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Dr. Drew
Dr. Drew, Veterinarian
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Experience:  Small Animal Medicine and Surgery
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Can a dog have a stroke MY Golden Retrievers head is cocked

Customer Question

Can a dog have a stroke? MY Golden Retriever's head is cocked to one side and he can't walk, we had to carry him outside to go to the bathroom
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
Are his eyes rapidly moving from side to side? Are his ears painful or smelly?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No , not really I just went to look, he does have a tumor on the side of his neck, and when you try to move it, he cries out in pain, It started only like 2 days ago, he started limping, which he always does, always jumping or stepping on something, So I started giving him aspirin, today he cant get up, we had to carry him outside to go to the bathroom, hes very shakey standing, then he lies right back down again, but hes eating and drinking and going to the bathroom.
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
Was this tumor every checked by your veterinarian? Is he limping on the same leg as he always does?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
The tumor was checked by the vet, said hes getting old and they get tumors, but it never bothered him before, the leg, hes been limping on for a couple of days now. Last week he had the same symptoms, then they seemed to get better and now its back, but much worse.
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
So he has the head tilt last week also, is that correct? Did he require any treatment last week?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No medical attention, it went away in a day or two, he was limping but was able to walk, now he cannot walk, he can stand for a short time, shakey, then has to lay down, hes been down all day now. Im afraid to wake up tomorrow morning. You see, we're so used to him getting hurt, hes always jumping on the gate or on the rocks, so we're used to him limping, and last week i thought he just had a stiff neck, then they both went away, but today is really bad.
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
OK, thanks for the information.

There's a couple of possible explanations here -- I suspect either geriatric vestibular disease, or a "stroke" as you suggested, or possibly severe muscle spasms.

Geriatric vestibular disease is a problem common in older dogs, usually large-breed but not always. We don't really know why it happens in most cases, but it is thought to be an condition in the balance apparatus of the brain, and results in "vertigo" so that the dog doesn't have proper balance.

A stroke, or a disturbance in blood flow to the brain, is a possibility here, though we really don't have a good way to diagnose it, or predict the prognosis at all.

Muscle spasms in the neck could contort the head as you describe, and even contribute to limping / lameness as you have described. A muscle relaxant might be an option to try if nothing else seems to be of help.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I can give him a muscle relaxer if its spasms, but if it is a stroke, then what do i do? just try muscle relaxers for a few days first? I dont know what to do!!
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
A stroke has no real treatment, just time and supportive care may help the problem.

Vestibular disease also has no specific treatment, just supportive care.

Muscle relaxants should be obtained from your veterinarian, since many human drugs are not safe for dogs.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok, thank you for you time and answers, but one more question, if it was a stroke, he wouldn't be able to stand at all, correct? Because when we carried him out to go to the bathroom, he stood while he urinated and pooped, then he layed down immediately, so Im going towards muscle spasms more so, im hoping anyway. So theres no sense in taking him to the vet except for muscle relaxants?
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
Just like in people, strokes will have different symptoms in different patients, depending on how large of an area of the brain was affected. Some human stroke victims only have speech impediments, others can barely function at all.

I think it's worthwhile to have your veterinarian examine him to determine if there's a need for pain medication or other treatment -- I can't actually examine your dog over the internet so it's important not to use my information as a replacement for veterinary medical advice based on examining your pet!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
So take him to the vet anyway, you sound more like your leaning towards a stroke, Ok, then I will, thank you again, I know you cant examine him, but I was just hoping by what i told you that it was muscle spasms, thats easier to live with, and deal with. Have you ever seen a dog with a stroke, is it the same symptoms?
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
We often suspect strokes in dogs with ongoing neurologic issues, but other possibilities exist, such as brain or spine tumors, meningitis, etc. The symptoms can vary from dog to dog, so I would really say that a proper neurologic exam is important in this situation.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

The tumor is under his neck, not in his head, and he never had any neurologic issues before, why do you say he has neurologic issues, not that Im not taking him him to the vet, i am, just why are you suggesting they're neurologic issues?

Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
Inability to walk and a head tilt are, by definition, possible neurologic issues. WIthout examining him it is impossible to know if these problems are caused by a neurologic problem or by a muscular / skeletal problem. This is why an examination is so important.

Just because there's a tumor on his neck, doesn't mean there can't be a tumor somewhere else that can't be seen or felt. Again, this is why an exam becomes so crucial.
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Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16574
Experience: Small Animal Medicine and Surgery
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok thank you very much for your time and patience, I know Im a pain when it comes to questions, but I've been sick all day thinking I had to put him to sleep tomorrow. Oh, I didnt know that, si I will take him to the vet tomorrow, thank you again for your help.
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 5 years ago.
I know it must be so worrisome, my thoughts are certainly with you. Hopefully your vet will have some helpful options for you in the morning. Best Wishes :)

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Dr. Drew
Dr. Drew
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Small Animal Medicine and Surgery