If your dog suffered a stroke, would you know? Do you know the symptoms and what to do? Canine stroke symptoms are different from human stroke symptoms and usually appear suddenly. Common symptoms in humans include paralysis on one side of the body and drooping face. This is not so in canines. Their stroke symptoms include changes in behavior and loss of balance. Blindness, heart arrhythmia or collapse can occur in severe cases. Although strokes are very rare in dogs, they recover faster than humans. Canine stroke symptoms vary based on the location of the stroke and often include a tilting of the head, or walking in circles. They may turn the opposite or wrong way when called, eat out of only one side of their food bowl, and act tired or lethargic. They may suffer loss of bladder and bowel control, become blind and have a sudden change in behavior.
There are two kinds of canine stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic but both types involve a disruption in the flow of blood to the brain. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blocked artery disrupts blood flow to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when actual bleeding in the brain, caused by a burst blood vessel, disrupts blood flow. Conditions which are the main cause for ischemic stroke are kidney, liver, heart or Cushing’s disease, diabetes, parasites, tumors, fat, spinal cartilage, high blood pressure, and over or under active thyroid glands. Conditions which are the main cause for hemorrhagic stroke include all types of diseases which lead to high blood pressure such as kidney, heart, Cushing’s, blood clotting diseases, head trauma, brain tumor, consumption of rat poison, inflammation of the arteries, lung worm, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, and abnormal blood vessel development in the brain. Needless to say, if you see symptoms of stroke in your dog, take him or her to your veterinarian right way.
When diagnosing the stroke symptoms of a dog, the veterinarian will do a complete physical exam before running a series of tests. He or she will view your dog’s brain via a CT scan or an MRI in order to diagnose the stroke as it will not show up on an X-ray. Once verified that your dog has indeed suffered a stroke, the next step is finding the cause. This may include blood tests, X-rays, ultra-sound tests, and a spinal tap. Head trauma can also be cause for stroke. Keep in mind that in about 50% of all cases, cause of the stroke is not able to be determined.
Treatment for canine stroke is focused on treating the cause, if determined, as a preventative for future strokes. Corticosteroids for brain swelling along with anticonvulsant medication to prevent seizures are usually prescribed. Studies show that dogs can recover quickly from strokes with most dogs recovering their motor functions and movement control within several weeks, however, the extent of recovery depends on the severity of the stroke and the amount of damage done to the brain. There is a good chance that the dog’s behavior may change so pet owners must accept the truth of this fact. The best treatment for canine stroke is to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your dog. This goes a long way in preventing and controlling the disease and keeping it from causing more damage to the brain in the future.
Dogs suffering from kidney disease can prevent canine stroke by controlling their diet. Feeding your dog a diet with low levels of phosphorus may slow down and reduce the mineral deposits in the kidneys. High levels of nitrogenous wastes can cause nausea and vomiting. Low protein diets have less nitrogenous wastes but, if not careful, can lead to dog malnutrition. Do not change your dog’s diet without discussing it with your veterinarian first. Obese dogs are at a higher risk for developing heart disease so a good balanced diet and frequent exercise is imperative. Canine diabetes is a disorder of metabolism caused by less insulin being produced by the pancreas or cells that do not accept insulin normally. Dogs suffering from diabetes will need insulin for the rest of their lives and adhering strictly to their diet is important. Food that is high in protein and fiber with restricted fats and carbohydrates is best.
Another choice for prevention for dogs who have had a stroke is to supplement their diet with herbal supplements which are designed to support brain and nervous system function. Look for ingredients such as passiflora incarnate or Passionflower which helps the nervous system, also Skullcap, Hyoscyamus (30C), Belladonna (30C), and Cuprum mettalicum (30C).
Keep in mind, if your dog is very young or very old, he will be at higher risk for a stroke when exposed to extreme temperatures. Though some experts believe there is no age, sex or breed predisposition associated with domestic canine stroke, others believe that breeds with extremely thick coats and those with flat faces, such as bulldogs and pugs, are stoke-prone due to the fact that their respiratory pathways are narrow and limited , a consideration when purchasing a breed dog.
Canine stoke is a real and dangerous thing. Knowing what to look for and how to prevent future strokes is more than half the battle.