Are Senior Dogs More at Risk of Strokes?
Risk of Stroke for Senior Dogs
Senior dogs are more at risk of strokes because as they age, the likelihood of factors that can cause blockage or bleeding in the brain increase with age. The brain controls all the systems and functions of the body. So when the brain is injured, it can be devastating to the pet.
What is a stroke? Can my dog suffer from a strokes?
A stroke happens when there is blood flow loss on a portion of the dog’s brain, it is caused by something that blocks or causes bleeding in your dog’s brain blood vessels. It is caused by blood clots, tumors, bacterial and parasitic infections, ruptures, and other clotting disorders.
What is so depressing is that it hits our dog fast and without warning. Our dog’s survival and health depend on how quickly we respond to this emergency.
Two types of strokes can happen to our dogs.
- Ischemic stroke — caused by a sudden lack of blood supply to the brain
- Hemorrhagic stroke — caused by bleeding on your dog’s brain
If your dog is exhibiting any of the signs listed below, it is a medical emergency. The sooner you treat a stroke, the better the outcome. Do not wait until morning or the end of the weekend. Take your dog to the animal ER immediately.
SIGNS OF STROKE IN DOGS
- Loss of Balance — Your dog seems and appears normal a few moments ago, then suddenly he seems troubled and erratic, then he falls. This is a classic tell-tale sign of a dog that is about to suffer a stroke. His sudden loss of balance is evident. Your dog now is exhibiting disturbing symptoms like inability to stand, leaning on the sides, and suddenly looking for someone or something to lean on. When he suffers from a stroke, it interferes or jams with his ability to be upright and steady. If something like this happens, treat this matter very seriously and contact him right away for medical assistance.
- Wandering in circles — Your dog starts to be aimless with his direction, you call his name, and he seems to be out of sync and goes in the other direction, be vigilant. This could be a sign that your dog is suffering from a stroke. Stroke causes your dog’s brain to misfire and sends wrong signals and wrong responses. His brain cannot seem to control his body’s actions. That is why your dog appears not to respond to your call. If something like this happens, it may be upsetting on your part, but it is more upsetting to him.
- Peculiar and strange eye movements — If your dog makes strange movements with his eyes right there, call for some medical assistance. Side-to-side eye movements or circling eye movements (nystagmus) is a sign of stroke. If one eye is still and the other seems to move on its own or wander (strabismus), don’t waste precious time trying to figure it out. Call and seek medical attention right away.
- Your dog faints, or he is lethargic — This one is quite deceiving and hard to detect. You might be thinking that your dog is just tired and tries to get some rest, but all the while, he is already suffering from a stroke. His seeming lack of interest and energy (lethargy) can be a disguised stroke attack. If you noticed your dog seems to fall asleep suddenly, he is not a plain lazy call for medical assistance. Your dog is suffering a stroke attack.
- Loss of body control — Is your dog vomiting, or is he gasping, or he can’t control his bowel and bladder movements? These are also possible signs of possible stroke attacks. When your dog’s stroke attack begins to intensify, your dog now has difficulty breathing, and his heartbeat is now irregular (arrhythmia). When suddenly he suffers from an upset stomach, and it happens most often and frequently, he suffers from a stroke.
How to prevent dog stroke?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent a stroke from happening to your dog. Keeping our dog healthy by doing regular vet visits and checkups and regular exercise. Watching your dog’s diet and making sure that your dog is healthy.
Your dog’s recovery from a stroke depends on different factors:
- Type of stroke
- The severity of the stroke
- Underlying health conditions aside from the cause of his stroke-like diabetes or heart disease
- Age of your pet
- Response time for seeking medical help
After a few weeks after the stroke, some dogs may show signs of improvements, while others take longer to recover. Sadly some are not so lucky and will not recover fully. Paralysis can be permanent for some dogs. Other complications such as incontinence can also result from a severe stroke. Some complications are fatal. Our only recourse is to give our dog the appropriate veterinary care as quickly as possible. How we react and respond to such emergencies will directly affect the quality of life that our dogs will enjoy after a stroke. For some dogs, unfortunately, no matter how quickly we respond, the stroke may be to severe and cause too much damage for our dog to survive or recover.
I had a client with a dog that had suffered a severe stroke that left the dog’s hind legs paralyzed, and the dog was not only incontinent — but the dog could not empty its bladder without assistance. This was a miserable task for the dog. The dog had to be muzzled to have its bladder evacuated because it would bite the person helping it to empty its bladder. If the bladder was left alone, it risked bursting, which is fatal. Emptying a dog’s bladder seems straightforward enough. The owner could do it easily and showed me how to do the bladder evacuation. I had a terrible time finding the right spot to apply pressure, and I ended up at the animal ER with the animal out of fear of not evacuating the bladder correctly. But, when we got to the vet, it turned out that I HAD completed the task. It was hard to tell. It was not a procedure that I would want to do to a dog regularly.
The dog could not control its bowels either, and the poop fell out of the dog. It probably needed to be in doggy diapers. The dog could not walk on its own without a sling around its belly to lift the rear portion of its body. The owner loved his dog and wasn’t ready to let him go. But this dog was not happy anymore. It bit anyone that tried to touch it — except the owner. The decision to end a dog’s life is the most difficult decision we make as dog owners. How much suffering and pain is too much? It wasn’t my decision as it was not my dog. It did make me wonder what I would do if it happened to one of my babies. I hope I never have to know.
This post is an excerpt from my second book that I am writing about caring for Senior Dogs