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Can dogs have strokes?

Updated on April 5, 2012

Cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is commonly known as stroke. This condition occurs when brain cells die because the normal flow of blood to the brain is disrupted. When blood flow is impaired, the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain is compromised. Deprived of oxygen, the brain will not be able to carry out its usual functions. This human health condition can also happen to dogs. Similar to their human friends, dogs can have strokes too. It is a good thing that this condition is rare in dogs because stroke is one of the most serious health concerns of dogs. Pet owners would find it hard to know that the pet is afflicted given the fact that canine stroke has different symptoms and effects than the strokes that affect humans.

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Types of strokes in dogs

There are two types of strokes that can affect your pet. One is ischemic stroke. This condition occurs when the main artery that leads to the brain is blocked causing insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain. Dogs can also suffer from hemorrhagic stroke. In this type of stroke, the brain has sufficient supply of oxygen but a blood vessel ruptures causing the surrounding brain tissues to swell. Stroke will occur when the cerebral bleeding puts on pressure to the brain.

Causes of dog stroke

Ischemic stroke is common in diabetic and hypertensive dogs. This type of stroke commonly occurs to dogs with Cushing’s disease, kidney and heart diseases. Parasites, tumors and spinal cartilage can create the blockage that impairs sufficient blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke can also be associated with high blood pressure. Brain tumor, head trauma, ingestion of rat poison and parasites can be the cause of the cerebral hemorrhage.

Symptoms of strokes

In humans, the insufficient supply of blood to the brain or the bleeding in the brain will cause sudden numbness on one side of the body. Loss of movement and/or sensation will be noticed on the face, arms and legs. Headache, dizziness and loss of balance are other stroke symptoms. Dog stoke has different symptoms. Symptoms would depend on what part of the brain was affected and on the severity of the condition. The most common symptom is the loss of coordination. Loss of balance will make the dog turn to a different direction when called. The dog may be seen either constantly circling or having walking difficulty. The dog would develop a head tilt so that it would be eating only on one side of the food dish. Loss of bowel and bladder control and sudden blindness are other symptoms. The dog will have an abrupt change in behavior. The once energetic dog would be lethargic and depressed.


Stroke symptoms can mimic other canine diseases thus a vet consultation is extremely necessary. Aside from a complete physical examination the vet usually requires blood and urine tests. CT scan and MRI will be done as well to evaluate the extent of the brain damage.


The damage to the brain cannot be reversed thus stroke practically has no specific treatment. Treatment will be focused on helping the dog recover its motor functions.

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