Can Dogs Suffer From Headaches?

18 February, 2020
Dogs feel pain and, like humans, can experience different illness that involve a variety of symptoms. For example, dogs can suffer from headaches.

It’s difficult to confirm whether or not dogs can have full-blown migraines. However, these animals share many illnesses with human beings and, for example, can suffer from headaches. And these headaches can be the symptom of a number of pathologies.

Of course, dogs can’t tell us when they have a headache, but they do experience pain. We can observe their behavior to look for signs of pain or discomfort in order to know whether the pain could originate in their heads.

If you’ve repeatedly observed signs that correspond to a headache, then the best thing you can do is to see a veterinarian. This professional will help you figure out what’s behind the pain that your pet is experiencing.

Can dogs suffer from headaches the same way that humans can?

Experts believe that dogs – and other animals – suffer from many of the same illnesses that human beings do. And since some of these illnesses cause headaches in humans, then we can infer that dogs can also suffer from headaches.

When humans have headaches, we often display other signs and symptoms besides pain. And these also appear in dogs. For example:

  • Phonophobia and photophobia  – sensitivity to sound or light
  • Squinting of the eyes
  • Dogs become quieter than usual when they suffer from headaches
  • Hyper-reactivity – they react in an exaggerated way when you touch them, especially if you touch their head or neck
  • Dogs become irritable and startled
  • They shake their heads and keep them low, close to the ground. They may bump their heads against the wall in an attempt to relieve pressure
  • Hiding
  • Possible vomiting
  • Apathy
  • Clumsy movements and lack of coordination

Pain is something that’s subjective – it varies from one individual from the next. But each animal species displays certain behaviors (postures, gestures, sounds, etc.) that can be an indication of pain. Without a doubt, if you’ve lived with an animal for quite a while, then you can recognize when he or she is suffering.

Illness and headaches in dogs.

Illnesses that cause these symptoms

Certain pathologies and illnesses include headaches or similar symptoms. Some of these conditions appear in the list below. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is suffering from one of the following problems if he or she has a headache. It’s simply a possibility.

  • Encephalitis. This is the swelling of the brain and is the result of an infection. Bacteria, a virus, and certain protozoans may all cause encephalitis.
  • Granulomatous meningoencephalitis. This is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and can be fatal.
  • Brain tumors
  • Sinus infections
  • Canine glaucoma
  • Epilepsy

All of the above illnesses and conditions can produce headaches of varying severity. However, experts believe that dogs may suffer from headaches or migraines for other reasons as well. These include:

If you suspect that your dog has a headache, seek veterinary attention

As you’ve seen, headaches in dogs can be a sign of serious underlying illnesses. Therefore, it’s important to take your dog to the vet if you observe apparent signs of headaches over time. That way, an expert can perform an exhaustive examination of your pet and rule out anything serious.

The vet can conduct several tests in order to rule out illness: Fast tests, blood tests, x-rays in order to discard the possibility of injury, neurological exams, etc.

Any additional information you can offer your vet regarding your dog’s headaches will lead to a more trustworthy diagnosis. For example, when did you first notice the symptoms? How often does your dog experience headaches? Has your dog suffered any bumps lately?

A dog undergoing a medical exam.

If the origin of your dog’s headache is an illness, then it’s best to treat this illness as soon as possible. However, if it’s not the result of any particular illness, but rather a trauma or environmental factor, then you should find out the cause to relieve symptoms.

Sometimes the causes leading to headaches in dogs are environmental. For example, foods, chemicals, sources of stress, etc. All you need to figure out is which of these factors is to blame and eliminate it.

Dogs can suffer from headaches, there’s no doubt about it. However, it’s not always as easy to tell as it is in humans. So, if you suspect that your animal is experiencing this problem, you should act as quickly as possible before it becomes serious.

  • I.N. Plessas, H.A. Volk  and P.J. Kenny. Migraine‐like Episodic Pain Behavior in a Dog: Can Dogs Suffer from Migraines?, 2013.

  • Ella Bittel, DVM. Headache in Animals