With around 96% of Americans reporting they have experienced a headache at least once in their life, headaches are a common occurrence. Many people can recognize the symptoms of a headache in themselves and others. But what about dogs? Though there has been minimal research done, a number of veterinarians believe that dogs can experience headaches.
Can your dog get a headache?
Since we know dogs can experience pain, they likely are able to get headaches as well. It can be hard to tell if your dog has a headache. The symptoms they exhibit are similar to symptoms of other illnesses or injuries.
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If you suspect your dog may have a headache, it's best to get them in for an appointment with your veterinarian.
What are some causes of headaches in dogs?
Human headaches can be caused by a wide variety of factors, and the same is likely true for dogs. Headaches in dogs may be caused by injuries, infection, or sinus problems.
Head trauma can cause local swelling and inflammation that may develop into a headache. Since muscle groups in these areas are interconnected, pain from an injury to the neck or face could radiate into the head.
Dental health issues are also a likely culprit. Common dental problems like infections, cracked teeth, and exposed nerves can all be extremely painful for a dog and can cause headaches.
With their millions of olfactory receptors, dogs are extra sensitive to environmental conditions. Factors such as smoky air from nearby wildfires, incense burning in a closed room, or strong chemical cleaners may cause headaches in dogs just as they do in people. High allergen counts and sinus infections can also contribute.
Signs your dog has a headache
A dog with a headache may show signs of anxiety or discomfort. They might pace, pant, or have trouble settling down at night. A dog with a headache may scratch at their ears, shake their head frequently, or tilt their head to one side — particularly if an ear infection is the cause of the headache.
Canine headaches can cause low energy and a dog whose head hurts may be napping more than usual. They may lose interest in food and treats, especially if dry kibble is part of their diet. Chewing on something crunchy is very unpleasant with a headache, especially if the dog has dental issues.
Helping your dog with head pain
If your dog shows signs of a headache, call your veterinarian (or the nearest emergency veterinarian, if after-hours). They may advise you to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian or come in immediately. Follow their advice, as headaches in dogs are difficult to diagnose and can have serious underlying causes.
If your veterinarian gives the okay to keep your dog at home, create a soothing space in an area where your dog won't be bothered by people or other animals. A cool, quiet room without any lights or sounds is the best environment for a dog with a headache.
Keep your pet company and give them affection if they need it. Some dogs want to be left alone when they aren't feeling well. Others might be soothed by your presence or by gentle cuddles.
Dog Headache FAQs
What can I give my dog if they have a headache?
If your dog has a headache, call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency care facility right away. Do not administer any human pain medicine. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are toxic to dogs. Pain medication should only be prescribed by a veterinarian.
Can dogs get migraines?
Different from headaches, migraines are a neurological disease that affects nerves and blood vessels. This causes symptoms such as severe headache, nausea, extreme fatigue, and sensory disturbances (also known as "auras").
A 2013 study from the Journal of Veterinary Medicine described the case of a dog suffering from an unknown ailment with symptoms that were similar to those of human migraines. The dog's symptoms improved after being treated with human migraine medication, but researchers could not confirm that the dog was afflicted by migraines.
What is the best way to prevent dog headaches?
Taking care of your dog's health with regular veterinary care can help prevent headaches. Feed your dog the appropriate type and amount of food for their individual needs, and avoid giving human food. Brush your dog's teeth regularly to prevent dental disease and keep up with cleanings as recommended by your veterinarian
Research doesn't know for sure whether dogs experience headaches, but veterinarians believe it's likely they do. Headaches are difficult to diagnose in dogs and can be caused by many things. If you suspect your dog has a headache, call your veterinarian — do not administer any human pain medication.
- VCA Hospitals: Acetaminophen Poisoning Alert for Dogs and Cats
- IVC: Headache in Animals
- Mayo Clinic: Headache Causes
- Penn Medicine: Migraine vs. Headache - How to Tell the Difference
- Wiley Online Library: Migraine-like Episodic Pain Behavior in a Dog - Can Dogs Suffer from Migraines?
- Elle Vet Sciences: Do Dogs Get Headaches?
- Cleveland Clinic: Headache - What It Is, Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment