In dogs, some causes of “acute stroke” are really benign causes like old dog vestibular disease. In severe cases, it might be because of deadly causes like a brain tumor. The causes of “acute stroke” in felines are not often benign as compared to dogs, and are frequently due to underlying disease.
Does Cat Have Stroke or Heart Attack?
A stroke is the sudden and severe rupture, blockage or other compromise of a blood vessel in the brain that deprives the brain of its normal blood supply, triggering insufficient oxygen delivery which in turn results in loss of awareness, paralysis and maybe other symptoms relying on the site and extent of mental retardation. Strokes, medically described as infarcts or feline ischemic encephalopathy (FIE), are unusual in cats. When they do happen, they tend to be focal rather than generalized in nature.
It’s frightening to see your feline all of a sudden not have the ability to walk, look intoxicated, fall over to his/her side, have a head tilt, or act neurologically unsuitable (e.g., seizure). Other signs that look like “intense strokes” in cats consist of:
- sudden imbalance
- tipping over to the side
- not having the ability to walk
- inappetance (who wishes to eat when they are sickened?)
- rolling or circling to one side
- nystagmus (unusual eye motion)
When this happens, there are four primary causes:
- an ischemic event secondary to hypertension
- a life-threatening blood clot called a “saddle thrombus”
- vestibular disease
- a brain tumor
In older cats, secondary hypertension (hypertension) might be an outcome of chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), or even cardiac disease. With uncontrolled hypertension (to puts it simply, if it wasn’t previously diagnosed or isn’t responding to high blood pressure medication called “Norvasc,” or amlodipine), a severe ischemic event can occur. This means that absence of blood circulation occurs in an area (normally in the brain or spinal cord), and results in neurologic problems. Fortunately, ischemic occasions often react well to symptomatic encouraging care and anti-hypertensive high blood pressure medications. Nevertheless, these ischemic events can leave long-term neurologic problems in your feline like wobbliness, a head tilt, and so on.
The 2nd cause may be because of an embolism (frequently called a “saddle thrombus”). This is generally due to severe heart disease, and might result in severe pain. Due to the complexity of this disease, which usually has a bad prognosis, I’ll cover it in a separate blog site.
The 3rd cause is similar to old dog vestibular disease in dogs. While cats rarely get severe vestibular disease (like a ringing in the ears in people), it can happen acutely for several factors: from ear infections; from a tumor in the ear; from sticking a Q-tip too far down in your feline’s ear; cleaning your cat’s ear with liquid ear medications; from old injury or underlying metabolic problems; or just merely for no factor at all (we call this reason idiopathic vestibular disease in cats, which is an elegant method of stating that we have no concept what triggered it!).
Finally, underlying cancer or infections in the brain or spinal cord can cause these signs. When in doubt, a CT or MRI may be essential to diagnose what’s going on. However before potentially euthanizing for an “acute stroke,” ensure to check with a veterinarian. Basic tests like a high blood pressure, thyroid level, kidney test, and chest x-rays are a great place to start to help rule out some of the more benign versus malignant causes.
Also read: Hydrocephalus in Cats and Dogs