We know that our pets are animals, but that does not stop us from developing deep emotional attachments to them. We love them like family, and we feel upset when they are in pain, or something is wrong.
Hence, we recognize when something is just not right with them, even if they cannot speak. Dogs do have strokes, and there will be a clear indication that something is wrong.
Other health problems may mimic the symptoms of a stroke. The best action would be to call an emergency veterinarian.
Symptoms of strokes in dogs
- Watch for an inability to walk or walking in circles.
- Your dog may hold its head held in a tilted position.
- Positioning or oddly moving the eyes is a sign of stroke.
- Loss of Consciousness is a severe sign of stroke.
- Abnormal behavior may be a sign of stroke.
- Loss of balance could be caused by a stroke.
- Vomiting that may be caused by a lack of balance or from the eyes causing motion sickness is a sign of stroke.
- Weakness is one of the signs of a stroke.
- Disorientation or confusion are common after a stroke.
Pay attention to how long the symptoms last and be prepared to give the veterinarian clear descriptions of what happens. If you think about it, take pictures.
It may help in diagnosing your dog’s problem. Strokes happen suddenly and without warning. If your dog acts fine and a few minutes later shows these symptoms, stroke may be a good guess.
Defining a stroke
To be correctly called a stroke, the symptoms must last for at least 24 hours. A stroke happens because of a blockage of blood flow to part of the brain. Symptoms will depend on where the organ gets deprived of oxygen.
If your dog presents these symptoms, it is a severe problem, and your dog needs medical attention. The blockage is usually a blood clot but could also be a clump of fat or bacteria that has broken free and traveled to the brain.
Heartworm larvae can break off and cause a blockage. Other problems could predispose your dog to have a stroke. Issues like a history of blood clots, kidney disease, high fever, or a tumor could lead to a stroke.
Differences in how a stroke presents itself in a dog
When a human has a stroke, they may exhibit effects on one side of their body. Their speech, range of motion in their limbs, balance, thinking, and other areas may be affected. They may live the rest of their lives with an unusable arm or slurred speech. As already discussed, dogs may have similar symptoms.
A dog’s symptoms are slightly different because their brains are not the same as the human brain. They will not show signs on only one side of their body. If there is a coordination problem, it will be present in all four legs and possibly the tail.
Dogs, especially with medical care, may ultimately recover from a stroke over time. Sometimes they can improve in as little as three weeks. A young, healthy dog that was vaccinated against heartworms is not likely to have a stroke.
An older dog, especially one with other health concerns, is most prone to a stroke. The correct diagnosis of stroke is an essential factor in the treatment that will be required.
Strokes may not be preventable, but regular check-ups with a vet will perhaps avoid one.
If you cannot take your dog to a veterinarian
If you suspect that your dog has had a stroke and cannot take him to a vet, there are some things you can do to help. Try to keep your dog as comfortable as possible. To feel that comfort, your dog will need to know he is safe, so indoors is a great choice.
The dog’s environment should be comfortable as well. You will want your dog to stay warm. If he is trembling, it may not be from being cold. It could be fear, pain, or possibly fever. If the room is comfortable for you, it should be for your dog as well.
If you know there is a fever, cover your dog with a small, light-weight blanket. Place your dog on a padded bed and if there are balance or coordination concerns, move objects away. If your dog cannot stand, turn him over to the opposite side, every half-hour.
Turning your dog needs to be done to prevent blood collection in its lungs. Switching your dog regularly during the daytime hours will help prevent pneumonia from developing.
Keep water near your dog so that it can drink without needing to stand. Hydration is essential. Try to encourage your dog to drink as much as possible.
If you cannot get your dog to drink from a bowl, try spoon-feeding. Also, if your dog will take a wet cloth into its mouth, offer it often.
If your dog is dehydrated, its mouth and throat will be dry. Your dog may accept water in this manner. If your dog has a fever, do this often.
Care that you cannot provide the way a vet would
If your dog’s symptoms are severe or if they persist, there probably is swelling around the brain. Swelling may work itself out with time, but there is a medication that could help with swelling.
Dehydration is another common problem after a canine stroke. Knowing the root cause of your dog’s stroke could prevent another one. Make every effort to get professional advice.
Services a veterinarian can provide
The vet can do a CT scan, MRI, electrocardiogram, and other tests to determine what is wrong if necessary. A veterinarian would treat things like swelling in your dog’s brain that may be present. To combat dehydration, a veterinarian can provide an IV.
The vet can also check blood work, hormones, and urine. If a clot caused the stroke, he could prescribe blood thinners or blood pressure medication. The vet may see a need for physical therapy. If he does, he can probably tell you what to do and how.