Can Dogs Have Strokes?

The short answer is yes, dogs can have strokes just like humans.  The long answer is a little more complicated, like with all strokes.  So let’s dig into the disease a little further.

Can Dogs Have Strokes?Strokes are caused by a malfunction of what is called the vestibular system, which is what keeps the body and brain in proper alignment with the gravitational field of the earth.  The most important part of this system is tiny little sensors located inside the ear that keep the body in balance and give  both dogs and humans a sense of it.  When these sensors fail or go out of balance, it is called a vestibular event, which is when the brain goes out of sync with these sensors.  This feeling is like being crazy drunk with spins, which is about what a dog will look like while having a stroke.  This usually occurs in large breeds that are elderly, and specifically happens a lot with Labradors.  Most cases never come out with a clear diagnosis as to why it happens, although a common suspicion is cancer or brain tumors.  Stroke symptoms will happen very suddenly and can be very scary to see.  Dogs may shake, stumble as if drunk, and their eyes may dart or roll.  If your dog has a stroke, you should most certainly go to the vet.  Although they cannot offer a cure, they can offer advice and ways to care for your dog if they happen to have another stroke.

If your dog has a stroke, it is very important to keep them still.  They can hurt themselves if they fall or hit their head on something.  After their stroke, they will be lethargic and not want to move at all.    They may have problems with bowel movements and vomiting, and they may not want to eat or drink.  It will be very sad for a few days, but they should recover within a week.  Just like humans, they may experience lingering and lifelong side effects, like partial lameness to one side.  Dogs are not generally as crippled as humans are by a stroke, but most will notice effects of aftershock.  Many will be afraid of water afterward.