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What is Brain Injury?

Because a brain injury will most often affect other systems of the body, it is of utmost importance to the well-being of your pet to attend to any injuries that may result from a trauma to the skull. A great degree of cases of mortality and morbidity in animals is related to brain injury. While dogs can survive after a loss of a considerable amount of cerebral tissue, reduction of brain swelling and analysis of damage to stem structure is vital to the prognosis.

Brain injury in dogs results from a trauma to the head, leading to neurological dysfunction. Also known as traumatic brain injury (TBI), this is an occurrence that happens quite commonly due to incidents such as vehicular accidents or falls. Due to the complexity of the injury, immediate veterinarian care is critical in the event of a brain injury.

Brain Injury Average Cost

From 26 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Brain Injury in Dogs

The signs of brain injury can easily range from really obvious to not so clear or apparent. Of course, in the case of a traumatic accident that you may have witnessed such as a fall or impact, you will be aware that the demeanor of your pet is resulting from the incident. In the event of a circumstance that you did not see occur, recognition of all signs could be difficult. As in the case of any behavioral change in your pet, the following signs mean a veterinarian visit is crucial:

  • Your dog is circling over and over, especially when excited or facing stress
  • There is a loss in control of movements of the body (ataxia)
  • There may be hemorrhage in the ears, visible to you and in the retinal area which may not be apparent to you
  • You may see external signs such as cuts or lacerations, and skull fracture not easily seen by you
  • You may notice a loss in perception of spatial movement
  • Facial weakness and loss of sensation in face can be present
  • There may be problems in the visual realm like a lack of eyelid reflex or lack of response to light by the pupil
  • In severe cases there can be brain matter found in the ear canal
  • Eventual coma can occur
Types

Injuries to the brain are broken down into two categories:

Primary injury

- This is the trauma that occurs at the time of impact and results in a physical disruption of intracranial structures. Vascular tears (tearing of the artery causing reduced blood flow to the brain), and hemorrhaging are included in primary injury. With the primary injury, care is focused on reducing the effects that can lead to secondary complications.

Secondary injury

- Along with the edema and hemorrhaging of the primary injury, further tissue damage and swelling can result, which in turn causes an increase in intracranial pressure (ICP) and breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). ICP can lead to changes in the delicate make-up of the brain, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid. Complications, for example, hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen), or ischemia (inadequate blood supply) can be life threatening.

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Causes of Brain Injury in Dogs

The number of reasons that your dog may be suffering from a brain injury are numerous and broad. As with humans, the brain of the dog is protected from immediate damage by the skull. If the skull suffers an impact from a fall or collision with a vehicle, or if the skull is fractured for example by a dog bite, the following emerging difficulties can result in further cerebral damage.

  • Brain contusion
  • ICP (the brain, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid are unbalanced leading to severe consequences because of the pressure build up)
  • Decrease in cerebral blood flow due to ICP
  • Dangerous amounts of inflammation
  • Hypercapnia (excessive carbon monoxide in blood owing to inadequate respiration)
  • Hypoglycemia (very low blood glucose)
  • Infection
  • Hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature)
  • Hyperthermia (excessively high body temperature)
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Diagnosis of Brain Injury in Dogs

The veterinarian will begin by assessing the clinical signs of your dog. As previously mentioned, dogs with brain injury may turn in circles when stressed or excited. The veterinarian may see pupil dilation and clear evidence of external trauma. She will check the PCV (packed cell volume) in the blood to verify the volume of cells present. A complete blood count and serum analysis can help with the diagnosis. Checking the blood glucose level is extremely important because it can give a good indication as to what condition your pet is presently in. The level of electrolytes must also be verified.

The mental status of your pet, along with reflex capabilities will be confirmed. Unequal pupil size (anisocoria) is another indication of brain injury.

The diagnostic tools of the CT scan and the MRI can be very beneficial in regards to diagnosis, but are only recommended if the chosen medical therapy is not giving any improvement. This is because your dog will need to be sedated heavily in order to do either test, which is not always deemed a safe practice for a dog with a brain injury.

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Treatment of Brain Injury in Dogs

The veterinarian will focus on the ABC’s to start, which is ensuring proper function of the airway, breathing and circulation because getting the proper amount of oxygen to the brain are critical for recovery. At the same time, acute effects of the brain trauma must be controlled. Equally important is the step of monitoring for secondary infection.

In order to maintain adequate oxygen levels and avoid hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen), a nasal catheter will be inserted. This method is considered the most efficient, and will cause less anxiety than other methods (such as an oxygen chamber). Fluid therapy, to restore heart rate, mucous membrane color and pulse will be given. Monitoring the plasma carbon monoxide levels is essential for recovery also.

All the while, the veterinarian will carefully oversee the comfort of your dog and will administer medication for pain and anxiety. Other medical compounds, such as mannitol (used to relieve intracranial pressure and help the cerebral blood flow), will be utilized. Anticonvulsants may be given to limit seizures.

