Laser speckle contrast (LSC) was used to compare the extent of cortical ischemia in two inbred mouse strains that differed in their degree of collateral circulation, after laser occlusion of the distal middle cerebral artery, and after treatment with 25% albumin (ALB) or saline (control). Sequential LSC images acquired over ∼90 minutes were coaligned, converted to relative flow, and normalized to baseline. After 3-day survival, infarction was quantified by triphenyl tetrazolium chloride or magnetic resonance imaging. In the sparsely collateralized BALB/c strain, mean flow fell to 13% to 14% and 33% to 34% of baseline in central (core) and peripheral (penumbral) regions of interest, and ALB treatment at 30 minutes enhanced perfusion in both regions by ∼2-fold relative to saline, restoring flow to the benign-oligemic range centrally, and to the hyperemic range peripherally. The ALB-induced increment in parenchymal perfusion was disproportionate to the subtle flow increase in the occluded artery itself, suggesting that ALB improved collateral circulation. Cortical infarction in BALB/c mice was reduced 45% by ALB treatment. In contrast to BALB/c mice, the better-collateralized CD-1 strain developed milder ischemia, had smaller infarcts, and showed no differential benefit of ALB. We conclude that where native collateralization is insufficient (BALB/c strain), ALB treatment exerts a significant therapeutic effect after ischemia by augmenting collateral perfusion.