Strokes in Pets

There are many possible causes of strokes in pets, and many times a definitive cause is never found.

Strokes occur not only in people, but in pets as well. This will happen when there is interruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to cell damage and cell death. Symptoms often come on acutely, and may include sudden paralysis of the legs, as well as weakness of the cranial nerves resulting in facial drooping, and loss of other reflexes. Causes of a stroke include high blood pressure, toxin exposure, trauma, cancer, as well as on occasion viral and bacterial microbes. In the vast majority of cases a definitive cause is not found.

Presumptive diagnosis of a stroke is made by ruling out other causes of sudden neurologic symptoms. Definitive diagnosis of stroke, however, is only possible through neurologic testing such as an MRI test performed at a referral veterinary facility. Treatment of stroke is mostly supportive and includes IV fluids, as well as antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, as well as anti inflammatory agents.   Prognosis for return to function is always guarded, and depends upon the severity of the symptoms.

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