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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Condition Overview

Strokes are not common in dogs.


The onset of stroke is sudden. The signs depend on the location and extent of the bleeding or brain infarction. They include behavioral changes, disorientation, seizures, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, stupor, and coma. Large strokes are often accompanied by cardiac arrhythmias and collapse.


A stroke can be caused by bleeding into the brain, obstruction of an artery caused by an embolus or clotting of a cerebral artery. An embolus is a clot that develops at another site and travels through the vascular system to a smaller vessel, where it becomes lodged and interrupts blood flow to the area served by that artery. This results in death of the tissue in the affected area - a condition called infarction.
Most strokes in dogs are caused by emboli.

Infarctions can occur with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, hardening of the arteries associated with hypothyroidism, and for unknown reasons.


The diagnostic workup is similar to that of a brain tumor.

Bleeding in the brain is seen with ruptured cerebral blood vessels and brain tumors. Spontaneous bleeding may occur with coagulation disorders. Disseminated intravascular coagulation is a cause of both bleeding and infarction. Some hemorrhagic strokes occur for unknown reasons.


Treatment involves the use of corticosteroids to prevent brain swelling and anticonvulsants to control seizures. Dogs who survive the first few days have a good prognosis for recovery. The long-term outlook depends on controlling or eliminating the underlying disease.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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