Canine Stroke Symptoms & Causes

Written by jill lee
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Canine Stroke Symptoms & Causes
Weakness can be a sign of a canine stroke. (Dog image by Lea Petrasova from

The symptoms of a stroke in a dog are often much different than the signs seen in humans who suffer a stroke. Knowing what to look for can help you get prompt veterinary care for your pet, reducing the risk that it will suffer permanent damage. Canine stroke symptoms can also point to other medical conditions, so a dog that displays stroke symptoms may actually be suffering from something else. Determining the cause of a canine stroke can be difficult. According to Davies Veterinary Specialists, the cause of a stroke remains undetermined in over half of the dogs who suffer a stroke.

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Movement and Balance Problems

Movement and balance-related symptoms are common signs of canine stroke. A dog who is having or has recently had a stroke may tilt its head to the side or lean when walking. A dog may lose its balance and appear weak. Dogs who have had strokes may also walk in a circular pattern, leaning toward the side of the brain damage.

Loss of Bladder and Bowel Control

After a stroke, some dogs lose control of their bladder and bowels. If the part of the dog's brain that alerts it to when it needs to evacuate the bladder and bowels is damaged from a stroke, the dog may not even realise it is soiling itself. Most dogs recover from strokes very well with the proper treatment and are able to regain bladder and bowel function.

Behavioural Changes

Some dogs who suffer a stroke display behavioural changes following the incident. A dog may act tired and lethargic, which is often due to pain or weakness. The dog may seem disinterested in food or water and be reluctant to play. A veterinarian should examine a dog that displays sudden behavioural changes as soon as possible.

Medical Conditions

Many different underlying conditions can contribute to a canine stroke. Dogs with kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid gland problems are more likely to have a stroke than healthy dogs are. Blood clotting disorders and abnormal blood vessel development in the brain also increase the risk for stroke in dogs. Veterinarians often run several tests to see if a dog has any underlying medical problems when treating a dog that has had a stroke. Proper treatment of these conditions can help reduce the risk of another stroke.

Trauma and Tumors

Injuries and trauma to a dog's head can cause a lack of blood supply to the brain or rupture a blood vessel in the brain, resulting in a stroke. A veterinarian should examine any dog that has recently suffered head trauma to check for stroke and other brain problems. Brain tumours can also contribute to canine stroke if they block vessels and reduce blood supply to the brain.

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