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Stroke in dogs: symptoms and treatment

Watching your dog grow old and grey is never pleasant. As their owners, it’s important for us to be aware of the conditions that may threaten our pets during old age.

One such condition is the stroke.

Although far rarer in dogs than in humans, dogs still suffer from strokes and this is more likely to occur during their elderly years. Let’s take a look at what a stroke actually is, what causes them, the signs of stroke in dogs and the treatments available.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a disruption of the blood supply to the brain. There are 2 main types of stroke:

Ischaemic stroke: the blood supply is blocked due to a blood clot, tumour or parasites.

Haemorrhagic stroke: caused by internal bleeding within the brain.

What causes strokes in dogs?

In most cases, stroke will come about as a consequence of other diseases which are known to cause bleeding or blood clots. These include:

In these terms, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can impact your dog’s chances of suffering from a stroke in later life.

Spotting the signs of stroke in dogs

Dog stroke symptoms will vary depending on the type of stroke, and the part of the brain that’s affected. Common symptoms include:

  • Strange eye movements
  • Partial blindness
  • Losing balance or struggling to stand
  • A tilt of the head
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or general lethargy
  • Loss of appetite and thirst

But here’s the catch: Vestibular disease

Strokes can often be confused with vestibular disease: a condition that’s less serious, but causes similar clinical signs. Your vet will be able to carry out an examination and let you know which condition your dog is suffering from.

Dog stroke: treatment and recovery

Sadly, not much can be done to repair the damaged caused by an individual stroke. Treatment will usually revolve around identifying and treating the underlying cause, lowering the dog’s chances of suffering strokes in future.

The first step is diagnosis, and overall treatment will depend on the cause. If high blood pressure is deemed to be the cause, for example, your dog will be treated for that.

There’s no sure-fire way of preventing strokes themselves, but owners can certainly take actions to keep their dog healthy, and prevent the knock-on effect that can eventually lead to stroke. Keeping your dog well fed, well exercised and taking them to the vets for regular check-ups will keep the odds in their favour.

Need more info?

If you’re unsure about the signs of stroke in dogs, or would like to chat about it further, contact your local vet today. 

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.

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