I wrote an article a couple of years ago concerning traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in household pets, but it looks like I didn’t go quite far enough. 

The previous article was about TBI overall in pets; this article looks at causes of a particular cause of TBI in pets: strokes.

The following information shares how to recognize stroke symptoms in our fur family members and what to do if your pet shows signs of having a stroke.

Today, I will focus on the two most common pets, dogs and cats. 

a tabby cat and a border collie posing togetherLet’s start with dogs. This information is sourced from the American Kennel Association (AKA).

Let’s start here: the good news is that strokes are less common in dogs than in humans. However, they are just as serious. 

Dogs experience strokes for many of the same reasons people do, with high blood pressure and  clotting of the blood being two of the most common causes.

But strokes in dogs may have an additional cause, known as a fibrocartilagenous embolism (FCE). An FCE can happen when the cartilage separating vertebrae breaks off and creates an obstruction of blood vessels in the spinal cord.

Spinal strokes may cause partial or complete analysis in one or more legs. These strokes may be difficult to detect or diagnose, and many likely aren’t diagnosed.

Some signs your dog may be having a stroke are:

  • Loss of balance
  • Head tilt
  • Pacing, circling, or turning the wrong way when called
  • Abnormal eye movements or facial expressions
  • Impaired vision
  • Loss of control over bladder and bowels
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse, loss of consciousness
  • Acute weakness and/or paralysis in one or more limbs

However, some of these conditions may have other causes besides strokes. One of those alternate causes is called Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome, a condition of the inner ear and brain. This type of stroke seems to occur primarily in older dogs.

Now, I will share important information about our feline friends. This information was sourced from PetMD. 

Signs that your cat may be experiencing a stroke include:

  • Altered mental status
  • Circling
  • Weakness
  • Head pressing (possibly as a result of a headache)
  • Not using the legs normally (sometimes on one side of the body)
  • Unsteadiness when walking
  • A head tilt
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Unequal pupil sizes
  • Muscle spasms, including severe spasms that cause the head, neck, and body to arch backwards
  • Seizures
  • Coma

You will definitely want to pay attention to any sudden change in behavior by your dog or cat. If you are in doubt that something may be wrong, it’s best not to take chances. Get your pet to a veterinarian right away.

A vet will examine your pet to try to determine whether a stroke is the problem.

The veterinarian will take into account your pet’s health history and ask you further questions about your pet. Be ready to tell the vet which symptoms you have observed, how quickly they appeared, and any change in symptoms over time. 

A physical and neurological exam will probably be next, as well as blood tests, urinalysis, fecal exam, and blood pressure testing. This testing will help a vet zero in on the exact cause and rule out other conditions or diseases.

Your pet may need to undergo electrocardiogram, X-rays, and a cardiac ultrasound. An MRI or CAT scan may be ordered, in order to determine whether the problem is a stroke or other problem.

For most pet owners, their pet is a member of the family.

Needless to say, the best rule to follow with a pet is to provide the same level of care you would provide for any other family member. When in doubt, have your dog or cat checked out right away.

Every minute counts. 

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab and, also, welcomes reader comments. Email him at isaac3rd@gmail.com. Read more articles by Isaac here; https://www.brainenergysupportteam.org/archives/tag/isaac-peterson

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