Cats suffering from a stroke need immediate veterinarian attention. The goals of therapy include minimizing brain swelling and associated tissue damage, treating the underlying cause of the stroke and rehabilitating the cat physically. Once the cause of the stroke is determined, the treatment protocol can be determined as well. Early diagnosis and treatment will dramatically enhance the outlook for a full recovery. If your cat shows signs of a stroke, please take him or her to your local veterinarian or to a nearby emergency clinic as soon as possible.
There are two types of strokes that occur in cats: ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. Ischemic strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain has been blocked or otherwise compromised, causing the brain to become oxygen-deprived. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing bleeding (hemorrhage) inside the brain. While strokes in cats are not common, they do happen. It is important to recognize them and treat them promptly.
Treating Feline Strokes
Treatment for a cat that has suffered a stroke primarily involves intensive supportive and nursing care. The cat should be rehydrated with intravenous or subcutaneous fluids if necessary, and recumbent patients should be kept warm and dry with soft, absorbent bedding that is changed frequently. They also will need to be turned regularly to prevent pressure sores and urine scalding. Aggressive physical therapy normally is recommended as well. If the stroke was caused by an underlying medical disorder such as diabetes mellitus or Cushing’s disease, that condition must be addressed as part of the treatment protocol. If the stroke was caused by a traumatic brain injury, supportive care along with medication may be necessary.
A variety of drugs are available to help treat cats suffering from a stroke, depending again upon its cause. These include sedatives (to address disorientation and ataxia), antiemetics (to control nausea and vomiting), anti-inflammatories (to manage swelling), anti-seizure medications (to, of course, control seizures) and antibiotics (when infection cannot be ruled out as a possible cause of the stroke).
Normally, no dietary restrictions are required. Improvement of clinical signs usually starts within 72 hours of treatment, with resolution of vomiting and improvement of ataxia when present. Most patients return to normal within 2 to 3 weeks after having a stroke, but it may take longer. Recurrence is rare, but can happen. Permanent disabilities can happen, as well.