Signs of Head Trauma in Dogs

By Naomi Millburn

Signs of potential head trauma in a dog include tilting of the head, stiff limbs, unusual posture and abnormal movements of the eyes. Head trauma is characterized by penetrating or blunt injury of the head. Symptoms of this trauma generally appear abruptly in dogs.

Causes of Head Trauma in Dogs

Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for most cases of head trauma in canines. Other examples of common causes are colliding into objects, kicks from bigger animals, fights with animals, penetrating wounds from bites or gunshots and falling from stairs or tall buildings. Dogs can sometimes experience head trauma by being stepped on, too.

Less Common in Dogs Than in People

Head trauma is more rare in dogs than it is in people. This is largely because dogs are equipped with skulls that are somewhat thicker than those of human beings. Not only are their skulls thicker, but they're also covered by more muscle. The same applies to cats. Because of this, intense injury is usually required to bring on serious brain trauma. Despite that, there are exceptions. Dogs can sometimes experience serious brain injury due to accidents that initially appear mild.

Skull Fractures and Head Trauma

Skull fractures are possible results of head trauma in dogs. If a dog suffers an injury from impact with a moving auto or a fall to the ground from a high location, he could fracture the bones of his skull. Indications of skull fracture in dogs include:

  • Coma

  • Blindness

  • Shifts in behavior

  • Seizures
  • Circling or tilting of the head
  • Loss of coordination

Broken Mandibles and Head Trauma

Head trauma can lead to broken mandibles in dogs. If a dog fractures his lower jaw, he could exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Problems shutting his mouth

  • Salivation

  • Pain during eating

Signs of Head Trauma in General

Potential signs of head trauma in general in dogs are:

  • Tilting of the head

  • Unusual posture

  • Pupil size discrepancies

  • Abnormal eye movement

  • Stiffness or slackness of the limbs

  • Unusual degrees of consciousness

  • Bleeding of the ear canals or nostrils

  • Seizures

Signs of head trauma in dogs are not always apparent to owners. If your dog injures his head, don't assume that he's OK just because he's not displaying any clear symptoms at the moment. Some dogs develop internal bleeding such as intracranial hemorrhaging due to head trauma. If that's the case, a veterinarian can determine exactly what's going on and treat the issue accordingly.

If you witness a head injury in your dog, even if he's not exhibiting any symptoms, seek emergency veterinary care without delay. If you notice any potential symptoms of head trauma, do the same. Since head trauma can be deadly to a dog, urgent and prompt veterinary attention can often save his life.