February is American Heart Month, and the VETMED Cardiology Department wants to make sure your dog’s heart is both happy and healthy.
Would you know if your dog had a stroke?
While strokes in dogs are less common than in humans, if one occurs, it can be just as serious as a human stroke. Learn the signs of a canine stroke and know what to do if you suspect your dog has experienced one.
The two most common forms of canine strokes occur when an artery in the brain becomes blocked and cuts off oxygen to the area or when blood vessels in the brain rupture and hemorrhage. These types of strokes are referred to as cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) or transient ischemic attacks (TIA), and can be very serious. A third kind of stroke, called a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), occurs after a small piece of disc material inside the back breaks off and drifts into the spinal cord, most commonly when a dog is playing, jumping, or running.
Signs of a Stroke
There are typically no signs that a stroke is about to happen, but dog owners can be prepared by knowing what signs to look for immediately following a stroke.
Common signs of a canine stroke:
- Walking in uncontrollable circles
- Turning the wrong way when called
- Head tilted to one side
- Lack of balance or coordination (ataxia)
- Extreme lethargy
- Loss of control over bladder and bowels or vomiting
- Heart arrhythmia
- Head tilt
- Paralysis (usually on one side of the body)
- Vision impairment or loss (sudden onset)
- Loss of bowel control
- Inappropriate urination
- Other abrupt behavioral changes
Causes of a Canine Stroke
Strokes can be fatal in dogs, but when the cause is found and prompt treatment is provided, a full recovery is possible.