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Is the dog prone to strokes (cerebral vascular accidents)?

Stroke is more rare in dogs than in humans. It is in any case an absolute veterinary emergency. Let's review the different forms of stroke in dogs, the causes, the warning signs and the symptoms that should alert. Let's also see which after-effects are possible, how to treat and prevent stroke in canines.

The different types of stroke in dogs

There are different forms of stroke in canines, namely :
  • Cerebral infarction or ischemic stroke: responsible for neurological disorders, it is due to the obstruction of an artery resulting in poor irrigation of the brain. The formation of a clot is often linked to aging.
  • Cerebral hemorrhage or hemorrhagic stroke: a cerebral vascular accident is due to an increase in intracranial pressure following a major hemorrhage caused by the rupture of a blood vessel. A ruptured aneurysm or head trauma are likely causes of hemorrhagic stroke.
Ischemic stroke is more common in dogs than hemorrhagic stroke.

Which dogs are more likely to have a stroke?

In the majority of cases, ischemic stroke occurs in older dogs because aging vessels increase the risk of clots. But some dogs are more prone to it than others.

As for the hemorrhagic form, it can occur independently of the animal's age. It is, for example, linked to the lifestyle when the dog is exposed to the risk of cranial trauma.

Moreover, it seems that the Labrador, the Poodle and the German Shepherd are among the breeds more predisposed than others to strokes. Finally, some diseases are more likely to cause a stroke, such as endocrine, renal or cardiac pathologies, as well as hypertension.

Nevertheless, there are still almost half of the cases for which the cause is not identified. In this case, it is called idiopathic stroke.

Stroke in dogs: warning signs and symptoms

In some cases, the dog can present signs announcing a Cerebral Vascular Accident, such as
  • Vomiting,
  • Head tilted to one side,
  • Sudden weakness,
  • Tremors,
  • Convulsions,
  • Disorientation,
  • Crabbed or staggering gait,
  • Loss of balance,
  • Rapid, involuntary jerking movements of the eyeballs or nystagmus,
  • A vague look in the eyes,
  • A phase of unconsciousness,
  • A lack of reaction when called by the owner.
If the dog presents one or more of these signs, its owner must urgently take it to the veterinarian.

Stroke can also occur without warning signs. In this case, the dog presents symptoms of extremely sudden onset, such as
  • A stiffening of the limbs,
  • An asymmetric paralysis of the limbs and the face,
  • Totally uncontrollable snapping of the jaw.
It is imperative to go to the veterinary emergency room or to call a veterinarian on duty, even if the symptoms are discreet. The emergency is absolute: every minute counts because in many cases the risks of after-effects linked to a stroke are numerous, and the dog's vital prognosis is engaged. 20% of the chances of survival are lost every 60 minutes.

Stroke : possible after-effects

The greater the intensity of a stroke, the greater the risk of after-effects. The same applies to the speed of intervention. If we wait too long, the dog risks accumulating after-effects due to the necrosis of its brain deprived of oxygen and blood. A few minutes without adequate blood supply is enough to cause irreversible damage to this organ in many cases.

Among the after-effects of a stroke in dogs are:
  • Loss of:
  • Visual acuity,
  • of the auditory acuity,
  • of the sense of smell,
  • of taste.
  • An exacerbated sensitivity in the perception of pain,
  • Difficulties in walking,
  • A partial or total paralysis,
  • Incontinence,
  • Cognitive disorders.

Stroke in dogs: case-by-case treatment

The owner of a dog that has suffered a stroke must take note of everything that seems important to him to allow the veterinarian to quickly establish his diagnosis. He must be able to give him all possible information concerning the signs and symptoms observed, even if they are slight: their chronological order, the time they appeared, their duration, their intensity, the dog's condition and his attitude during the days preceding the appearance of all these manifestations. Filming the dog to show the practitioner the videos can be very useful.

A protocol of care must be set up as soon as possible, on the one hand to limit the risks of brain lesions, on the other hand to protect the life of the dog.

The veterinarian must identify the cause of the stroke (hypertension, tumor....) in order to treat it. After a thorough clinical examination, the veterinarian performs a neurological examination, a blood test, an MRI or a brain scan, an echocardiography. Treatment is then prescribed on a case-by-case basis.

At the same time, the dog is put to rest and if it has difficulty walking as a result of its stroke, it will have to undergo rehabilitation. It can take time for the dog to recover. It is important to be patient, to give him good care and to allow him to get enough sleep. You should also give him easy-to-chew food if he has difficulty chewing.

A dog that has had a stroke must be able to count on its owner to help it recover. You must be attentive and allow your pet to save its energy. Physical prowess should be avoided at first. One should therefore be satisfied with making him walk quietly during the walks so that he does not have to make big efforts.

Stroke in dogs: what about prevention?

A healthy lifestyle (balanced diet, fight against obesity, maintaining a daily physical activity) can limit the risks of stroke. There is certainly no miracle recipe to prevent this serious health problem. However, we can put all the chances on our side by limiting the risks of factors favouring the cerebral vascular accident.

It is also recommended to monitor the health of your little companion throughout its life. Having a check-up every year is a good precaution because it allows to identify any problem early. Identifying an underlying pathology is very important.

Of course, consultations and veterinary procedures are expensive, but by insuring your dog with a health insurance company for animals, you can be reimbursed, either partially or in full. It is the best solution to take care of your dog's health at a lower cost. Finding a suitable formula is easy if you go through a pet health insurance comparison. It is free and without obligation.