dogs: Recognize The Signs

23 November 2021
 Categories: , Blog


As is the case with humans, it can be extremely frightening when a dog has a stroke. Also, just like humans, the speed with which you seek treatment can play a significant role in your dog's recovery. Do you know how to recognize the signs of a stroke in your dog?

The Basics of a Stroke

A stroke is when poor or interrupted blood flow to the brain causes the localized death of brain cells. The severity (and even the symptoms) of the stroke can vary, depending on where in the brain it has occurred. Strokes can be catastrophic, and even fatal; however, the prognosis can be good for many dogs, provided they're quickly transported to a veterinarian for treatment. What are the signs of strokes in dogs?

Key Signs of a Stroke

There are many similarities between strokes in humans and dogs, although the cognitive effects are harder to assess. That being said, there are a few key signs to watch for:

  • Loss of consciousness.
  • An inability to get up from a sitting position or difficulty walking.
  • An inability to regulate the movement of their eyes. 
  • Confusion and general behavior that's out of character.

If you should notice these signs in your dog, you must seek immediate veterinary care.

Immediate Treatment

One of the first things a vet must do is positively identify that a stroke has occurred. An electrocardiogram will be performed to assess your dog's heart. An irregular heartbeat or other cardiac abnormality can cause a dog to faint and display other symptoms consistent with a stroke. A vet is essentially trying to rule out a more common, less serious condition. Although, ongoing treatment can be required for an irregular heartbeat. If the electrocardiogram doesn't account for your dog's condition, further diagnostic tests will be performed.

Identifying the Stroke

Your dog is likely to need a CT scan. This allows the vet to identify the suspected blood clot that reduced or interrupted blood flow to the brain and triggered your dog's stroke. Medication to reverse brain swelling will be administered. 

Ongoing Treatment

Once immediate care has been provided, there may be a waiting period before the severity of your dog's stroke (along with the nature of the aftercare they'll need) becomes evident. Many of the physical manifestations of the stroke will subside as your dog recuperates, but your dog will need your assistance. Physical therapy may be needed if your dog's motor functions have been compromised, and you will need to be diligent with your dog's diet, as per your vet's guidance. Blood-thinning medication may also be required in order to prevent a recurrence of the clot that caused the stroke.

Urgent treatment is essential when a dog suffers a stroke. It's almost always better to seek treatment and have your vet inform you that your dog didn't, in fact, have a stroke than to delay and see if your dog's condition changes.

Contact a local veterinarian to learn more.