Head Pressing in Dogs

Head pressing in dogs is a behavior that indicates some form of damage to the nervous system or brain. It is characterized by the repetitive behavior of pressing the head into walls, doors or other objects. There are many health conditions that can result in head pressing, and it can occur in dogs of all breeds and ages.

Understanding Head Pressing in Dogs

Head Pressing in Dogs

Common Coinciding Symptoms of Head Pressing

Head pressing, in itself, is a symptom of various conditions that can damage the nervous system and/or brain. If your dog is exhibiting head pressing, it will most likely develop other symptoms, which will depend on the underlying cause of the behavior. However, some of the most common symptoms that are often seen alongside head pressing in dogs are as follows:

  • Repetitive Pacing and/or Circling
  • Extreme Changes in Behavior
  • Vision Problems
  • Poor Reflexes
  • Seizures
  • Drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Generalized Weakness
  • Loss of Coordination

It is essential to note that some of the symptoms listed above can lead to secondary health conditions. For example, constant pacing can result in lesions of the foot pads. Additionally, persistent head pressing can cause mild to serious injuries on the head and/or facial area.

If you ever see this behavior, such as in the video below, it is concerning and you should take your pet to the vet immediately:

Main Causes of Head Pressing in Dogs

As stated above, there are many different health conditions that can cause your dog to exhibit head pressing. All of these conditions affect the nervous system and/or brain, which results in head pressing behavior and various other symptoms. You can find the most common of these issues listed below:

  • Primary or Secondary Tumors (Brain Tumors)
  • Encephalitis
  • Hyper or Hyponatremia (Improper Levels of Sodium in the Plasma)
  • Head Trauma
  • Exposure to Various Toxins
  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Liver Problems (Liver Shunts or Cirrhosis)

Typical Treatments of Head Pressing in Dogs

The treatments your dog will need if it is displaying head pressing will depend on the underlying cause of the behavior. However, in any case, severe clinical symptoms will require immediate treatment and often require hospitalization. For your veterinarian to determine the proper treatments, the following tests may be necessary.

  • Fundic Examination of the Retina
  • Blood Pressure Measurement
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Computed Tomography Scans
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood/Lead Concentration Tests

Head pressing can be an indication of a serious underlying health condition in your dog. Typically, pets will exhibit this behavior if there has been some form of damage done to their nervous system and/or brain. Nevertheless, if you seek treatment for your pet immediately, you can help brighten its prognosis.

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