Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) in Cats

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Last updated on
4 min read

Key takeaways

A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident, in cats refers to a disruption of blood flow within the brain, preventing oxygen delivery to the tissue.

  • Broad categories of causes are ischemia or hemorrhage
  • Common symptoms include abnormal head position, abnormal eye movements, incoordination, and altered mentation
  • A complete neurological exam, blood work, urinalysis, and blood pressure are initially performed
  • Definitive diagnosis often a specialist for advanced diagnostics such as a CT scan or cerebral spinal fluid sampling
  • Treatment consists of nursing care such as IV fluids, a feeding tube, and oxygen supplementation if needed
  • Medications to decrease intracranial pressure and treatment of any underlying disease processes are imperative
  • Prognosis varies widely based on any underlying disease processes present as well as size and area of the brain affected
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A closer look: Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) in Cats

Causes of stroke are generally divided into ischemic or hemorrhagic causes. Ischemia is defined as a diminished or lack of blood flow, usually caused by a blood clot within the brain. Hemorrhagic events happen when blood leaks out of a vessel and compresses brain tissue, preventing normal blood flow. Without adequate oxygen, neurons within the brain die and no longer control bodily functions appropriately.

Strokes are rare, but are the most common type of cerebrovascular disease in cats.

Risk factors

No breed or sex predisposition has been documented, but strokes occur more frequently in cats eight years of age and older. Old age predisposition is related to the underlying disease processes that are associated with the ischemic or hemorrhagic events. Cats showing symptoms of stroke require immediate veterinary care to reduce permanent brain damage.

Symptoms vary depending on which area of the brain is affected, how much of the brain is affected, and duration of the CVA prior to treatment.

Possible causes

Any event that disrupts blood flow, and therefore oxygenation of the brain, can cause a stroke. Causes of stroke are generally divided into ischemic or hemorrhagic causes.

Amyloidosis and traumatic injury are associated with both types of CVAs.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics to differentiate a CVA from other causes of neurological events include:

  • Physical examination
  • Neurological examination
  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis

Referral to a neurologist is often required for advanced diagnostics to confirm a diagnosis.

Steps to Recovery

Treatment consists of correcting the underlying disease process, if treatable, and medications to decrease intracranial pressure.

Supportive care can include:

  • IV fluids
  • Feeding tube placement
  • Physical therapy
  • Oxygen therapy

Symptoms tend to stabilize in 24-48 hours. Prognosis varies widely based on the underlying disease process and the area and size of the brain that is affected. In most cases, cats have a favorable prognosis, although some may have permanent neurologic deficits. Cats with underlying disease processes have a worse prognosis. In approximately 50% of cases no underlying cause can be found.


Routine exams and screening tests may catch underlying disease processes early enough to correct them before they cause a stroke.

Strokes are not contagious.

Is Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) in Cats common?

Feline strokes are rare, but they are the most common type of cerebrovascular disease.

Typical Treatment

Treatment consists of:

  • Medications to decrease intracranial pressure
  • Oxygenation in some cases
  • Nursing care such as feeding tubes, IV fluids therapy, and regular cleaning
  • Physical therapy

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