Any type of medical emergency affecting your pet is frightening and confusing. If your pet collapses, is struggling to breathe, or is bleeding, trying to get them help quickly while wrapping your head around what’s going on is undeniably difficult.

Strokes do occur in our four-legged companions and it is not as uncommon as you might think. However, most pet owners are unaware of the signs of stroke, their pets’ risk, and what can be done to minimize risks.

The team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital want to educate our readers on stroke in pets to better protect your pet.

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow in the brain. Strokes are either ischemic, as a result of a blood clot, or hemorrhagic, which happens when there is bleeding in the brain. There is also another stroke that affects the spine called fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE).

Stroke can occur in both cats and dogs, and the majority of strokes are ischemic in nature. There are several disorders that can contribute to or increase a pet’s stroke risk, including bleeding disorders, Cushing’s syndrome, kidney disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid disorders.

Symptoms to Look For

Depending on the type of stroke and its location in the brain (or spine), will there be obvious signs of stroke. In most cases there  is a blockage in the cerebral arteries. 

The most common signs of a stroke include:

  • Head tilt
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal movement of the eye
  • Difficulty walking
  • Lack of coordination
  • Blindness

When it is a stroke, the symptoms tend to come on suddenly. In these occurrences, call your veterinarian right away for an examination. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

The right diagnosis from your veterinarian can inform you of the next steps after a stroke. Some situations that can cause fainting are not stroke related, but may be a similar serious situation, like heart disease or arrythmias. Certain tests will be ordered to determine the cause, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), x-ray, ultrasound, and other lab testing.

If your pet has had a stroke, the right treatment program will be prepared based on other variables, like existing hypertension, diabetes, etc. If your pet had an ischemic stroke, the will likely be prescribed blood thinners to prevent future strokes. Physical therapy is useful in cases of mobility impairment. 

Did Your Pet Have a Stroke?

Stroke risk can be decreased when other conditions are managed. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to manage these, or to prevent them from occurring. If your pet had a stroke and needs ongoing support, please contact us. We are also here to answer any questions about stroke and your pet.