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Health & Wellness

Here's how to tell if your dog had a stroke

Some stroke symptoms are quiet.

Since dogs can't speak our language, it can be hard to tell if they're struggling with a health problem. Strokes (which happen when blood going to the brain is interrupted) is a condition especially tough for pet parents to pick up on, as symptoms can be subtle.

Educating yourself on strokes — especially understanding the signs one has occurred — can help you take the best care of your pet when they need it most.

Can dogs have strokes? 

Unfortunately, dog strokes are usually caused by underlying conditions like heart and kidney disease, cancer, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, liver failure, infections and auto-immune diseases. These conditions make pups more likely to have blood clots or excessive bleeding, leading to strokes.

“A stroke is caused by an interruption in blood flow to one or more parts of the brain,” Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

Signs of strokes in dogs

Dogs show different stroke symptoms depending on which part of the brain was affected — but they typically occur suddenly and don’t continue to get worse after the first 24 hours, Dr. Singler shares. Seizures, circling, falling, difficulty walking and behavioral changes can all indicate that your pup had a stroke.

Your furry friend can have a stroke without you noticing it, as some signs are mild and unrecognizable to a pet parent. “The only way to diagnose a stroke is with an MRI of the brain,” Dr. Singler explains. 

If your pup has a seizure or any sudden changes in their alertness, mobility, balance or behavior, take them to the vet’s office as soon as possible. 

RELATED: Heart murmurs in dogs — here’s what to expect

Treatment options for strokes in dogs

Stroke treatments depend on the illness's underlying cause. Unfortunately, there's no specific treatment for the stroke itself, but your veterinarian might recommend solutions for the issues behind it.

There aren't any at-home treatments that manage a pet's stroke — so always take your pet to the vet if you think they had a stroke or if they're experiencing general health complications.

Veterinarians can prescribe anticonvulsants if a dog has seizures and medication to help with dizziness, balance and nausea.

"Dogs tend to have a better prognosis after a stroke when compared to humans, but recovery can still take several weeks," Dr. Singler says.

How to prevent strokes in dogs

Strokes can’t always be prevented. If you notice any changes in your pets, getting them checked out can make it easier to avoid any problems from worsening and potentially contributing to a stroke.

Taking your pup to the vet regularly for exams and lab work can help detect underlying conditions.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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