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How Do I Know if My Cat Has Had a Stroke?

 
By Laura García Ortiz, Veterinarian specialized in feline medicine. January 11, 2022
How Do I Know if My Cat Has Had a Stroke?

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Strokes or cerebral vascular accidents (CVA) are rare in cats, but not impossible. When there is impaired blood flow in the brain tissue, there is a stroke. Strokes are caused by cerebral hemorrhage or by an interruption in blood flow due to a clot or a leak in the blood vessels.

The causes leading up to it can range from accidents or trauma to chronic or serious diseases. Symptoms of a stroke in cats can range from mild disorientation and confusion to blindness, head tilt, tremors, ataxia, and proprioceptive deficits. In the most severe cases, it may lead to death. Keeping your cat active and well cared for is essential to preventing this disease as well as regular checkups at the vet to detect the first signs of this disease.

In this AnimalWised article we explain what strokes in cats are, their symptoms, causes and treatment.

You may also be interested in: How to Detect the Symptoms of Stroke in Dogs

What is a stroke?

A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident, is caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain due to an interruption in cerebral blood flow or internal bleeding in the brain. This brain damage or change negatively affects proprioception, balance, consciousness, and sensory perception. The initial clinical signs of stroke in cats may be confused with those of other neurological problems.

Types of strokes in cats

Cats can suffer from three types of stroke:

  • Embolic stroke: It occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms outside but near the cerebral circulation, such as in the great vessels of the heart or neck, affecting the cerebral circulation.

  • Thrombotic stroke: occurs when a thrombus or blood clot forms in the cerebral bloodstream and interrupts proper blood flow to the brain.

  • Hemorrhagic stroke: occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain is damaged or bursts, causing the vessel to leak and interfering with the cerebral irrigation process.

Regardless of the type of stroke a cat suffers, the symptoms it develops depend on how much brain tissue is affected, how severely, and where it is located.

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Causes of strokes in cats

The causes for strokes in cats can be very varied, ranging from intoxications to systemic or organic diseases that interrupt irrigation because of clots. In many cases, however, no cause for the stroke can be identified.Among the main causes of stroke in cats are:

  • Hypertension

  • Increased blood coagulability

  • Kidney problems

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Liver disease

  • Intoxication

  • Heart disease

  • Intravascular tumors

  • Development of clots after surgery

If you notice that there is something off with your cat, don't miss our article on how to know if my cat is sick.

Symptoms of strokes in cats

In cats, stroke can be confused with other neurologic diseases because it manifests as a focal, acute, and non-progressive neurological deficit. However, cats affected by stroke sometimes develop symptoms very quickly, which distinguishes it from other conditions that may produce similar signs.

Symptoms are always acute or hyperacute and are usually associated with non convulsive asymmetric brain dysfunction and can range from mild disorientation to death. There may also be central blindness, ataxia, increased meowing, and proprioceptive deficits. Other less common symptoms also include anorexia, weakness, tremors, vomiting and twitching.The likelihood of having a stroke is greatest in cats between the ages of 8 and 15 years.

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Diagnosis of strokes in cats

Definitive diagnosis of stroke in cats requires magnetic resonance imaging, a form of modern diagnostic imaging. Nonetheless, simple prior tests such as a blood test and urinalysis are still necessary to diagnose an underlying disease that caused the stroke. An analysis of the ocular fundus may reveal bleeding in cats with coagulopathy or arterial hypertension.

A thorough history and physical and neurologic examination of the cat should always be performed to determine the cause and location of the problem.

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Treatment for strokes in cats

Take your cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect it is having a stroke. Make sure to provide the veterinarian with your cat's full medical history to help determine whether there are any underlying causes for the stroke. The sooner your cat receives medical attention, the better. There is no specific treatment for cats with stroke, and most are primarily supportive and symptomatic. For example, using oxygen therapy to promote healing of damaged brain tissue, or maintaining adequate hydration and nutrition.

In acute cases, mannitol is used to address the brain swelling and edema caused by the stroke. This fluid should be combined with hypertonic saline if cranial hypertension is suspected. The usual dose is 0.25-1g per kg intravenously. The dose should be administrated over 10-20 minutes every eight hours.

In order for the cat to recover and to prevent a relapse, it is imperative to treat the underlying disease that caused the stroke in the first place.

How Do I Know if My Cat Has Had a Stroke? - Treatment for strokes in cats

Recovery of strokes in cats

There are many cats that recover from stroke without permanent neurologic or behavioral sequelae. It is important to make sure that cats are eating, sleeping, and behaving normally so that any behavioral or neurological sequelae such as depression, irritability, and incoordination can be detected.

In rare cases, cats may develop irreversible brain damage with persistent symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life and lifespan. If the stroke recurs, the prognosis is usually much worse and may even be fatal. The latter is more likely with chronic diseases. Therefore, regular visits to the veterinary clinic are important to detect and prevent them.

After a stroke, things usually look worst for cats in the first 24 hours. However, remember that a full recovery is possible.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Do I Know if My Cat Has Had a Stroke?, we recommend you visit our Neurological diseases category.

Bibliography
  • Aybar, V., Casamián, D., Cerón, JJ, Clemente, F., Fatjó, J., Lloret, A., Luján, A., Novellas, R., Pérez, D., Silva, S., Smith , K., Tegles, F., Vega, J., Zanna, G. (2018). Clinical Manual of Feline Medicine . Ed.SM Publishing LTD. Sheffield, UK.

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