Can dogs get headaches? It’s a good question, and one with a rather simple answer: yes, dog headaches are real and can be very uncomfortable for your pet. While there are limited studies about this – mainly because our canine companions can’t verbally express their pain to us – most veterinarians agree that headaches are not only possible but rather common in dogs.
Because we don’t want our furry friends to experience any pain, let’s look at how your dog might act when they have a headache, what can cause or worsen this head pain, and how to treat dog headaches at home.
Signs Your Dog Has a Headache
An dog experiencing a headache might show the following signs:
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to touch on the head
- Pacing, licking, or other anxious behavior
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or excessive sleep
Dog Headaches Cause Sensitivity to Light
One of the foremost signs your dog has a headache is if they are showing sensitivity to light. You might notice your dog avoiding areas of the house that have bright lights, or trying to retreat to darker rooms and corners. A dog with a headache might also be reluctant to go outside in the sunshine, even to use the bathroom, because the brightness irritates their headache.
In addition to avoiding bright areas, you might notice your dog squinting or narrowing their eyes with more regularity to try and mitigate the amount of light hitting their eyes. They also might blink more rapidly and more often for the same reason.
A Dog Experiencing Headaches May Also Be Sensitive to Touch
In addition to sensitivity to light, your dog might also be sensitive to touch if they have a headache, particularly around their temples and eyes. If your dog is normally an affectionate pooch who loves to be pet and stroked, and you notice a sudden avoidance of this attention, then they may be experiencing a dog headache.
Anxious Behaviors May Indicate a Headache
Many dogs respond to pain with stress behaviors such as excessive licking, panting, or pacing. Stress behaviors like these can indicate many issues in dogs, from general separation anxiety to noise aversion. But if you notice this behavior in tandem with others on this list, your dog may be expressing their head pain through these repetitive actions.
A Severe Dog Headache May Result in Disinterest in Food
Eating can be challenging if your dog has a severe headache. If you notice your normally hungry hound is less interested in their dinner or seems to be struggling as they chew, this might be an indicator of a dog headache. A loss of appetite is a serious problem in a dog and shouldn’t be left unaddressed – so if this is a symptom of your dog’s headache, it’s urgent that you find out the cause and solve the problem quickly.
A Dog Headache Might Cause Your Pet to Sleep More
Just as with humans, a headache might trigger additional sleep. A dog with a headache may take more naps, spend more time lying around, or go to bed earlier and wake up later in the morning. They may be trying to escape their head pain with rest, or their headache may simply make it more difficult to be up and about.
What Causes Dog Headaches
Much like human headaches, dog headaches can have a number of different causes, some environmental and others less easy to identify:
- Head or neck trauma
- Allergies and irritants
- Nose issues such as a sinus infection or congestion
- Dental issues
Head or Neck Injuries Can Obviously Cause Head Pain
Of course, one of the most obvious reasons for your dog to have head pain is if they have experienced damage or trauma to their head or neck area. If your dog has experienced a recent fall or bang on the head, this might be why they’re experiencing pain.
Improper collar use can also cause dog headaches. If your pet is experiencing too much pressure on their neck while being walked on a leash, or their collar is too tight, it can manifest as pressure and pain in their head and the associated symptoms.
Headaches May Be a Reaction to Allergens or Irritants
Any human who has experienced seasonal allergies knows that head pain can be an associated symptom. When your dog’s body is allergic to something, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including headaches.
Likewise, irritants in the environment, such as chemicals, smoke, or otherwise polluted air, may cause headaches for your dog. Identifying this as the cause of your dog’s headaches might take some investigative focus and careful assessment of your dog’s daily life and environment.
Congestion Can Cause Head Pain in Dogs
Any kind of issue with your dog’s nose or sinuses can cause dog headaches. If they have a sinus infection that is causing pressure, they may be experiencing head pain along with it. Any kind of congestion or stuffiness in the nose might be the cause of their headache – in which case you need to identify the cause of the congestion in order to address the headache.
Head Pain in Dogs Might Be Caused By Dental Issues
Dental issues are sadly common in dogs, especially if they aren’t provided with proper and consistent dental care. If your dog’s teeth or gums are in pain, it can either cause a headache or the symptoms can be very similar to a headache. If your dog’s headache is caused by dental problems, then their symptoms will align with this issue: they will also be experiencing sensitivity to touch around the mouth and gums as well as a disinterest in food (because chewing is difficult and painful).
Overheating Can Be the Reason for Canine Headaches
Dogs are at serious risk for overheating, especially in the hot summer months. If your dog is dehydrated or experiencing heat stroke, a headache might be one of their symptoms. Headaches caused by heat exposure are very dangerous and need to be addressed immediately.
How to Treat and Manage Pain from Dog Headaches
Dog headaches often subside on their own, but there are methods you can use to treat your dog’s discomfort or address the underlying issue. These include:
- Establishing a doggie safe space
- Providing affection if your dog is comfortable with it
- Identifying and addressing the allergen or irritant causing the headache
- Visiting your veterinarian for recurring or severe dog headaches
A Doggie Safe Space Can Help Your Pet Recover from Headaches
The most effective way to soothe your dog’s discomfort from a headache is to provide them a dim, quiet, and cool space to rest. A doggie safe space where your pet can escape from other people and pets and have access to their toys, bedding, food, and water is always a good idea for your pet’s mental health, but it can be especially useful for your dog if they have a headache.
If you don’t already have a doggie safe space in your home, try to set one up in the case of a headache. Choose a quiet room where your dog can be away from children and other pets. Make sure the temperature is cool and comfortable, and the lighting is low (though not necessarily dark, as this might frighten your dog). Provide your pet with plenty of water and comfort items, and always let them leave the space when they are ready.
If Your Dog Is Open to Touch, Affection Can Help
While some dogs with headaches will not want to be pet or stroked, especially on the head, affection can benefit other pets suffering from this pain. If your dog seems open to being snuggled, it might be beneficial to sit with them and provide them some pats and love. Getting affection from their owner releases endorphins for many dogs and this can help mitigate and even eliminate a headache.
Address the Environmental Cause of the Headache
If an environmental irritant has caused your dog’s headache, eliminating this cause will be paramount. While allergens and irritants aren’t always easy to identify, sometimes they are. For example, if your dog’s headache happens after you’ve burned a dinner dish and filled the house with smoke, you need to clear the air and perhaps let your dog hang outside for a while.
Veterinarians Can Provide Pain Medication and Additional Treatment
If your dog’s headache seems particularly severe or persistent, or you find your pet experiencing the symptoms of a headache with some regularity, you may need to visit your veterinarian for treatment and advice. Veterinarians can prescribe specific pain medication for dogs because you should never give Tylenol or aspirin to your pet.
Likewise, your veterinarian can troubleshoot with you to discover the cause of your dog’s headaches and hopefully find a way to reduce their regularity or even stop them from happening at all.
Dog Headaches Can Usually Be Managed at Home
The cause of a dog’s headache is usually circumstantial, such as simple congestion from a pollen allergy or an accidental head bump. But it’s also possible your dog’s headaches are caused by something you can prevent, such as an ill-fitting collar or dental problems. If you notice your dog showing signs of a headache, don’t ignore it – offer temporary comfort and relief with a doggie safe space and ensure your pet’s daily routine isn’t causing head pain.