Nutrition is an important part of treatment. Many dogs are hospitalized for extended periods of time and can have significant weight loss.

As part of your pet’s treatment for brain injury, he may be placed lying down on a board to limit bending of his head and neck. His head will be elevated, and the board will be turned every hour. Based on the above procedures, documentation shows that improvement can be seen within 24 hours, but if recovery is expected, it will be slow and will take weeks to months. Brain injury surgery is not well documented.

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Recovery of Brain Injury in Dogs

The recovery of your dog will depend upon the exact type of damage to the brain, your dog’s age, his level of consciousness at treatment time, general physical shape, extent of the harm to the brain stem, and the magnitude of injuries that may accompany the trauma.

Recovery of brain injury may not ever be a complete return to normalcy. Issues such as loss of voluntary movement or blindness may remain. Physical therapy must be part of the recovery regimen, which includes an extension of limbs, swimming and supported walking.

The prognosis is grave if the time lapse between injury and release of ICP is too long because often brain herniation occurs. However, improvement has been noted in many cases, even those that seemed hopeless. With the help and expertise of your veterinary professional, your dog may recover (though most likely not fully). Be an involved partner in your pet’s rehabilitation, and you may see improvement weeks and even months later.

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Cost of Brain Injury in Dogs

The veterinarian will use a nasal catheter ($30 to $65) in order to comfortably provide oxygen to your dog’s brain. Your dog will also require fluid therapy ($40 to $100) to restore heart rate, mucous membrane color, and pulse. The veterinarian and staff will be taking great care to ensure that your dog is as comfortable and as pain-free as possible. They will administer a pain medication (Tramadol $65 on average) as needed. The veterinarian will also give your dog Mannitol ($15 per IV solution) to relieve intracranial pressure and help cerebral blood flow. It’s important to prepare for symptoms (i.e. seizures) when dealing with a brain injury. The veterinarian may prescribe an anticonvulsant (Gabapentin $20 to $40) to limit these seizures.

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Brain Injury Average Cost

From 26 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Brain Injury Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Min Pin

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

My dog was playing with my bigger dog and was accidentally bite, my little god started bleeding, we saw that there was only one open wound. We held pressure until the bleeding stopped. He is breathing and we are giving him water and milk. He can’t walk and is laying down in a box we put him in. We don’t exactly know what to do as of right now. We don’t have him on any medication besides tylonal

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. I would recommend talking your dog to your vet or a veterinary ER immediately. If he is unable to walk it sounds like he is very seriously injured and needs to be examined and diagnostics performed to see how much internal damage there is. He is likely in a lot of pain if he is unable to walk and they can provide appropriate pain medication for him. Good luck and take care.

Aug. 4, 2020

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Yorkie and shitzu

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6 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Heavy Panting And Slight Drooling

Puppy fell from top bunk and hit head on dresser. He pooped where he fell and was drooling for about 5 mins. He's still heavy panting but did walk to bed

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. This could have caused a lot of pain in the head and neck. He may get better with time but if the panting continue, it would be best to see your vet. They can also prescribe you pain medication to help. Do not give any over the counter medication as this can cause a lot of issues especially in small dogs.

July 30, 2020

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Odin

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Bull Terrier

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7 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Blind And Deaf,

My 7 month old English Bull Terrier was bit by a rattlesnake 10 days ago. Upon arrival to the vet he was not breathing and his heart rate was 20. He was kept at the veterinary specialist for 6 days. During that time he was given 2 doses of antivenin. When I picked him up I was told he was blind (which could be temporary) and he was not able to walk. 5 days later he is walking great, appears to still be blind and also appears deaf. My question is: what are the odds that he will regain his vision and hearing?

Aug. 4, 2018

Odin's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is difficult to say whether or not Odin will regain vision or hearing, there are many variables and I cannot give you a meaningful statistic here; this is one of those wait and see situations to monitor for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 5, 2018

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tazzu

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Pomeranian

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Twisting, Unbalances, Looks Scare,

My 4 year old pom "tazzy" was kick in the head by a donkey in our farm. I took her to the vet and she has been making some progress but I don't know if I am being selfish and trying to keep her alive. She is conscious and I am feeding her and making her drink water with syringe. She goes pee but no poop yet. This happen 4 days ago. What else can I do to help the healing processes. thank you

July 27, 2018

tazzu's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Head trauma with brain injury is difficult to predict and each case needs to be approached individually, without examining Tazzu I cannot determine the severity or if I would recommend euthanasia or not; your Veterinarian would be able to guide you better as they will be monitoring her progress. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 27, 2018

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Cam

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Welsh Corgi

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8 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Our 7 week old puppy fell from about 3.5 feet and hit her head. Immediately brought to ER who kept for observation but stated that she was fine. After a few days, noticed excessive circling left when excited. Would run and play normally but circling when walking here and there. Eats and drinks normally and enjoys playing with toys. Upon revisiting Vet for follow up, he stated that he wasn’t sure what was wrong but said her rapid eye response was limited and noted the circling as well. In my opinion, she tracks well as she likes to pounce on our feet and toys, as well as orients herself to watch the TV. Recommended MRI. I am now worried that my new puppy is going to have permanent disabilities from her accident. Already made an appointment with a neuro specialist.

