Do cats have strokes?

Our feline companions can develop health concerns that occur in humans. One of these health concerns is stroke. It was once thought that stroke does not develop in cats but recent diagnostic tests have verified that cats can have strokes. We know how debilitating a stroke can be. Just as with humans, a cat suffering from stroke would need immediate medical attention.

Stroke in cats is medically referred to as feline ischemic encephalopathy (FIE) or infarcts. Stroke is a debilitating disease. It is fortunate that this health concern is not very common in cats. A stroke is the common term for a condition where the function of a blood vessel in the brain is compromised thereby depriving the brain of its normal amount of blood supply. Insufficient blood supply to the brain will also cause inadequate supply of oxygen. There are two types of strokes. Ischemic stroke develops when normal blood flow to the brain is disrupted. Insufficient blood supply consequently results to inadequate supply of oxygen that will hamper the normal functioning of the brain. Ischemic stroke can be due to thrombosis or the narrowing of an artery or to embolism, a condition where the artery is totally blocked. This type of stroke is usually associated with other health concerns like a heart or kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes and Cushing’s disease. This type of stroke can be an effect of abnormally functioning thyroid glands. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood leaks into the brain. Hemorrhage inside the brain can occur if a blood vessel bursts because of head trauma or because of a bleeding tumor. This type of stroke can also develop if a disease or the ingestion of a toxic substance has interfered with the clotting property of the blood. This condition can occur in cats with congenital blood clotting disease. Abnormally developed blood vessels or the inflammation of the arteries are contributory factors in a stroke. Cats can also have idiopathic stroke where the definitive cause of the stroke is not diagnosed.

A stroke can affect cats of any breed, age and gender. It is quite interesting to note that cases of stokes usually develop during the summer months and that the incidence of this health concern is higher in outdoor cats. Symptoms and effects of feline strokes are different from the symptoms of stroke in humans as such it was once believed that this health concern does not occur in cats. Feline stroke causes an affected cat to have varying degrees of cerebral dysfunction. The depressed cat would have uncoordinated movements so that it would be noticed to circle uncontrollably leaning towards the side where the cerebral lesion has developed. Loss of balance will cause the cat to fall and to be confused. Stroke would affect the cat’s vision so that temporary blindness can occur. Behavioral changes will be noticed as well. Affected cat would manifest aggression. Unusual inclination to vocalize is another symptom of feline stroke.

To enhance the chance of full recovery, treatment for feline stroke must be administered immediately. Treatment protocol would depend on the cause of the stroke. Basing on the symptoms shown by the affected cat, the vet would suspect stroke but diagnostic tests like MRI and CT scan would have to be conducted to get a definite diagnosis. These images will verify the presence of lesions or tumors in the cat’s brain. A sample of the cat’s spinal fluid will be taken to verify if there is brain inflammation. Treatment would depend on the cause of the stroke thus there is no particular treatment for this condition. Intravenous fluids may be necessary to keep the pet hydrated. A cat that has suffered a stroke will require intensive nursing care. The beddings have to be replaced more frequently. The cat has to be turned every now and then to prevent sores from developing.