Neurological stroke

A neurological stroke takes place when blood flow to the brain is obstructed. When blood flow to the brain is restricted, it can lead to neurologic abnormalities. 

Strokes in Pets

Strokes are scary, but thanks to technology and access to MRI and CT scans, we can diagnose pets more frequently and much easier. Over time, people have realized that the signs of strokes in animals can be similar to humans. The brain relies on a constant blood supply, this supply brings oxygen and nutrients, as well as remove waste products. As a pet parent, it is important to familiarize yourself with potential symptoms that can occur when your pet has a stroke.

Symptoms for dogs and cats:

  • Blindness
  • Head tilt
  • Weakness
  • Circling
  • Muscle spasm
  • Altered mental status
  • Lack of ability to walk or uncoordinated walking
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Falling to one side
  • Abnormal eye positioning or movements (side to side or rotary)
  • Abnormal behavior or rapid onset of symptoms
  • Howling or meowing in pain
  • Dragging one or both hind legs
  • Seizures
  • Loss of housetraining


A stroke is extremely serious, and it can have a long-lasting effect on your pet and their quality of life. If you believe that your pet is showing any of the symptoms listed above, please contact us or your nearest neurology veterinarian today.

Causes of strokes in pets

There can be different reasons why pets have strokes. Vets commonly see stroke cases with older pets who have had diseases or currently have diseases. Underlying diseases that can cause strokes in pets can include:  

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Liver disease
  • Lung disease
  • Hypertension
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Head trauma
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Heart Attack
  • Abnormal blood vessel development
  • Congenital Clogging disease

Diagnosing a Stroke

When you bring in your pet for a stroke, our veterinarians will start by getting a thorough health history from you about your pet. You will have to explain what symptoms you may have noticed, how quickly they may have developed, and how they have changed over periods of time. You will need to let your vet know about any medications that your pet may be currently on or have taken in the past. Next, your vet will do a physical and neurological exam, followed by routine lab work. Lab work will include blood tests, blood pressure test, a fecal exam, and a urine exam. The vet will be able to get a better understanding about what can be going on with your pet.

If your vet believes that your pet had a stroke, further testing will be required. Advanced testing, like an MRI or CT, will be able to identify any abnormality that is going on in the brain. An MRI of the head is the best method for diagnosing strokes and other brain issues. A standard x-ray is unable to tell what is going on within the brain. Once a stroke has been diagnosed, a treatment plan can be created to help alleviate your pet’s symptoms. 

Stokes cannot be prevented and can be scary for both you and your pet. Once a stroke has occurred, there is no way to undo or repair any damage that may have been done to the brain. Your vet will help to identify the cause of the stroke and then how to treat it in order to prevent further strokes from occurring. If your pet is not getting better over time or if it seems that their symptoms may be worsening, you should take your pet back to your veterinarian for further testing. 

Supportive care and lots of love are the best ways of helping your pet recover. If you are at any point concerned about your pet’s health, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you believe that your pet is at risk of neurological stroke, call us to schedule an appointment with a veterinary neurologist. For neurological emergencies, visit us at our animal neurology center or our emergency department.