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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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Head Trauma Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,500

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

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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Pomchi

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hit On Head

I accidentally hit my dog on the head when I threw the ball. The ball was rubber but it was small. Will he be okaj

June 4, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Hello, Many times that are just fine. I would monitor him and if you notice anything off I would take him to the vet right away.

June 4, 2021

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Rat Terrier mix

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Fifteen Years

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

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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2 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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Head Trauma Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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