July 12, 2018

Cam's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is very difficult to say whether there is going to be lasting issues from this head injury, each case is different; however if your Veterinarian is unsure you should see the Neurologist and have an MRI done especially since there is the circling behaviour. Without examining Cam myself I cannot really fully comment but just monitor for the time being until the appointment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 12, 2018

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Jaco

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Pomeranian

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11 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Walking Tenderly
Head Tilt,
Sensitive To Sound

My Pomeranian was attacked by a Malamute, with a bite to his head/neck. When I picked him up, a second after the bigger dog let go, he was completely limp and I felt his heart slow to a stop. With CPR and an immediate er visit, we saved him (at quite the cost). The X-ray shows a skull fracture leaving a sharp piece of skull embedded in his brain, he was completely unconscious and barely even breathing at time of treatment, experienced alarming cranial swelling, developed seizures and seemed unresponsive to treatment the first couple of days, and yet... Day three, he had a miraculous turn around and came home. He was walking by day four, can already stand on his hind legs fairly balanced a little under two weeks later, and has retained his same personality. He has even kept his habit of head-butting us and seems to experience no discomfort from it. Little baby symptoms will pop up and fade away, like walking on the tops of his feet, turning too much to one side when walking, tilting his head and scratching at his ear, etc. What symptoms should I be concerned about and which ones should I laugh off?

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Bear

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Morkie poo

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tremors
Can'T Walk On His Own

My dog was get neutered, at the end of his surgery he went into cardiac arrest. They brought him back, but knew he had brain damage right away. They gave him a drug to get fluid from his brain, the vet said that would take 72 hours to see all the brain damage. He has got his sight back and remembers me and his home. He was so happy to be home. He still can't walk, he can get up when he wants to or needs too but he still can't walk. They have given us exercises to hopefully improve his motor skills. Any other ideas to help him get walking.

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Conan

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Beagle

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13 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Confusion

13 year old beagle suddenly developed seizure, we live in South Florida so buffo toad toxin is suspected. Found a clinic open on Christmas Eve. They did labs and sent us home with 5 valium to administer if another seizure occurred. He seemed pretty much back to himself that night. Woke up on Christmas and he had drool and could possibly have had another seizure overnight. We should have slept with him, but thought he was done. He had another seizure at 9 AM and then again on Christmas night at 7 PM. We administered Valium rectally both times. He has not had another seizure since then, but is definitely not himself. The labs came back perfect, results which we did not receive until Friday, or a return call from the Vet. They called in some Phenobarbital and Keppra, which we have not given and are hesitant unless he has another seizure. He is not remembering anything, his name, where the dog door is, staggering somewhat, weak back legs etc, and is only concerned about food. His mom and sister and the cats are not liking him anymore. Is there a chance of recovery? My gut tells me this was a one time toad poisoning episode. Vet mentioned an MRI for $5000 to diagnose brain tumor. I would have done things so much different in retrospect. Vet did not rinse out his mouth or administer IV etc, or mention the red gums being a big sign. I would love some competent advice, and what we should be expecting. Thank you.

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Winnie

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Border-Aussie

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Three Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

I got my dog from the animal shelter. She is about 3 yrs. old the vet guessed. We had her spayed the next week. She was fine until about week 6 and she had 5 seizures within a 24 hr period. I took her to the Vet and he put her on phenobarbatol and she hasn't had anymore seizures, but she seems to have loss of vision, some hearing loss and loss of balance. She eats and drinks well but acts like a totally different dog. She does not remember her commands, sometimes responds to her name. Whimpers constantely and paces from room to room. Do you think she has permanent brain damage. If so, how can she be treated and will she return to normal. I know she will probably have more seizures in the future and I can deal with that, but I don't know how to handle the brain damage.

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Benny

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Border collie kelpie, and healer

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5 Months

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Brain

My dog got out on to the highway and was hit by a car, the person who hit her took her the vet. She was x-rayed they found no bone injury she had swelling of the brain. She was on IV fluids, she was there for 5 days, she was given a fluid that empty’s her brain. We took her home on day five she drinks, but she only licks up no bitting into her food. She licks the gravy off food. She walks around but is still very sluggish and wags her tail. She walks in circles on the side her head was hit. She walks on the tops of her foot sometimes. The vet said it might be permanent brain damage but only time will tell. We give her pills, prednisone, and furosemide. Will keep you guys all updates as time goes on !

Brain Injury Average Cost

From 26 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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