Dogs can suffer from strokes, just like people. Canine strokes are also referred to by veterinarians as cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) or transient ischemic attacks (TIA). Strokes may be caused by bleeding in the brain or a head injury, or by any situation that keeps blood or oxygen from getting to the brain. Recurrent strokes are more dangerous than single events, and may affect a dog's chances of recovery.
Dogs that have had head trauma or have heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, brain tumours, Cushing's disease or thyroid problems are more likely to have a stroke. These conditions can also complicate recovery from the stroke, making it more difficult for the dog to regain full function afterward.
A dog suffering from a stroke may have poor balance, tend to fall suddenly or circle instead of walking in a straight line. During a stroke, dogs may also show a noticeable head tilt or exhibit weakness of the limbs and limping. Learning to recognise when a stroke is happening is an important part of getting proper treatment. Owners who correctly identify a stroke can take their pet to the vet quickly and learn to prevent future strokes, improving the chances of recovery.
The results of a stroke vary, depending on the initial cause. Dogs that have bleeding in the brain may suffer from damage to the brain tissue from accumulate pressure. Some dogs lose their sight or develop paralysis. Other dogs have no trouble returning to normal life after the stroke is over. The effects of a stroke on a particular dog depend on the part of the brain that was affected and whether the underlying cause can be treated.
Dogs that receive prompt treatment from a qualified vet have a better prognosis for recovery. A vet can help determine whether the dog has kidney problems, diabetes or other issues that could cause future strokes and additional damage to the brain. Left untreated, these conditions could result in paralysis and other serious problems. Regular health checkups can help catch problems that might cause a stroke later on.
Not all dogs recover from their strokes. If an important part of the brain was damaged, the dog may be disabled to the point where its quality of life decreases. In these cases, the vet will usually provide management tips for helping the animal continue to live a happy life. Owners should consider whether they're able to offer the kind of care their pet needs. Some rare cases of stroke in dogs require euthanasia.