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Labrador Stroke Symptoms

Updated February 21, 2017

The Labrador retriever, also known simply as a Labrador or Lab, is a popular breed of assistance dog. As is true of most canines, stroke (disruption in the flow of blood to the brain) can affect Labradors. One famous assistance Lab, Endal, passed away after suffering a stroke. Treatment for stroke is to find the original cause and treat that disease. Causes of stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, tumours of the adrenal or pituitary glands (Cushing's disease) and thyroid problems. Veterinarians, unfortunately, cannot attribute reasons to half of stroke cases. After minor strokes, dogs recover faster than humans do, often in a few weeks. Nonetheless, sometimes stroke changes are permanent.

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Labradors are intelligent dogs, and many have been trained in complex tasks. After a car hit Endal's owner, Allen, in 2001, Endal put Allen into the recovery position, covered him with a blanket from Allen's wheelchair, retrieved his cellphone and pushed it against Allen's face, then went for help. Confusion can be seen in a Lab when it experiences difficulty attempting to complete a familiar task. The dog may turn into the wrong room when heading for the front door. It may not understand commands or recognise familiar toys. These are signs of a possible stroke.

Head Tilt

Labradors usually have an erect, level and straight head pose. Investigate odd head tilting, or holding of the head at an angle when walking (unless the dog is carrying something), for possible stroke.

Sensory Problems

Labradors have an excellent sense of vision, hearing and smell. Disruptions in one of these senses can signal stroke. Watch for a pet that eats from one side of the bowl only, cannot find a thrown ball, turns to the wrong side when called or trips over obstacles.


Labradors are naturally fun-loving and energetic. They will play fetch to the point of obsession. Walks are a highlight of the day. If your pet seems listless, or uninterested in walks or a favourite ball, this is perhaps a stroke sign.

Behaviour Changes

Get to know your pet's usual behaviour. Labradors generally are not territorial, insecure, aggressive or destructive. Typically, a Lab will bark only when sounding an alarm. They love water and enjoy holding objects. Suspect stroke if you see sudden behaviour changes like aggression, fearfulness, constant barking or an inability to hold objects in the mouth.

Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control

Labradors are easily house-trained. Consider stroke if you find urine or faeces inside the house from a dog that had an opportunity to go outside.

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About the Author

Stacey Anderson began writing in 1989. She published articles in “Teratology,” “Canadian Journal of Public Health” and the "Canadian Medical Association Journal” during her time in medical genetics studying birth defects. She has an interest in psychology, senior health and maternal and child health. Anderson holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology with a minor in biology from the University of Calgary.

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