Although there is no way to be absolutely sure that dogs have headaches, they do suffer from the same illnesses that cause headaches in people including concussions.
They do seem to feel pain in the head region as well. Unfortunately, there is no diagnostic test that can confirm a headache and dogs cannot tell you that they have one. To make the matter even more complicated, most dogs do not express pain until it is quite severe and are much more likely to soldier through pain than a person is.
Headaches are caused by a variety of things including trauma or injury to the skull, high blood pressure, allergies and sinus congestion, and stress. They can also be a side effect of some medications. Signs that your dog may be suffering from a headache include a sudden preference for quiet, dark places such as closets, a lack of interest in play or interaction with people in a normally affectionate and playful animal, squinting in bright light, and a lack of appetite. Dogs may seek cool places to rest their head or rub it forcefully against objects and you in an attempt to rid themselves of the pain. Some dogs that don`t feel well become more clingy and keep themselves pressed against your side. Knowing what normal behaviour for your pet is can help you distinguish signs that they are in pain or distress.
Pain can make your pet much grouchier than usual. Dogs have no way of indicating that something you are doing is making the pain worse other than to vocalise or snap. When in pain, dogs, like people, may strike out and unintentionally injure those trying to assist them. Always be cautious when working with an animal in pain. Muzzles may be advisable even in dogs that would never normally require one.
Although there are many safe painkillers on the market, you should not attempt to administer any medication without consulting a veterinarian. If your dog’s condition worsens or fails to improve within a few hours you should book an appointment with your vet. While it may be something simple, conditions such as high blood pressure or injury could cause long term damage if left untreated.
In the case of trauma or injury, your dog can have a concussion. It can occur through a fall, injury during a fight, a blunt force injury such as running into or being hit by an object. Animals that have been hit by cars or are thrown about a vehicle when the car is an accident can also suffer serious head injuries. When riding in a car, your dog should always be secured in a crate or with a canine safety belt to help prevent injuries should the vehicle be in an accident. Concussions can be very serious and, depending on the severity of the injury, may also be accompanied by swelling of the brain, internal bleeding, bruising, lacerations, and fractures.
Symptoms of concussion include rigid or flaccid limbs, unusual eye movements, pupils of different sizes, bleeding from the ears or nose, disorientation, and seizures. If you suspect your dog may have suffered a head injury you should always bring him in to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Injuries to the skull can cause permanent brain damage and result in shock and death if left untreated. Your vet will likely want to do some x-rays, as well as conduct a physical and neurological examination on your pet.
In mild cases, he may prescribe a painkiller and advise you to keep your pet under observation with guidelines for expected improvement – usually within a few days. In more serious cases, your pet may be admitted for observation overnight. A severe concussion can take weeks and even months to heal and some damage may be permanent.
Although you may suspect that your dog has a headache, you should not undertake medical treatment without consulting your vet. Applying cool cloths may help some pets while others will prefer to be left alone. It should clear up within a few hours to overnight. A headache that lasts longer may be a sign of serious illness or condition such as high blood pressure and indicates that your pet should see a veterinarian. If you suspect any type of head injury, always bring your pet to the veterinarian’s immediately. Concussions range from mild to severe and can be accompanied by other serious issues such as cranial hemorrhaging or swelling. While a mild concussion may not require more than observation and something to relieve the pain, a more serious one can cause permanent brain damage. Always remember that your pet tends to hold off showing you he is in pain until it is quite severe, so take notice and access prompt treatment on those occasions.