Although the symptoms of seizures and strokes in dogs appear to be similar, significant differences exist between the two conditions. Both conditions require a visit to the veterinarian, although diagnosis and treatment will vary.
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Two types of strokes can occur in dogs: an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke. Similarly, two types of seizures can affect dogs: primary seizures and secondary seizures.
An ischemic stroke occurs when the flow of blood to the brain is disrupted because of a blocked artery. The hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted because of bleeding in the brain. Primary seizures do not occur for any known reason. Secondary seizures, however, are often linked to epilepsy, inflammatory diseases, brain disease or tumours in the brain.
The symptoms of a stroke in dogs include loss of balance, lethargy, blindness, disorientation, eating out of one side of the bowl, behavioural changes and loss of bladder or bowel control. Seizures in dogs will often happen in three phases. First, the dog will seem restless or anxious. Then, the seizure itself will occur. The dog will lose consciousness, often falling to the side. The feet will likely move in the air, and the dog's face might twitch. Less than two minutes later, the dog will likely appear restless, confused and sometimes unresponsive.
To diagnose a stroke, the veterinarian will do a complete physical exam and might order a CAT scan or MRI of the dog's brain. To diagnose a seizure, the veterinarian will take blood tests and might order an EEG, MRI or CAT scan.
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for a stroke in dogs. The dog's recovery will depend on the extent of brain damage. If the cause of the seizure can be located, treatment will be prescribed accordingly. Unfortunately, some seizures cannot be eliminated completely.
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