Causes and Prevention of Strokes in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Causes of Stroke

The effects of a stroke are caused by lack of normal oxygen delivery to the brain. When they occur in dogs, strokes can be associated with Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), Rocky Mountain spotted fever, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, kidney disease or thyroid disease. In rare cases, internal parasites can contribute to strokes. Most strokes in dogs are caused by an embolus, which is a blood clot that develops at a remote site and then travels through the circulatory system, eventually lodging in a smaller vessel and interrupting blood flow to the affected area. When an embolus becomes lodged in and obstructs an artery in the brain, it causes the surrounding tissue to die - a condition called “infarction.”

Other causes of stroke in dogs include bleeding into the brain from ruptured cerebral blood vessels, clotting of blood within a cerebral artery and cerebral tumors. A stroke can occur when a fragment of fat or spinal cartilage becomes dislodged and trapped in brain tissue. Strokes can also occur in dogs whose brains did not develop normally and in dogs with inherited coagulation (blood-clotting) disorders. Blunt trauma to the head, and poisons such as rodenticides, have been known to cause strokes in dogs as well. Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition known to cause both bleeding and infarction within the brain. Sometimes, strokes happen for no apparent reason. In most cases, the actual cause of a dog’s stroke will never be determined.

Prevention of Stroke in Dogs

There is no known way to prevent strokes in dogs.

Special Notes

Continual supportive care and supervision are extremely important for dogs that have suffered a stroke. As long as the stroke is diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, a full recovery is possible.

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