This is a very common question I am asked when treating physiotherapy patients at Dogs In Motion.
The answer to this question is indeed ‘yes’ however dogs do not have strokes as humans do. The normal causes of a stroke in people – high blood pressure or high stress levels – are much less common in dogs. Hence, strokes are much more rare occurrences in dogs than humans. The most common cause of stroke in dogs is the interruption of oxygen delivery to brain tissue. This can be also due to some underlying medical condition.
Diagnosis of stroke in dogs is often more difficult than in humans as signs are less obvious and symptoms are not stroke specific and this can be also due to a number of neurological conditions. For example one might expect some degree of paralysis in a dog post-stoke however this may not be the case. A dog may instead present with, for example, a head tilt which has a number of differential diagnoses. Definitive diagnosis requires detailed imaging of the brain such as MRI or CT scan. Recently vets have become more aware of the phenomenon of the canine stroke however due to the non-specific nature of symptoms it is possibly still under diagnosed.
When there’s a diagnosis of stroke confirmed, then rehabilitation should commence as soon as the dog is medically stable. The aims of physiotherapy for a dog following a stroke are similar to those of a human patient. We are aiming to speed recovery of mobility and function. This is done through a variety of physiotherapy treatment techniques specific to each individual pet’s needs.
After a thorough assessment by the pet’s animal physiotherapist, and a treatment plan devised. Treatment techniques may include re-education of normal movements such as lying to sitting, sitting to standing, standing to sitting, and gait re-education. Balance and proprioception re-training may be required to restore normal balance and mobility. Strengthening of weak muscles is also necessary. Assistive devices such as harnesses, wheelchairs, protective boots and bedding are essential to assist during recovery.
Hydrotherapy such as assisted swimming or walking in the underwater treadmill can be extremely beneficial to speeding recovery.
At dogs in motion, we specialise in neurological rehabilitation and can certainly help pets that may have had a stroke, return to function more quickly.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about strokes in dogs and their treatment.