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What is Head Trauma?

Canines have thicker skulls with more muscle mass covering them than we do, so head trauma is less common. 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 symptoms 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 companion's condition.

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Head Trauma Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Head Trauma in Dogs

The symptoms for dogs with head trauma are very similar to the 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 symptoms, 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 canines 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 symptoms 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 copiously 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

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

Average Cost

$1,500

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Head Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Bernese Mountain Dog

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Seven Weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

My sister dropped our 7 week old puppy on his head he doesn’t have any symptoms but he is laying a lot he would get up and move a little bit but lays back down. Should we take him to a vet?

Aug. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. These types of injuries could cause a small fracture, or pulled muscle. If he is having issues walking or seems painful, it would be best for your vet to look at your dog. They can start your dog on pain medication and help him feel much better.

Aug. 12, 2020

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Bernese Mountain Dog

dog-age-icon

Seven Weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

My sister dropped our 7 week old puppy on his head he doesn’t have any symptoms but he is laying a lot he would get up and move a little bit but lays back down. Should we take him to a vet?

Aug. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. These types of injuries could cause a small fracture, or pulled muscle. If he is having issues walking or seems painful, it would be best for your vet to look at your dog. They can start your dog on pain medication and help him feel much better.

Aug. 12, 2020

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Mini Australian shepherd

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11 weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Eyes Droppy

Today my puppy was running after another puppy and did not see a step. The step is small only about 4-6 inches as it’s a step down into a living room but she was rubbing full speed and her head hit the ground first. When I picked her up she seemed a little dazed but returned right back to her normal self about 30 seconds later. Should I be worried and see a vet about a concussion?

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Thankfully, puppies are quite resilient, and it sounds like she is back to her normal self. If she becomes lethargic, or you noticed that her pupils are different sizes, but it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian right away oh, but it seems that she is going to be okay.

Aug. 8, 2020

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Pug

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4 weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

I was walking and I had her over my shoulder when she suddenly kicked and fell back. I’m 5’3 and she fell onto a ceramic tile floor. She cried for a couple seconds but stayed awake and started moving around normally. No loss of consciousness. She started feeding right after as well. I think she fell flat on her back. She reacts to light and her pupils are normal. What should I look for to know I need to take her into a clinic? How long before I know she is okay?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she landed right, you may be very lucky and she may be okay. If she shows any signs of pain, lameness, or lethargy over the next 24 hours, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. I hope that she is okay!

Aug. 5, 2020

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Dachshund

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Two Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Whining

My two month puppy was on my lap and fell off and hit the railing on my desk. He’s walking fine and he played a bit but kept whining. Now he’s asleep in my arms, should i keep him up or is he okay?

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. You should be able to let him sleep, but if he continues to cry or whine, is lethargic, or doesn't want to eat, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian to make sure that he is okay. I hope that all goes well for him!

Aug. 5, 2020

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Millie

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Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

10 Weeks

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

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

dog-age-icon

21 Months

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

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

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

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

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

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

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

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

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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