We don’t think it will happen until it does. When our pet has a stroke, we don’t expect it because we know little about the process of these events in animals; but if we know what to look for, we will be better equipped. Making ourselves aware of the signs will better prepare us should anything happen.
Signs of Stroke Defined
Before we know what to look for we must know what a stroke is. This type of event occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the brain. Presentation of symptoms will vary depending on what part of the brain is affected. The type of stroke may also dictate what symptoms your pet experiences.
An ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. When this happens, the brain is deprived of oxygen and your pets lose brain cells.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Bleeding may be within the brain, or intracerebral or it may be in the inner and outer layers of the tissue- a subarachnoid hemorrhage. When this happens, blood may compress brain cells and they may become damaged.
Another type of stroke that may occur in dogs is called fibrocartilaginous emboli, or FCE. FCE occurs when pieces of cartilage or fibrous tissue develop and break off and block off blood flow to the spinal cord. Long term consequences of any type of stroke will not be fully known at the time of the event. There are a variety of factors which influence how your pet will present, but symptoms of a stroke are similar in all pets.
Symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- Uncoordinated Walking/Gait- when pets have a gait that is uneven or uncoordinated they may look drunk
- Falling to one side
- Circling to one side
- Loss of consciousness
- Head tilt
- Abnormal eye movements/nystagmus- eye movement from side to side or inability to focus eyes
- Blindness- or blurry vision
- Loss of bowel control
- Abnormal behavior
- Other changes
Usually, these symptoms are sudden and happen quickly. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, sometimes even a few days. Every animal is different so it is hard to know what your pet will experience in the event that a stroke occurs.
Knowing the cause of the stroke will help your veterinarian find a treatment for your pet. Treatment does not take size fits all approach and there as the causes are varied. When your dog has one, it may be the result of bleeding disorders, cancer, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, hypothyroidism, and even medications like Prednisone. Vestibular disease is another cause. This occurs when there is an inflammation in the vestibular nerve. When a cat has a stroke, it may be due to brain tumor, cardiac disease, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, and vestibular disease. Cats are not as likely to get vestibular disease, but it does happen in rare instances. Infections may also cause stroke in cats.
For more information call or visit Young’s Animal Hospital’s website.