What is Head Pressing?

June 18, 2018

Head pressing is talked about a lot in veterinary medicine. Professionals say it’s important to know more about this condition to better take care of your pet.

Many people believe that this is an illness. But in reality, it’s a symptom that something is wrong with your pet. Head pressing is when they rest or press their head against a solid surface such as a wall, door, fence, or similar.

Animals have many ways of showing that something is affecting them. It could be barking, changes in mood, or strange new behaviours. Head pressing is a clear example that your animal is trying to tell you something isn’t right.

Therefore, before you tell them off for bad behaviour, check they’re not behaving like this involuntarily because of an illness.

How to recognize head pressing

Head pressing is when your animal frequently rests or presses their head against a solid surface. This could be a wall or a fence.

A dog looking through a bannister

The most accepted explanation is that animals do this to try and reduce an intense headache. However, it’s very unusual for a dog to suffer headaches. So you should take them straight to a vet if they start doing this.

It’s easy to tell when your dog is ‘head pressing’. They tend to spend a lot of time very still supporting their head against a wall. This can cause injury to their legs and skull, as they apply a lot of pressure to relieve the pain.

Head pressing can be the first of many symptoms. Your dog might start being less obedient. It’s common for them to ignore orders or stop responding when you call them.

As a neurological condition progresses,this behavior may be accompanied with other strange behaviours. These can include compulsively rotating their head, changes in mood, progressive loss of vision and reflexes, and even convulsions.

What causes head pressing?

Just like in humans, there are many things that can cause headaches in dogs. It could be a sign of a neurological problem or food poisoning. Specialists have observed the following factors as possible causes of head pressing:

  • Physical trauma.
  • Water on the brain. This is increased pressure on the brain due to a build-up of fluid.
  • Infectious processes which compromise the nervous system: rabies, toxoplasmosis, and distemper.
  • Tumours or cerebral oedemas.
  • Stroke.
  • Poisoning by chemicals, toxic substances, or drugs.
  • A build-up of toxins in the body, mainly due to liver failure.
  • Ingesting too much sodium (or salt).

Which breeds are more susceptible?

Any breed can begin head pressing and be affected by serious neurological problems or poisoning.

The majority of cases tend to relate to particular breeds. These are mainly the Pug, French Bulldog, Yorkshire and Boston Terriers, and the Beagle.

Cats can show symptoms like head pressing and neurological damage. However, cases are much less common than in dogs.

What to do if your pet starts head pressing

It’s very important to take your pet straight to a vet if they show any signs of head pressing. Neurological problems and poisoning are serious issues and advance rapidly.

Early diagnosis will give you the best chance of being able to cure your pet. If the illness reaches the central nervous system and the brain, the damage could be irreversible and even lead to death.

The vet will find out the cause of the head pressing. Then they’ll suggest the right treatment.

Is there treatment for head pressing?

As it’s a symptomatic behaviour of different illnesses, the treatment will depend on what’s affecting your pet.

A dog being checked by a vet for causes of head pressing

If they diagnose intestinal worms, this can be treated with anti-parasitic treatment. On the other hand, if they have a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be the best choice. If they are suffering from water on the brain, they’ll need drainage of a particular part of the brain.

It’s not possible to give a single answer. Only your vet will be able to recommend the best treatment.

How to prevent head pressing

There is no particular way to prevent this behaviour. All you can do is take good care of your animal’s health. Therefore, give them a healthy diet and make sure they’re well hydrated.

Recognising the early signs of head pressing could save your pet’s life. So, care for them and pay close attention.

Source of Main Image: John Garghan