Yes, dogs and cats can have strokes! As the use of MRI in veterinary patients has become more commonplace, we have realized that strokes are actually quite common in our four-legged companions. A stroke is the cessation of blood flow to an area of the brain resulting in dysfunction of the nutrient-starved neurons in the affected area. Why strokes happen in dogs and cats is not fully understood; however, high blood pressure, kidney disease, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushings), and blood clotting abnormalities are some known risk factors. Certain breeds are also at higher risk of having a stroke, including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Greyhound.
Signs of a stroke are variable with the location affected in the brain; however, difficulty walking, weakness, and falling are common signs. As in people, the signs are very sudden in onset.
A stroke can only be diagnosed with a full workup including an MRI of the brain. This is because there are many conditions which can affect the brain and result in similar signs, such as tumors, inflammation, infection, and trauma.
If an MRI shows evidence that your pet has had a stroke, the next step is to try to determine why. This typically involves monitoring blood pressure and testing for metabolic abnormalities which may predispose a dog or cat to have a stroke. In many dogs and cats, however, we are unable to identify a cause of the stroke.
Treatment of pets who have had a stroke is mainly through supportive care and physical therapy. Most dogs and cats can recover successfully from a stroke with sufficient time.
You may schedule a consultation with our Neurologist by calling us at our Manchester or Newington location today.