If you think your cat has had a stroke, chances are it’s less severe than in humans, and they tend to be localized. While both male and female felines can have a stroke, they are not all that common and most occur in outdoor cats that are subject to trauma, parasites, and toxins like rodenticides, pest control chemicals intended to kill rodents..
When a cat has had a stroke, the biological causes are the same as for humans. The blood supply to the brain is interrupted. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted, often caused by a clot or other disruption to a major artery leading to the brain. The oxygen level is momentarily cut off, causing the stroke, and ensuring brain damage.
The hemorrhagic stroke is triggered by a vein bursting in the cat’s head. Depending upon the part of the brain affected will determine the symptoms and ensuring therapies needed for recovery.
Causes vary if a cat has had a stroke
The causes of cat stroke vary from brain injury to an accident or poisoning. A stroke may be a side-effect of an existing medical condition such as diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, chronic renal failure, hyperadrenocorticism, liver disease and internal parasitic infections that result in the migration of larvae into the middle cerebral artery.
However, their symptoms are different from humans, so much so that for years it was assumed that cats did not suffer from strokes. . According to petinfo.com, if the cat tilts its head to one side, and has difficulties moving his head to the other side, it’s symptomatic of a stroke. But unlike in humans, the symptoms do not intensify after 24 hours.
A stroke can also cause one of the pupils of the eyes to be more dilated than the other.
Other signs can include one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of Balance. The cat quickly loses balance quickly, falls or walks in circles
- Ataxia. The cat looses the ability to coordinate his muscles, stumbling from side to side and unable to perform ordinary tasks like eating, walking, jumping, running.
- Confusion. The cat is not totally aware of his surroundings which is not characteristic of a healthy cat. The cat may get confused and be unable to find his way around familiar surroundings.
- Behavior Changes. The cat may seek more or less affection, be apathetic and lethargic, sleeping more.
- Lack of Energy. Activities that normally attracted the cat’s attention are now ignored.
- Loss of appetite. The cat is not interested in food. This can be caused by the ensuring confusion or nausea and could persist up to a few days.
- Weight loss. Lack of appetite, nausea or even vomiting can cause the cat not to eat and thus lose weight.
PetWave.com has some relatively extensive information about strokes and cats. Their site says to also look for depression, disorientation, uncontrollable circling, seizures, blindness, aggression, vocalization and/or other signs of altered state of mind.
Indoor cats are much less likely to suffer a stroke than outdoor cats, mostly because they are not so likely to encounter trauma, rodenticides, or botflies (Cuterebra) a cause of the aberrant larval migration.
PetWave.com states most feline strokes are diagnosed during the summer in the northeastern United States or in southeastern Canada.
It wasn’t so long ago that it was thought that cats did not experience strokes. As modern veterinary medicine develops more advanced technology, strokes are increasingly being diagnosed in cats
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If you think your cat has had a stroke, go to the vet or emergency clinic immediately. The veterinarian most likely will take a blood sample for a complete blood count, serum biochemistry profile, urinalysis, or x-rays to reveal what caused the stroke. The best way to accurately diagnose a stroke in cats is through a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which may only be available at larger emergency veterinarian clinics or teaching hospitals. That may require you to transport the cat to another facility for the best prognosis. These imaging tests will determine what area of the brain was affected allowing the veterinarian to prescribe the best physical therapy to help the cat get back to himself as soon as possible.
The goals of therapy include minimizing brain swelling and associated tissue damage, treating the underlying cause of the stroke , and rehabilitating the cat’s cognitive and physical abilities. PetWave.com states most cats will return to normal within two to three-week, but it may take longer. While a recurrence is rare, it can happen. And while most cats make a full recovery, permanent disability is a possibility.
I for one know a number of people who have had strokes, and the road to recovery can be brutal, gaining from 100 percent to none of the abilities they had prior to the stroke. It’s distressing to learn that cats can have strokes, as well. If you have a story about a cat that’s had a stroke, please share by posting here.