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Vascular Accidents: Stroke in Dogs

Vascular accidents are rare in dogs.

A vascular accident means that something has happened with blood vessels in the brain that's led to a deprivation of oxygen to an area of it. The function associated with that area of the brain is lost. It could be that there is an area of bleeding in the brain, a blood vessel tumor that has blocked blood flow, or some inflammation that interferes with circulation.

Often, a vascular accident in dogs is referred to as a stroke, which means that a blood clot has formed or lodges in a blood vessel in the brain. While the two words don't have the exact same meaning, they're often used interchangeably.

Signs of Stroke in Dogs

Dogs that experience a vascular accident can show a wide array of signs depending on what area of the brain was affected. Some signs could include:

  • Dull mental ability
  • Weakness on one side
  • Circling
  • Wobbliness
  • Head pressing
  • Seizures
  • Head tilt
  • Loss of eye reflexes
  • Strange eye movements
  • Twisted neck
  • Loss of depth perception
  • Rigid posture
  • Head or neck pain
  • Reflex problems
  • Unconsciousness

Note: Stroke is rare in dogs and one that has a head tilt, eyes moving from side to side (nystagmus), vomiting, and falling to one side may have the more common vestibular disease. A veterinary exam is necessary.

Causes of Vascular Accidents in Dogs

Some of the underlying causes or conditions that can increase the risk of vascular accidents in dogs are:

Diagnosis of Vascular Accidents in Dogs

Many other conditions can cause signs in dogs that are similar to those seen from vascular accidents. Some of those things include:

  • Toxicity
  • Head trauma
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Infection
  • Cancer

The veterinarian will do a basic blood panel and urinalysis to begin to rule out other conditions. An MRI can help diagnose blood clots or bleeding.

Treatment of Stroke in Dogs

Treatment is supportive. Seizures may need medication, high blood pressure may need treatment, and other therapies may be used as warranted. The dog may need specialized nursing care, such as help moving around.

Some dogs need intensive care like a feeding tube and oxygen therapy.

If there is an identifiable underlying condition, that must also be treated.

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