A pounding head, tight muscles, an ability to get up from the couch… A nasty headache or migraine is never a pleasant experience for us humans. But, do our puppers fall victim to them too? Have you ever wondered: “Do dogs get headaches?”
It turns out that while we certainly suspect they can, the answer to this question isn’t completely straightforward. Let’s explore how headaches occur in dogs, and what you can do if you think your doggo has one.
Do dogs get headaches?
We know dogs can experience things like stress and leaky gut, and more serious conditions like pulmonary fibrosis. The general consensus is they can get headaches too, but they’re a bit more difficult to diagnose.
Many vets believe that it’s entirely possible for dogs to get headaches, because their biological make-up is very similar to that of humans. They experience pain in much the same way we do, and they’re vulnerable to several of the same medical conditions. So, it’s very likely that they can suffer from some form of head pain.
As well, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine suggests that dogs can get migraines. A Cocker Spaniel presented with migraine symptoms – such as appearing to be in pain, and sensitivity to light and sound – and received migraine medication to try and combat them. As it turned out, her condition vastly improved.
With all of this in mind, it’s worth noting that there are currently no diagnostic tools to confirm that dogs can get headaches. Nor can we simply ask our doggos if they’re aching, because we’d only get a tilt of the head or a lick in return. (Unless, of course, your doggo has mastered the art of verbal communication).
So while migraines may be difficult to dispute, lighter headaches can be a little trickier to identify!
How to tell if your dog has a headache
While humans might whip out the painkillers and complain of throbbing temples, doggos are very unlikely to do the same. Instead, here’s what to look out for if you think your pupper is afflicted with a headache:
- Hiding away in a dark or quiet room
- Avoiding going outside or sitting in the sun – even when their favourite local Dog Walker turns up for their daily stroll!
- Vocalisation such as whining or groaning
- Lethargy or sleeping more than usual
- Temperamental changes or irritability
- Lack of interest in food
- Sensitivity towards touching or patting on the head
- Squinting in light
- Lowering their head to the ground
- Pushing their head into walls or furniture
Do dogs get headaches for the same reasons as humans?
We humans can get headaches for a multitude of reasons. Things like stress, muscle tension or musculoskeletal problems, diet, hormones, eye problems, and dehydration, among many others, are the primary causes of headache.
But do dogs get headaches for these reasons, too? It seems so! While there’s no definitive answer as to why dogs get headaches, there are a few solid suggestions:
- Trauma to the head or neck
- Jaw or dental issues
- Cold, flu or other sinus problems
- High blood pressure
- Issues in the brain, such as inflammation or a tumour
What you can do to help your dog
Suspect your doggo has a headache? The way you deal with it depends on how severe their pain seems. If it appears to be mild, the headache may pass in an hour or so. While your doggo recovers, you can make their environment more comfortable and remove anything that might trigger the headache.
- Find a space for them that’s cool, dark, and free from disturbances
- Try a hot or cold compress on their neck or back
- Avoid touching their head
- Let them rest
- Ensure they’ve got easy access to water
- Avoid administering pain relief medication, unless your vet advises it
If your dog looks like they’re in serious pain or the headache doesn’t seem to subside, take them to the vet for a check-up. (This is usually covered if you’ve already taken out dog insurance!)
Your vet will perform a thorough examination of your dog to see if there appear to be any underlying causes. They may carry out an allergy test to see if your dog’s headache is the result of a reaction. If the headache seems more serious, your vet may also request that your dog undergo an MRI to rule out any serious conditions.