It’s pretty common for us humans to get headaches sometimes. But have you ever wondered, "Do dogs get headaches too?" And if they do, what are the symptoms, causes, and treatment options?
In a 2013 review by National Library of Medicine, there is evidence that suggests the occurrence of migraines in dogs, with episodes that closely resemble human migraines.
Similarly, veterinarians agree that headaches in dogs are possible, although diagnosis is not that simple. Unlike us humans, who can tell when we’re having a headache and what it feels like, dogs aren’t able to tell us. What we can do, however, is look out for symptoms and behavioral changes in our dog that may signal a headache.
Signs of Headache in Dogs
There are many health conditions that humans experience that dogs may also be susceptible to. While it’s possible for dogs to get headaches, the symptoms may overlap with those of many other health conditions that dogs may have. Among these signs and symptoms are:
- Sensitivity or pain upon touching their head or neck;
- Being sensitive to bright lights;
- Pressing their heads;
- Shivering and afraid.
Note that the symptoms alone do not conclusively prove that your dog has a headache, as these are general symptoms. However, if you notice any of the symptoms or if your dog is acting weird, it is essential to consult with a vet to determine what is causing it.
Another challenge lies in the fact that research regarding headaches in dogs is sparse. However, one of the few is the 2013 review by National Library of Medicine, which presented evidence of migraine-like episodic pain behaviors in dogs. In the study, it was observed by the owner that the dog would become silent, afraid, and hesitant to interact with anybody.
Also during this time, the dog showed symptoms of discomfort and pain, such as refusing food or water, vocalizing, and having a low head carriage. The dog would stay quiet for about a couple of days before returning to its normal condition and behavior.
The dog’s migraine-like episodes would happen out of the blue, without obvious external factors or events preceding the symptoms. On the other hand, dogs may also be sensitive to the things that usually trigger migraines in humans, such as bright lights, loud noises, and strong odors.
Nevertheless, since dogs aren’t able to speak, it makes it harder to diagnose headaches in dogs. In addition to this, there is a lack of biological tests that can specifically pinpoint headache disorders.
One way to monitor if your dog is exhibiting symptoms of a headache or any other condition is by using a good-quality camera such as the Petcube Cam.
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Causes of Headaches in Dogs
Because of the challenges in research concerning headaches in dogs, we can try to infer them from the known causes of human headaches. Headaches in humans can be divided into 2 types: primary or secondary.
These are caused by too much activity or problems with the nerves and blood vessels in the head. For example, when the blood vessels are swollen, this may cause pain. Primary headache examples include tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, chronic daily headaches, and headaches caused by alcohol or certain foods.
These are caused by an underlying condition. Some examples are headaches that are secondary to the following conditions: ear/sinus/dental infection, dehydration, hypertension, fever, glaucoma, inflammation of the brain, head trauma, toxoplasmosis, certain medications, strokes, brain tumors/blood clots, or aneurisms. With dogs, for example, an ear/sinus infection or dental disease may cause pain or sensitivity in the head.
There’s a study by National Library of Medicine that found that dogs with head injuries showed signs of lethargy, pain, loss of appetite, and irritability. These are similar to the symptoms of headaches in humans.
Another study found that dogs that have chronic illnesses such as cancer and arthritis often show signs such as facial rubbing, head shaking, and ear scratching, which may indicate pain in their heads.
Encephalitis, or brain inflammation, occurs in both humans and dogs, and how dogs are able to respond to medications used for headache treatment in people is an indication that dogs may get headaches too. Without conclusive evidence, however, veterinarians currently use a combination of research on human disease as well as clinical observations to help diagnose and recommend treatment for dogs.
How to Treat Dog Headaches
"What can I give my dog for pain that seems to be caused by a headache?" you might ask. Remember how important it is not to medicate your dog without consulting with a veterinarian first. Never assume that your dog has a headache without a proper diagnosis.
Also, note that non-steroidal medications like Naproxen and Ibuprofen are toxic to dogs and can lead to serious health complications. Meanwhile, acetaminophen shouldn’t be given without a veterinarian’s recommendation since there are other, more safe and effective medications.
If you suspect that your dog is having a headache, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian so they can make a proper diagnosis and recommend treatment options. Since some symptoms may be secondary, it is essential to treat the primary condition as well.
In the case of emergencies, it would help to have the support that you and your pet most truly need. Services such as the Pet Emergency Fund by Petcube provide all that and more.
The best alternative to pet insurance is that you get $3000 in an emergency for all your pets for less than $1 a day, with fast coverage payments to the vet clinic at the time of the emergency. Not to mention, you also get access to an Online Vet service that allows you to consult with certified veterinarians 24/7.
To prevent health conditions such as headaches as well as the conditions that may cause headaches in dogs, regular veterinary checkups are highly recommended. That way, any health issue may be detected early and treated successfully.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight may also help in managing any symptoms that may come with a headache. On hot days, make sure that your dog doesn’t overheat and that they have access to fresh water to prevent dehydration. Do also check on your dog’s collar and harness to make sure that it fits well without putting unnecessary pressure on the neck and spine.
My dog is hiding and acting strange. Should I be worried?
It’s hard to determine the exact cause of why your dog may be hiding and acting strange. This is why it is important to have them checked by the veterinarian. Among the possible causes are injury, illness, anxiety, fear, pain, or aging.
Why is my dog’s head hot?
There are several possible reasons why your dog’s head may feel hot. These include fever and being in a warm environment, among others. If you are concerned, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian.
Can I give my dog aspirin for pain?
It isn’t recommended unless prescribed by your veterinarian. While it can be used in some cases to relieve pain in dogs, it can have serious side effects. Dosage would also depend on factors such as your dog’s medical history, weight, age, etc. As a precaution, you should consult with a veterinarian first before giving any medication.
Can dogs get a concussion?
Yes, dogs can get a concussion when the brain is shaken inside the skull, which may be caused by getting hit in the head or getting into a car accident. Among the symptoms of a concussion are disorientation, lethargy, seizures, vomiting, and loss of balance. If you suspect your dog of having a concussion or if they exhibit any symptoms, it is important to bring them to the vet immediately.
What dog head injury symptoms should I be aware of?
Among the symptoms are: seizures, unconsciousness, lethargy, changes in behavior, vomiting, nausea, disorientation, uneven or dilated pupils, loss of balance, and discharge from the nose or ears. Do note that some symptoms don’t immediately appear. If you suspect your dog of having a head injury, it is very important to bring them to the vet immediately.
What does it mean if a dog is sleeping all day?
It’s normal for dogs to sleep for long periods, especially as they get older. However, if they suddenly sleep more often than normal, this may indicate a health condition. If so, it is best to consult with a veterinarian.
While there is limited scientific research to conclude headaches in dogs, a few studies suggest that dogs do exhibit symptoms that indicate having headaches. Such symptoms, however, often overlap with those of other conditions. In any case, if you suspect your dog of having a headache or if they exhibit any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, it is best to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
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