Strokes in dogs
An overview of stroke in dogs and how to prevent them.
Dog stroke prevention and treatment
Dog strokes are not caused in the same way human strokes are. There are four main kinds of stroke. 'Vestibular Syndrome' is when an injury to the inner ear has occurred. 'Ischemic Stroke' caused by a blocked artery, which is not allowing the blood to get to the brain. They are usually caused by an under-lying problem such as kidney failure or diabetes amongst others. 'Hemorrhagic Stroke' or bleeding on the brain again can be caused by under-lying problems, but is more commonly caused by poisoning. The first sign of these three strokes is a tilt of the head and vertigo or loss of balance. In some cases the dog will walk in circles and in severe cases be unable to even stand. Some dogs can go blind and become lethargic in later stages. Depression usually settles in as well.
Treatment of these first three kinds of stroke consists of confinement so that the animal does not fall over or injure itself, rest, and some medically treatment. In some cases corticosteroids and diuretics are used to help reduce inflammation and oedemas (fluid build up). Unfortunately most dogs are left with a slight head tilt afterward as this cannot be fully treated.
Preventing strokes is not possible, but you can limit the risk. For Vestibular Syndrome ensure the dog has clean ears, you can use a saline solution in drop form to place in the ear canal when necessary. Massage the base of the ear and then let the dog shake it's head, wax and other debris will be dislodged. As the dog gets older the risk for any stroke becomes higher. Ischemic and Hemorrhagic strokes are more difficult to prevent, but by keeping your dog healthy with regular check ups, you will be able to notice the first signs quickly and in turn your dog will receive the treatment they need sooner.
'Heat Stroke' is another problem that generally occurs during the summer months when the dog becomes hot and dehydrated. It is completely different to the first three, as it is not actually a stroke in the sense that it is not caused by a lack of blood flow, but by an increase in temperature. Symptoms are lethargy, panting and polydipsia (excessive thirst). When the dehydration becomes severe the dog will collapse. Intravenous fluids will be given with electrolytes. The dog should also be placed in a cool and comfortable environment.
Preventing Heat Stroke, however, is very possible though; ensure your dog has plenty of water, never leave a dog in a car, and when outside ensure that there is always access to water and shade. By following these rules a dog will limit the risk to becoming a Heat Stroke victim.