Identifying stroke, a serious vascular condition, can sometimes be difficult because its neurologic symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases in older cats. However, if stroke is diagnosed and treated promptly within the first few hours (<12 hours) after the first signs appear, and if it is not fatal, appropriate treatments can help recover some brain function in your senior cat. This early management can also help limit potential sequelae that could affect his comfort, well-being and quality of life.
How does stroke affect cats?
Cats can suffer strokes, which can be either hemorrhagic (caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, resulting in hemorrhage) or ischemic (caused by the blockage of a blood vessel, resulting in a shortage of blood to a part of the brain). Strokes in cats can result in loss of certain functions, such as vision, consciousness, limb coordination and balance.
It is crucial to pay attention and recognize the early signs associated with stroke in cats. This can help prevent potential health problems, seizures and also identify vestibular disease. If symptoms suggestive of a stroke occur, it is essential to take your cat to an emergency veterinarian immediately for proper treatment and care.
Here are some symptoms to watch for that may indicate a stroke in cats:
- Changes in behavior, alertness or awareness (your cat may appear disoriented and not respond to your calls)
- Sense disorders such as loss of smell, sight (blindness) or hearing
- Motor or balance problems, which can lead to falls
- Postural changes such as head tilt, paralysis or tremors
- Eye changes, such as dilation of the pupil of the eye or rapid movement of the eye from left to right, lack of blink reflex when something approaches
- Seizures, which may go unnoticed in your absence or be very short.
The sudden onset of a stroke can be shocking, so it is important to describe the observed symptoms to the veterinary assistant by phone, even if you are already on your way to the veterinary clinic. This will allow for a better assessment of the urgency of the stroke and more appropriate management. In general, within 12 to 24 hours of the onset of the first symptoms, the clinical signs of stroke will not worsen.
How will your cat's life be affected after a stroke?
After the emergency treatment has been implemented, including oxygen therapy, reduction of cerebral edema, and administration of various medications to facilitate blood flow, it is essential to perform an extension workup and evaluate the causes of the stroke before being able to prognosticate the recovery of your cat's brain function.
If the underlying diseases that caused the stroke are not treated, your cat's health could deteriorate, reducing the chances of gradual recovery of certain neurological functions. This could lead to recurrence and irreversible damage, which could have a significant impact on your cat's life.
After receiving the appropriate treatment at the veterinarian's office, your cat will need to be cared for with special attention when she returns home. Recovery may take time, but it is possible if you provide the necessary care and are patient. Make sure your cat stays inside your home, in a room he or she is familiar with, to avoid the risk of falls or unexpected encounters. You'll need to help her get to her food bowl and litter box, and offer her your loving support. Your cat will then be able to overcome the daily difficulties thanks to your vigilance and your benevolence.
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