Your How can you tell if your older dog had a stroke? A Step-by-Step Guide

Possible underlying medical conditions that can lead to your pet suffering a stroke

  • Undetected blood clots
  • Clotting disorders
  • Ruptured blood vessels or aneurysms
  • Tumours
  • Cushing’s disease – (hyperadrenocorticism – a condition where the body overproduces the steroid hormone cortisol. It’s a relatively common condition in middle aged and older dogs, usually caused by a benign tumour on the pituitary gland).
  • Hypertension – high blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Exposure to certain toxins such as rat poison
  • I do feel there is reason to hold out hope and be cautiously optimistic, as idiopathic vestibular disease is one of the most common causes of these sudden signs in our older dogs.

    Because of this, I want to shed light on a more common and less concerning cause of these sudden signs, why they happen, and what we can do about it.

    If a dog’s clinical signs are so severe that they cannot walk, supportive care with IV fluids and injectable anti-nausea medications is generally recommended. Urinary catheters are sometimes placed for hygienic reasons. If clinical signs are mild, pets can often be managed at home with nursing care and over-the-counter meclizine which helps the feelings of “motion sickness” they experience.

    It should also be noted that Idiopathic Vestibular Disease is not a painful condition, and my recommendations stem from the fact that euthanasia is a permanent decision, so why not wait and see, giving time a chance? There is the potential that improvement will be seen, and the difficult decision of euthanasia can always be made at a later date if this is not the case or if there is a change in your pet’s quality of life.

    The vestibular system Just like in people, a dog’s vestibular system is responsible for maintaining a sense of balance. When something goes wrong with this system, it’s like being drunk on a rocky boat and dogs with idiopathic vestibular disease have some combination of the following signs:

    Identifying the cause of the stroke

    There is no specific treatment to repair damage to your pet’s brain following a stroke. However, your vet will try and identify a possible cause to prevent further strokes. Some pets make a full recovery from their stroke, others may suffer permanent damage. Physiotherapy can be helpful in their rehabilitation.

    Symptoms of Strokes in Dogs

    You’d know if your dog had a stroke, right? Well … maybe. The signs of stroke in dogs can be subtle. Depending on the type of stroke, your dog’s habits, and other factors, it can be tricky to know exactly what’s going on.

    A stroke happens when there is loss of blood flow to portions of the brain. In dogs, it occurs due to blood vessel blockage (ischemic) and bleeds (hemorrhagic). Unseen blood clots, tumors, bacteria, parasites, ruptures, and clotting disorders can all be contributors.

    Although the causes may be long-term, stroke can happen fast, without warning. Your dog’s survival depends on quick action. Prepare yourself by learning these five signs of stroke.

    In the days, hours, and minutes before a stroke, a dog might feel ill – or might feel perfectly normal. The symptoms can come on suddenly, and your dog can’t tell you “I don’t feel right” like a person can.

    However, a dog can give a warning sign in their walk. One of the most common symptoms is sudden loss of balance. Your dog may be unable to stand, lean to the side, or seek out a wall or person to lean on.

    As the stroke affects your dog’s brain, it interferes with the ability to stay upright. Take a loss of balance very seriously and contact a veterinarian immediately.

    Maybe your dog is balancing okay, but is wandering around in circles. His movements seem aimless. When you call him, he responds by going the wrong direction. These are also signs of stroke.

    The stroke causes misfires in the brain that give your dog’s body the wrong signals. Try as he might, he can’t follow a straight path. It can be a confusing and upsetting experience for your beloved pet.

    Stroke can also cause changes to the eyes. You may notice nystagmus, or abnormal eye movements. Usually, this looks like constant movement of the eyes from side to side or around in circles.

    Strabismus, or abnormal eye positioning, is another clue. One eye might wander as the other stays still, or the eyes may seem to focus on two different spots. These eye movements mean you should seek a vet’s help right away.

    This is a commonly-missed sign of stroke, because your dog might just seem tired. Lethargy, when extreme, is associated with strokes. Pay close attention if your dog suddenly seems far more tired than usual.

    Lethargy can also disguise fainting, another symptom. If your dog seems to fall asleep suddenly, it may actually be loss of consciousness caused by stroke. Try to wake them up, and if they can’t awaken, take this symptom seriously.

    A stroke can also cause your pet to lose control of its body systems, causing vomiting, gasping, diarrhea, or loss of bladder control. As the stroke intensifies, your pet may have heart arrhythmia or an inability to breathe.

    When these symptoms begin, it might seem like a simple episode of upset stomach. The key is to notice the level of intensity and the duration – like constant dry heaving with an inability to stop.

    In pet stroke situations, pet owners often report that everything seemed fine right up until a certain terrible moment. When that moment happens, act fast. Reach out to Academy Animal Hospital for urgent care.