Everything You Need to Know About Strokes in Dogs

Strokes in dogs are a rare occurrence and should not be confused with seizures. Dogs can suffer from all types of medical conditions, so much so that it is impossible for a dog parent to know them all.

Strokes are difficult to prevent, so it is not the fault of the dog owner if their dog suffers from one.

However, just like every other disease in living things, this disease in dogs has symptoms that a human companion can watch out for to avoid a fatalistic end.

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke is the fluctuation of blood flow to the organs of the nervous system. The fluctuations caused by a stroke can range from depletion to overflow to stopping completely.

Blood cells in the blood vessels carry oxygen to the cells of the organs that make up the nervous system. When the cells of the nervous system fail to get or are overloaded with oxygen, their tissue fails, which causes a cascading effect that can lead to total system failure.

Type of Strokes

We describe two major and very different types of strokes in this article.

  • Ischemic Strokes: The blood supply to the nervous system is hindered due to a blood clot, microbial activity, or enlarged cells. This type of stroke is more well-known than Hemorrhagic strokes. An ischemic stroke can not only be caused by a blockage but also by atherosclerosis, a disease that causes stenosis, which is the narrowing of the artery by an internal build-up of plaque.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes: This type of stroke is characterized by an intracerebral hemorrhage, which is bleeding within the brain. This occurs when blood vessels rupture and blood cells are sheathed in the canine brain. Heatstroke can also cause hemorrhages in the larger organs of the canine body.

An intracerebral hemorrhage can also occur when a portion of a single blood vessel becomes so weak that it leaks, or if a group of blood vessels is weakened and tears — releasing blood cells in the dog’s brain.

How Severe Are Strokes?

Both types of strokes cause neurological damage. An Ischemic stroke in dogs leads to brain cells dying within minutes. All strokes are life-threatening conditions that should be treated immediately.

Human patients are more likely to survive because their physical expressiveness is more apparent. Because dogs cannot inform anyone if they are suffering from a stroke, their fatality rate is much higher.

Everything You Need to Know About Strokes in Dogs

What Causes Strokes in Dogs?

A stroke may occur if a dog suffers from diseases or injuries that would weaken their blood vessels or encourage the formation of clots or plaque.

The following increases the possibility of stroke occurring in your dog:

  • Disease: Heart disease, atherosclerosis, Cushing’s disease, renal disease (kidney disease), high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and amyloidosis could all cause strokes.
  • Toxins: Common things that are poisonous to dogs are very dangerous. This includes chocolate, all forms of coffee, moldy or spoiled or fatty foods, onions, onion powder, raisins, grapes, salt, and much more.
  • Genetics: Certain breeds like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel seem more susceptible to strokes. Hypothyroidism, a condition that could cause a stroke, affects female species more frequently.
  • Injuries: Trauma inflicted directly on the brain is classified as a primary injury. Secondary injuries are those where the brain tissue is affected due to a primary injury. These types of injuries can cause hyperthermia and hypothermia, which can lead to a stroke. It is important to protect your pet from anything that could cause blunt force trauma or penetrating trauma.

The Impact of Heat on Strokes

Heatstroke in dogs occurs not because of an infection but rather because of high body temperature, which is usually a result of strenuous physical activity or the high outside temperature. Heatstroke is more severe in a hot or humid environment. Dogs’ heat dissipation mechanism is not as efficient as humans, so they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

A study by Yaron Bruchim on canine heatstroke explored the pathophysiology of heatstroke in dogs. He found that a hot environment over time can adversely affect the core body temperature of a heatstroke patient. The study gives us a better understanding of just how fatal thermal injury can be to dogs.

Bruchim studied 54 dogs that were diagnosed with naturally-occurring heatstroke. Brachycephalic breeds of dogs were more prone to heat exhaustion and thermal injury due to their facial construction. For canine heatstroke patients, increased core body temperatures combined with dehydration and decreased cardiac output sometimes led to blood pooling in their internal organs (hemorrhagic stroke).

What Are the Symptoms of Strokes in Dogs?

The abnormalities in dogs you want to watch out for include:

  • Vomiting
  • Imbalance
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blindness (often partial)
  • Tilted Head
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Confused disposition
  • Abnormal eye movements

Is There a Way to Prevent Strokes From Happening to Dogs?

Some of the causes of strokes listed above are avertable. Apart from ensuring every infection is treated immediately by a medical professional, injuries should be avoided at all costs.

Proper observation is key and cannot be overemphasized. Negligence of your pet and allowing diseases or injuries to run their course could cause a stroke to happen.

A lifestyle consisting of a healthy dog’s diet and exercise can serve as preventive care against a stroke.

Factors such as age, genetics, gender, and breed are things you cannot control.


Strokes in dogs are not as common as other canine illnesses, but they are incredibly serious. No matter how unlikely is it that your dog will suffer from a stroke, you should always look out for the warning signs and do everything you can to prevent one from occurring.

Dogs cannot accurately describe whatever is making them uncomfortable, so their fatality rates for strokes are much higher. Frequent observation, checkups at the vet, and ensuring your pet is living a healthy lifestyle are the best you can do to keep your pet healthy and happy.

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