15 Dog Stroke Symptoms Every Owner Should Know

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Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke in your dog can be crucial for their well-being. While less common than in humans, sudden loss of brain function can also occur in dogs and often require immediate veterinary attention. Here, we share 15 signs to watch for that could indicate your furry friend is experiencing a stroke. Note that if you observe such symptoms, it’s essential to seek veterinary care without delay.

Sudden Loss of Balance

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One of the most noticeable signs of a stroke in dogs is an abrupt loss of balance or coordination. You might notice your dog stumbling, swaying, or having difficulty walking in a straight line. 

Abnormal Eye Movements

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Watch for unusual eye movements in your dog, such as rapid or involuntary twitching, darting, or an inability to focus. These abnormal eye movements can indicate neurological issues, including a potential stroke.

Head Tilt

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A sudden and persistent head tilt in your dog, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like loss of balance or disorientation, could be a sign of a stroke. While head tilting can sometimes be harmless, when it occurs abruptly and is accompanied by other concerning signs, it warrants immediate attention from a veterinarian.

Severe Disorientation

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If your dog appears unusually disoriented, confused, or unaware of their surroundings, it could be a red flag for a stroke. You might notice them wandering, seeming lost, or unable to recognize familiar people or places. Any abrupt shifts in mental awareness should be taken seriously and evaluated by a veterinarian.

Sudden Collapse

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An unexpected collapse or loss of consciousness in your dog is a severe symptom that requires immediate medical attention. While there can be various causes for collapse, including cardiac issues or seizures, a stroke is one possibility to consider.

Weakness or Paralysis

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If your dog experiences weakness or paralysis in one or more limbs, it could be a sign of a stroke. This can be seen as difficulty standing, walking, or even a complete inability to move certain body parts.

Facial Drooping

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Just like in humans, facial drooping can be a symptom of a stroke in dogs. If you notice one side of your dog’s face drooping or appearing asymmetric compared to the other, it could indicate neurological impairment. 

Changes in Behavior

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Beware of surprising changes in your dog’s behavior, such as uncharacteristic aggression, agitation, or withdrawal. Neurological problems, including stroke, can sometimes manifest as unusual behavior and shouldn’t be ignored.

Difficulty Eating or Drinking

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A stroke can affect a dog’s ability to eat or drink normally, leading to changes in appetite or difficulty swallowing. You might notice your dog struggling to chew food, drooling excessively, or refusing to eat. Any significant changes in eating or drinking habits should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Vocalization Changes

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Pay attention to changes in your dog’s vocalizations, such as unusual barking, whimpering, or vocalizing in pain. While these changes can result from various health issues, they can also indicate neurological distress, such as a stroke.

Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control

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When a previously housetrained dog loses bladder or bowel control, it should be taken as a concerning sign. While various causes of incontinence can occur, including urinary tract infections or spinal issues, it can also result from neurological impairment due to a stroke.

Changes in Breathing Patterns

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Observe your dog’s breathing patterns for sudden changes, such as rapid or difficult breathing, panting excessively, or struggling to catch breath. These respiratory changes can sometimes accompany neurological issues like a stroke and should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away. Difficulty breathing can indicate a severe medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

Loss of Consciousness

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If your dog loses consciousness or appears unresponsive, it’s a critical sign that requires urgent veterinary care. Loss of consciousness can occur suddenly and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as collapse or seizure activity. Time is of the essence in such cases, so seek veterinary assistance instantly.

Persistent Head Pressing

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Head pressing, where a dog compulsively presses their head against objects or walls, can be a concerning sign of neurological distress. There are many causes of this, including toxins or brain tumors, but it can also be a sign that a stroke has occurred. 

Unusual Pupil Size or Reaction

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Check your dog’s pupils for any abnormalities in size, shape, or reaction to light. Unequal pupil size or a lack of response to light in one or both eyes can indicate neurological dysfunction, which a stroke could cause. 

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