You’re probably familiar with that stabbing pain behind the eyes.
Or a general feeling of pressure inside your head.
Headaches take many different forms and they range from mild to severe. What you may not know is that your dog can experience headaches as well.
But why do dogs get headaches and how do you know if your dog has one?
In this article, we’ll cover the basics about headaches in dogs including what causes them, what the symptoms are, and how to treat them.
Let’s start with what causes headaches in dogs.
What Causes Headaches in Dogs?
If you think for a moment about what gives you a headache, you’ll probably mention things like stress or seasonal allergies.
While your dog might not experience stress in the same way you do, it can still be a contributing factor to the development of a headache. Other potential causes of headaches in dogs include the following:
- Sinus congestion
- Physical trauma to the head or neck
- Dental problems
- Allergies or strong odors/perfumes
- High blood pressure
- Side effect of medications
Sometimes the cause of your dog’s headache won’t be obvious, so take the time to look around and think about whether anything in your dog’s normal environment has changed recently. The more you are able to discover about the cause for your dog’s headache, the better your vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment.
Okay, so now you know what might cause your dog to develop a headache, but how do you know he has one? Next, we’ll cover the symptoms of headaches in dogs.
How Do You Know Your Dog Has a Headache?
Your dog is unable to speak directly to you, so he can’t tell you when his head hurts.
It’s up to you to detect changes in your dog’s behavior that might indicate a health problem, such as a headache. Veterinarians say that the signs and symptoms of headaches in dogs include the following:
- Increased sensitivity to light or sound
- Hyperactivity or restlessness
- Withdraws from touch, may avoid contact
- Ataxia, or loss of control over bodily movements
- Sweating or increased panting
- Lowered head position
- Changes in body language and posture
- Aggressive or irritable behavior
- Head shaking or tilting
- Not responding to sounds or commands
In addition to these behavioral signs, your dog might also press his head against the wall or furniture. You may also notice that his eyes are squinted and his brows furrowed – he may even blink more frequently or stare blankly into space.
It is also common for dogs to lose interest in playing when they have a headache.
Your dog might even refuse food and show no interest in going on a walk!
So, how do you treat headaches in dogs?
Tips for Treating Headache in Dogs
Your dog unable to verbally communicate his pain or discomfort, so you may not even realize it when he is sick or feeling unwell. You need to be careful with your dog if he is in pain, however, because some dogs can become aggressive when they are in pain.
What can you do to treat your dog’s headache, then?
The proper treatment for headache in dogs depends on the underlying cause.
For example, if your dog’s headache is caused by dental problems then you may need to schedule him for a dental cleaning. In some cases, surgical correction of severe dental problems may be warranted.
In cases where your dog’s headache is caused by trauma or physical injury, you may simply have to wait for him to heal. In the meantime, however, you can talk to your vet about prescription pain killers. Never give your dog pain killers or other medications without your vet’s approval.
Some other treatment options for headaches in dogs include chiropractic care, acupuncture, and homeopathic remedies.
Veterinary chiropractors are able to adjust your dog’s spine to relieve tension headache and migraines. This form of treatment has shown success rates between 28% and 90%, particularly in cases where severe trauma or physical injury is a factor.
Acupuncture is an Eastern tradition that you may be surprised to learn can be used on animals. The benefit of acupuncture for dogs is that it is non-invasive. Therapeutic massage can also sometimes help to relieve pain associated with headaches in dogs.
When it comes to homeopathic remedies for headache, you need to be very careful. There are plenty of natural herbs out there that can benefit your dog, but there are also some that can be toxic – you don’t want to make the mistake of giving your dog something that will harm him.
To learn about foods and other substances that are safe for your dog, check out our comprehensive guide to safe foods for dogs.
Still skeptical about headaches in dogs? If so, take a moment to read about this interesting case study:
Published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the Royal Veterinary College conducted a case study of a 5-year-old Cocker Spaniel who showed signs of migraine. The dog was a neutered female 5 years of age who was brought to the hospital with complaints of increased vocalization and fear behavior. The symptoms lasted between 2 and 4 hours in most cases, but some episodes had lasted up to 3 days. In addition to increased vocalization, the dog’s owner also reported abnormal behaviors like hiding, sensitivity to sound, and increased salivation.
What did the veterinarian do?
The vet first performed a physical exam on the dog and realized that the dog’s symptoms were consistent with symptom of migraine in humans. To test his theory, the vet administered a drug called topiramate – a drug used to treat headaches in humans.
What was the result?
As the dog kept taking the drug, her episodes became shorter and shorter until she had regained all of her normal behavior.
If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, you might want to consider taking him to the vet – especially if these episodes are becoming recurrent.