Anyone who gets headaches knows how debilitating they can be. While I don’t get them that often, I have wondered: do dogs get headaches? Does my pooch, Bentley, ever get them? I decided to do a little research on this.
Do dogs get headaches?
Yes, they do! In humans, the brain acts as an informer of pain within the body. We have nerves, muscles, and blood vessels covering our skulls, and when any of these swell or are constricted, we get a headache. Dogs have the same basic set up of nerves and blood vessels, and they also get headaches. Some vets even think that because of the extra strong olfactory receptors in canines, some strong scents can cause headaches.
How do I know if my dog has a headache?
There are certain tell-tale signs that something is not right with your pooch. While your dog may not display discomfort in the same way as humans do, he will still show some symptoms.
- Avoiding being touched on the head
- Lack of interest in food
- Disinterest in going out of the house
- Sunlight and bright light avoidance
- Pacing and licking more than normal
- Head kept low to the ground
- Napping more than usual
What causes my dog to have a headache?
Many of the reasons for a headache are similar to what humans have.
- Allergic reactions
- Excessive exercise (with too much movement of the head)
- Flu and colds
As with humans, most dog headaches go away by themselves, with rest and a darker room. However, if you find that your dog has more than his fair share of headaches, it may be worth a visit to the vet to make sure all is well with him.
The vet will examine the eyes to check pupil dilation. In severe cases, he will perform an MRI to show up any tumors.
It is worth remembering that the most common cause of a headache in your dog is allergies and not anything life-threatening.
How do we treat a dog’s headache?
- Allergy test. If your dog has frequent headaches, then your vet will want to try this first. The test will show anything that your dog is allergic to, and then you can avoid it.
- Cool and dark space. This is the best place for your dog if he has a headache.
- Leave his head alone. He is not going to want you to touch his head because it is sore.
- Keep the kids away. Just the same as when we want to be left alone, respect your pooch and let him have his own space.
- You can apply warm and cold compresses to his neck or back. If the vet has told you to do this, then adhere to the recommended dosage and times.
Typically, a headache in a dog will go away by itself in a half hour, although they can last longer, particularly if they are brought on by bright lights and loud sounds.
Your dog will let you know if he prefers to be left alone or be near you. Let him dictate what he needs at this time.
If you notice that your pooch gets more headaches than is normal, or that they take longer to go away, leaving him feeling unwell for much longer than about half an hour, you should have him checked out by your vet in case there is another reason for him not being his usual, bubbly self.
To sum up
The main difference between human and canine headaches is that we can express our discomfort and ask for pain relief. Your dog will tell you in other ways that he is in pain. He may continuously rub his head on the ground or furniture. He may want to hide away under the bed where it is dark and quiet.
Any apparent changes in his eating patterns or unwillingness to reach down to food bowls may be the sign of a headache. Bending his head forward will increase the pain.
So, the best way to handle a headache in your furry friend is to put yourself in his place and leave him alone to recover in his own time. Pretty soon he will be up and running again.