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What is Head Trauma?

Dogs have thicker skulls, and more muscle mass covering them than humans, so head trauma tends to be less common in dogs. It is, however, just as dangerous when it does occur. If your dog has sustained a serious blow to the head and is showing any signs of head trauma, take your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic for emergency treatment. Swelling in the brain from head trauma that is left untreated can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.

If left untreated, head trauma can become fatal. If your dog sustains serious trauma to the head, contact a veterinarian to assess your dog's condition.

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Symptoms of Head Trauma in Dogs

The signs for dogs with head trauma are very similar to human symptoms. Cuts, bruises, or lumps on the head may indicate trauma to the head along with:

  • Bleeding from the nose or ears
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Disorientation
  • Facial weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Paralysis 
  • Pupil dilation 
  • Seizures
  • Stumbling

If you notice these signs, especially after a recent blow to the head, bring your pet into the veterinarian immediately for treatment.

Types

Several types of injuries to the brain can occur due to trauma to the head itself.

Concussion

- The most common form of head trauma; a concussion is when the brain is violently traumatized from an impact, and can cause temporary or permanent damage

Contusion

- A direct impact to the head causes this condition, characterized by bleeding on the brain.

Coup-Contrecoup

- This occurs when there is a contusion at the site of impact and one on the opposite side from the brain hitting the inside of the skull

Diffuse Axonal

- This is caused by strong shaking or rotation, and is characterized by tearing of the nerve tissues; this condition can cause damage that is spread across several areas of the brain

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Causes of Head Trauma in Dogs

Dog skulls are thicker than human skulls and they have more robust musculature on their heads so head trauma is not as common in dogs as in humans. Damage to the head can occur in several ways. The most common causes of head injuries to dogs are car accidents, rough play or fighting with other dogs, and falls from a high elevation.

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Diagnosis of Head Trauma in Dogs

If your dog experiences head trauma, there are several tests that are likely to be done to assess the level of damage that has occurred. Your veterinarian will get information about the onset of the signs and about the dog’s overall medical history. Blood will be drawn to get a complete blood count and biochemistry profile which will help uncover any toxins or imbalances that might be present. These samples will be compared with previous tests to check for changes in the functioning of the liver and kidneys. 

X-rays of the head and neck area may be helpful in determining if there is any fracturing of the skull where the trauma occurred, although a computerized tomography (CT) scan will get a clearer image of both the skull and brain. Although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is not yet common as an imaging technique for canines as it is expensive and requires the dog to be fully sedated, it can be useful in certain situations to diagnose injuries to the brain and spinal cord.

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Treatment of Head Trauma in Dogs

Initial treatment should begin when the injury or symptoms of injury are first noticed. Shock can be a life-threatening condition in cases of head trauma and efforts should be made to keep the injured animal calm and warm. If the patient loses consciousness during transportation, gently open the mouth and pull the tongue forward to clear the airway. If your dog’s heart stops then CPR should begin right away. Signs of shock include pale or bluish gums, irregular heart rate, lowered temperature, and slowed mental activity. Wounds to the head often bleed profusely, and direct pressure should be applied to the laceration to stop the bleeding and a water or saline solution-soaked compress should be applied to protect it from infection during transport to the nearest veterinary clinic. 

Supportive measures will be offered to your pet as needed when you arrive at the veterinarian clinic. These will most likely include intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Your pet will be closely monitored for signs of swelling in the brain while recovering from the trauma. If swelling occurs, diuretics and corticosteroids may provide some relief. Neurological testing will help your dog’s doctor to assess if there is a sudden change in mental status.

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Recovery of Head Trauma in Dogs

If your dog’s heart stops beating it is important to perform CPR to get the blood moving through the circulatory system. The steps for successful CPR are: 

  1. On a flat surface, lay your dog on his side.

  1. Place one hand on top of the other over the widest portion of the rib cage, not over the heart. (For puppies and toy breed dogs, put just your thumb on one side of the chest and the rest of your fingers on the other side.)

  1. Keeping your arms straight, push down on the rib cage. Compress the chest ¼ of its width. Squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 compressions per minute.

  1. Continue CPR until your dog breathes on his own and has a steady heartbeat or until the veterinary staff can take over for you.

A pet who has suffered trauma to the head should remain on a limited activity level for two weeks minimum after returning home from the hospital. There may be secondary effects from the injury which should be monitored. Your veterinarian can guide you as to the expected recovery rate for your companion.

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Head Trauma Average Cost

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Average Cost

$1,500

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Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 09/30/2016, edited: 03/12/2021

Head Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Rat Terrier mix

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Fifteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Hi there! My baby girl fell off the bed the other night and I’m not sure if she hit her head. She didn’t welp or seem affected and has been fine ever since but, she is acting a little funny tonight. Almost aloof. No shaking, throwing up, bleeding, or bloodshot eyes. It’s been over 72 hours so I’m just wanting some advice. She is on cough medicine for a collapsed trachea so that does make her sleepy and chilled out as well.

