It’s likely you suffer from headaches from time to time. No-one enjoys them. As a responsible dog owner, you may wonder then, do dogs get headaches too? Find out more in this helpful post.
We all suffer from headaches from time to time. Whether it’s the very minor variety that just gives you that nagging kind of pain for a short amount of time or something more serious. You know the ones we mean. The ones where you either want to burrow away into your quilt and hide from the world or where you want to burrow your thumbs into your eyes!
Okay, so that might be a little extra, but it illustrates the point – no-one likes headaches. As dog owners though, it raises a very valid question, can dogs get headaches? While the simple answer is yes, they can. There are not too many studies that have been carried out to confirm the existence of doggy headaches, but many vets agree that dogs are capable of suffering from headaches.
What Causes Them?
In order to understand the cause of headaches in dogs, you need to first understand a little about how and why we get them.
When the muscles, blood vessels and nerves covering our neck and skull constrict or swell, we start to feel pain in our heads. As dogs have basically the same biological make-up when it comes to blood vessels and nerves, they experience headaches.
Although many vets agree that dogs can get headaches, there is some debate. This is mainly since it is incredibly difficult to diagnose headaches in dogs. Unlike when we have a headache and can tell the doctor or a loved one that we have pain in our heads, dogs don’t have that ability. So there no real direct indication from the horse’s, or dog’s mouth where the pain is felt, how long the pain lasts for or anything else that a human doctor would ask a patient.
The debate aside, most vets and dog owners tend to agree that there’s no real reason why they wouldn’t experience some kind of chronic or temporary pain in their heads. It has even been noted that as dogs have stronger olfactory receptors, that is, those that control their sense of smell, they are more susceptible to headaches caused by irritating and strong odors.
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Does Your Dog Have a Headache?
How then, can you tell if your lovely pooch has a headache? There are several symptoms and possible causes that could indicate they have a headache.
- Light sensitivity
- Throbbing temples
- More frequent resting and napping
- Keeping their head close to the ground
- Constantly licking and other anxious activity, like pacing
- Uninterested in going outside, avoiding sunlight
- Loss of appetite
- Avoiding strokes and pats to the head
- Most dog’s headaches are caused by similar things to those that cause headaches in humans, like
- Too much or too vigorous activity, especially involving the movement of their head
- Flue or cold
- Allergic reactions
Can Headaches be Diagnosed?
Doggy headaches normally do not need a prognosis or diagnosis, because they usually fade away naturally, easily and quickly. That being said, if you feel that your dog may be suffering from serious migraines or chronic headaches, you should book an appointment with your vet.
Many vets only need to carry out a physical examination to diagnose headaches. If your dog’s eyes are straining under bright lights, if they are trying to move away from hands approaching them or have dilated pupils – these could all indicate your dog has a headache.
If they think it is serious enough, your vet could request an MRI for your dog, which may show a more serious root cause for the headaches. However, the most common cause of canine headaches is allergies.
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Can Doggy Headaches be Treated?
If it is allergies that are causing your dog’s headaches, your vet may carry out an allergy test. This will indicate the things that your furry buddy could be allergic to and allow you to plan for ways to avoid it.
Although there is no concrete and effective treatment, there are several things you can do while your dog suffers from a headache to help keep them calm, so they don’t aggravate the pain more.
Try any of the following:
- Apply a cold or hot compress gently to your dog’s back or neck
- Give your dog a vet-approved dose of doggy aspirin
- Give your dog some distance and keep any potential disturbances away until the headache passes
- Refrain from patting or stroking them, particularly around and on their head
- Make a dark, cool and quiet resting place for them to rest until the pain subsides
There is obviously a lot of crossover and similarities between how headaches affect humans and dogs. The main differences are down to how dogs react when suffering from headaches, that is, how they react and express pain and discomfort. As dogs do not have the ability to communicate clearly by speaking, they express their feelings in some ways that could be described as odd, like:
- Not having an interest in drinking or eating
- Hiding in dark or hard to reach places like under beds and sofas
- Rubbing their heads on the furniture or floor
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So, next time anyone asks you ‘do dogs get headaches?’, you now know the answer. Although there is not much in the way of a diagnosis or prognosis that a vet can give them, except rule out or establish that they have allergies, we have shown there’s plenty of things you can do to keep them calm.
It’s all really, like anything with dog ownership, about being aware and knowing when there’s something not right about your four-legged friend. If they are acting strange and trying to hide away from you and bright lights, they could have headaches.
Just know that, in most cases, it is not a terribly serious issue and will eventually clear. If it persists though, you should contact the vet as soon as possible.