A stroke occurs when the brain is suddenly deprived of its normal blood supply. This is due to a problem with a brain blood vessel, such as a rupture or blockage. A stroke in a cat is called feline ischemic encephalopathy (FIE). Luckily, this condition is not common in felines. However, it is still important to recognise the symptoms of FIE in order to obtain timely and necessary medical intervention.
Types and Causes of Strokes
There are two types of strokes that might affect a cat. An ischemic stroke involves a decrease in brain oxygen due to the lack of sufficient blood supply. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a vein bursting in the animal's head. These strokes have many sources, including trauma, toxins or medical conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism or liver disease. Vet Info's website reports that the actual cause of a feline stroke will often not be definitively diagnosed.
The signs of FIE are very different from those in humans. Signs of strokes in cats often mimic other illnesses and conditions. Therefore, any of the signs should be impetus to seek medical attention for your pet. Pet Wave's website states that the symptoms may include depression, head tilt (difficulty in moving head to other side), aggression, disorientation, uncontrollable circling, and loss of balance and coordination. Some other symptoms that indicate a possible stroke are seizures, blindness or mismatched pupils and increased vocalisation. These signs are sudden in onset.
Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chance of a complete recovery for your pet. If you notice any signs of FIE, take your feline to a veterinarian or emergency animal clinic immediately. Your vet will work to minimise any brain swelling and tissue damage, attempt to treat the cause if known and rehabilitate your pet. Some of the drugs that may be prescribed are sedatives to help the disorientation and coordination problems, anti-inflammatories to address the swelling, anti-seizure medications for seizure activity and antibiotics in case the stroke was caused by infection. Your pet will also receive supportive nursing care including rehydration and warm, dry bedding. At the vet's office and when home, they will need to be turned often to avoid pressure sores and scalding caused by urine. Your vet will also recommend physiotherapy and advise you on what that entails.