Do dogs get headaches

Do Dogs Get Headaches?

If you are prone to headaches, you will know the inconvenience, awkwardness and outright pain that these bring along with them.  While commonly misconstrued as a small issue that will go away on its own, many a doctor will tell you just how disabling headaches can be. Imagine then, how it must feel to have this pain but not be able to convey what the issue is to your human.

For those owners who have noticed some unusual symptoms from their pups, you would be right to consider whether your dog is suffering from headaches or even migraines. So, do dogs get headaches? Read on to find out the most up-to-date theories concerning dog headaches.

sleepy labrador puppy dog

Can Dogs Get Headaches?

Because there are no tests that can be done to diagnose migraines, beyond a first-person point of view of what they are feeling, there is no definitive way to say whether dogs can get headaches. However, as anybody with a non-physical or non-presenting illness will tell you; just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

What we do have, are behaviors and symptoms that can indicate pain and where the pain is localized. In the same way that you may be able to tell if your pup has a problem with his or her paw, by their licking of their pads, or the way they try to avoid stepping on their paw which might exacerbate the problem, we can see whether dogs feel pain akin to headaches. This means that, even when there is no concrete evidence to suggest your dog is suffering from a headache, we can infer the problem by their body language and our own sense of empathy.

While there is nothing to outright suggest pain in the skull or similar, we can still see that there is an issue, either akin to a headache or a headache itself. This belief in universal in nearly all vets and, as such, vets are trained to handle headaches in all animals- not just dogs. This belief is upheld when we consider that many of the treatments which are geared toward curing headaches have worked- which they undoubtedly would not have done, were the issue not a headache in the first place.

In fact, many physical issues in dogs have been brought to the attention of vets by treating a headache as a symptom of a larger issue, causing them to investigate many lines of treatment in the same way a doctor would look to cure us humans of chronic headaches. This has led to successful diagnoses and treatments and everything from cancerous tumors to concussions.

In short, it is agreed by many vets that dogs can indeed get headaches- and they use these headaches to successfully treat and work with many dogs who have suffered from symptoms of headaches. This can be either as a standalone issue, or as part of a larger problem which is investigated and treated.

Symptoms Of Headaches

You might recognize some symptoms of headaches from your own experience with this nasty illness, such as wanting to be alone or becoming distressed. Of course, these are not all-encompassing as headaches can present in a number of ways and in a number of areas around the skull. That said, the majority of professionals agree that symptoms of headaches in dogs are likely to include:

  • Sensitivity to light

Often caused by migraines, these are a clear sign of headaches in dogs, provided any ocular issues have been ruled out.

  • Avoidance

An avoidance of being pet by owners and strangers alike, as your pet will likely want to be alone as they are in pain and stressed. This is a common symptom of any pain, so can easily be attributed to headaches when there is no visible, physical reason for this behavior.

  • Anxiety

This is shown through their behavior, such as pacing, drooling or hiding. If this is occurring when there is no reason for your dog to be behaving so anxiously, it could be due to an unseen issue such as suffering from a headache.

  • Frequent napping

This is a go-to technique for dogs who are in pain, as they often try to “wait out” the painful period by sleeping through the pain. If you’ve noticed your dog napping more frequently, even though their mental and physical stimulation as remained the same, it could be a sign that your dog is suffering from headaches.

  • Disinterest in food

As you can imagine, a dog that is in pain is less likely to have an interest in food. This could be especially true during headaches, as the pressure caused by the chewing and the sound and vibrations that chewing causes around the skull can exacerbate the pain.

  • Walking with their head low

This could be your dog’s way of trying to lessen their anguish, but this particular stance is frequently a sign of severe pain. This can be a sign of pressure around the neck, not too dissimilar to our own stress headaches which appear at the base of the skull.

As you can probably tell, these symptoms can clearly indicate that something is wrong with your pup- but there is no way of knowing that these are directly linked to headaches unless everything else has been eliminated first. Because so many of these symptoms are linked to more sinister problems, it is vitally important that you take your dog to the vet if you notice any of these- especially if they are occuring more regularly.

Beagle puppy

Reasons Dog Get Headaches

Just like us humans, the reasons why your dog may be suffering from headaches can vary immensely but some of the most common causes for pain and headaches in dogs include:

  • Trauma

Naturally, any broken bones can cause pressure which, in turn, can create intense headaches. If your pup has recently suffered from any trauma to the head or neck, you should take them to a vet immediately to rule out any serious problems.

  • Hormonal/chemical imbalances

An excess of any specific hormone can cause head pains in any animals. It can also be related to problems relating to the kidney, liver, stomach and brain, all of which can release chemicals which can affect both the brain itself and pain receptors, leading to headaches.

  • Dental problems

Since the teeth are home to an abundance of nerve endings, and directly connected to the jaw and skull, dental issues can be a common cause of headaches in dogs.

Related Post: Best Dog Toothpaste and Best Dog Toothbrushes

  • Exposure to external chemicals

If your dog has likely eaten a plant or animal that has been in contact with chemicals such as pesticides, they may suffer from headaches as part of a larger array of symptoms. They can also suffer headaches from exposure to carbon monoxide, MSG and a high concentrate of nitrates or similar chemicals.

These are just some of the reasons as to why dogs may get headaches and there are many more out there which are symptoms of larger issues such as tumors or even something as simple as stress. As you can probably tell by now, the only way to get a definite answer as to why your dog may be suffering from headaches is to make an appointment with your local vet, who will be able to perform some basic tests and give you a proper diagnosis.

What Can I Give My Dog For A Headache?

Dog headache treatments vary as widely as the symptoms and causes, as there are so many reasons as to why your dog may be suffering from headaches and therefore so many different ways in which to treat these issues. That said, no matter the cause, if your dog has been diagnosed with headaches or your vet thinks that your pup may be suffering from headaches as part of a larger problem, there are a few things you can do to help.

First, it’s important that you respect your dog’s space. As you can imagine, being overly petted or fussed when in pain is not ideal and can cause your dog to become more stressed, which may worsen their headache or even cause them to become aggressive. In particular, you should avoid stroking their head, especially if the headache is caused by trauma or some kind of internal pressure, as you can cause your dog even greater pain.

Next, follow the advice of your vet closely, giving your dog pain killers as when they have been prescribed and ensuring that their medicine can work effectively. If you have been given the OK by your vet, use a hot or cold compress at the base of your dog’s neck, which can help draw away blood from the head and relieve some of the pressure your dog may be feeling.

Sick ill sleeping dog

You can also help your pooch by giving them a cool, dark space for them to hide away from the world. Giving them a quiet place to rest is the best way to help them get better, faster- which is what we all want, after all.

Take a look at our guide on Comfy Beds for Dogs.

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  1. Patty Khuly, DVM, How to Know if Your Pet’s Got a Headache, PetMD
  2. Dr. Patty Khuly, VMD, 7 Most Overlooked Aches and Pains in Dogs, VetStreet
Wendy Young

A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.

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Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.