March 4, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I appreciate that you want your little old lady to be okay! I think if she is not limping, or acting sore, and she is eating and drinking okay, that she might be fine. If you notice that she is limping, or she seems tentative or not herself, then it might be a good idea to have her seen by your veterinarian, as old bones are more fragile than young bones for sure.

March 4, 2021

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Chihuahua

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Six Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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While I was at work , my aunt was watching puppy. A few hours later she texted me saying a candle fell on his head. I immediately told her to take him to the vet. He was give a shot for the pain and came out with only a small cut above his eye. Now he won’t leave my room until I come home . But when I’m home he’s tired and isn’t as playful as he used to be. Should I take him to the vet again? Or wait a while for him to recover

Jan. 6, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

He can be very painful and should rest for a few days. If he is eating and drinking he will be fine to monitor. If he has anything off and not eating or drinking he should go back to your vet.

Jan. 7, 2021

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Chihuahua

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One Year

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2 found helpful

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Head Hit

My daughter was Playing softball around 7pm and as she attempted to catch the ball it fell out of her glove about 5 feet and hit our Pup in the head. He lost conscience and turned stiff for a min. He was not breathing. We prayed and begged God to heal our best friend to our family. He started breathing again! He came back to us! He is very lethargic right now and won’t eat or drink. His gums are pink. He has thrown up twice. Breathing seems fine. What should I do? Does he need to be seen by Dr? Or will he over come this?

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is still lethargic and not eating or drinking, I do think that he should be seen by a veterinarian. He will get dehydrated quickly, and they will be able to see what might be causing him to have that problem. I hope that he is okay.

Sept. 30, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Two Years

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6 found helpful

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Bump On His Head

So I noticed yesterday that my dog has a big knot on his forehead. It doesnt seem to affect him and the only time he seems in pain is when I put pressure on the bump. Im just worried about the bump and wonder what I can do to help him.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. The bump on his head may be an abscess, a growth, and infection, or a trauma. If it hurts him when you press on it, I would probably not do that. If it is not resolving over the next day or two and getting smaller, then it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be causing the problem. Once they know more, they will be able to let you know if treatment is needed. I hope that all goes well for him and he feels better soon.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Sixteen Years

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2 found helpful

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Hit On Her Mouth

Hello. My dog was excited and jumped out of the car when the door was open and hit her mouth. The sound was very loud. I just want to make sure she’s okay. What should I look for ?

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. . I would say if she has any swelling, is pawing at her face, or doesn't want to eat, then It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any treatment that they might need.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Millie

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Maltipoo

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10 Weeks

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Seizures
Loss Of Consciousness
Fall

Our Maltipoo puppy Millie (10 weeks old 2 pounds) was sleeping on the back on the couch and fell off. She appeared to be unconscious and convulsing (legs twitching and head turned sharply to side). After a minute or 2 she stopped and we took her to the hospital and while she was in the car was acting normal. They looked her bones and nothing was broken but I'm concerned that they didn't look at her brain or do bloodwork. Today is the day after and she's been very sleepy all day and did eat some breakfast but is there a reason to be worried about something long term especially with the brain?

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Duke

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Staghound x labrador

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21 Months

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Critical severity

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Bleeding From Mouth
Stopped Breathing
Legs Straight And Stiff

Two nights ago my dog was hit by a car and died. The car hit him in the head causing him to roll over once on the road. When he rolled I remember his legs were straight and stiff looking. I don't remember him taking his last breath but I think it might have been about a minute after being hit by the car. There was a huge amount of blood coming from his mouth. About 4 or 5 minutes after he stopped breathing his heart stopped.The car that him didn't even slow down or stop after the accident. I was wondering if you could shed some light on his injuries please, obviously head trauma, but it might help me understand why he died and why there was so much blood. I'm lost without him. I miss him so much it hurts. He was my best friend and soul mate.

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Bella

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‎Shih Tzu

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7 Years

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Critical severity

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No Symtoms Of Trauma

My dog was hit by a car, the car was not going too fast hit my dog on the head and my dog was laying on the ground and was dead imediately. it was strange that was not bleeding no bruces or any visual injury. My wife call me and when I get home after an hour the dog still was warm but was not breathing had the eyes open but the toungue was little bit out no blood in any part of her body, I tried to give cpr but no response, a week earlier had some sort of stroke or Seizures and ever since start getting tired when runs outside and start coughing, I wanted to think that my dog died by a heart atack and not by the car hit Because has no symptoms of trauma

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Lina

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Poodle

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Bored

My dog and I were playing. I was chasing her and she was running like crazy. It's common thing for us to do, but today she bumped her head onto my leg. She stopped playing with me and laid down. She looks upset but my leg hurts a lot. I think her head hurts more than my leg. And what do you think, will she be okay?

dog-name-icon

Lina

dog-breed-icon

Poodle

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Dizzy

My dog and I were playing. She was running all around the house and I was chasing after her. She ran toward me and I put my legs apart, thinking she'd get between them, but she hits her head instead. She stopped playing and laid down, wasn't as cheerful as before. She looks okay, but my leg hurts a lot. I think her head hurts more and what do you think. Will she be ok?

Head Trauma Average Cost

From 451 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Compare Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

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