Can Dogs Get Headaches? 5 Surprising Causes to Look Out For
Dogs can have headaches and even migraines. After all, a dog’s biology isn’t much different from ours.
Since dogs have conditions typical in humans, there is no need to assume they don’t get headaches.
How about the fact that they have ears, a nose, a mouth, and eyes which are potential causes of headaches in humans? Or that they are sentient beings with emotions, feelings, and thoughts, and therefore, capable of developing stress-related disorders?
There is every reason to believe that your dog can get a headache.
Let’s explore everything you need to know about headaches in dogs so that you can make informed decisions concerning your dog’s health and happiness.
What Causes Headaches in Dogs?
The possibilities are almost endless and range from medical conditions like brain tumors or eyesight issues to trauma and emotional or physical stress.
Let’s have a look at the surprising but very common (as you’re more likely to overlook them) problems that might trouble your pup with a pulsing and painful headache.
1 – Sinus Infections
A sinus infection occurs when the nasal cavity lining becomes inflamed or irritated. It could be from allergies, prolonged exposure to strong scents, and microorganisms, such as cold viruses.
Note: Allergies don’t cause headaches per se. They block the nasal cavity, causing sinus congestion. The congested cavities then lead to sinus pressure and pain or headaches.
When the nasal cavity is infected, the sinus tissues swell and retain more liquid than they would normally. The excess liquid within the sinuses makes the face region feel tender and achy.
In humans, a sinus-induced headache feels like a dull ache on the forehead, nose bridge, behind the eyes, and cheekbones.
Although your pup cannot show or tell you where they feel the pain, there is every reason to believe that they have similar experiences with a sinus headache.
2 – Changes in Atmospheric Pressure
Did you know that dogs can feel changes in barometric pressure, such as when there is an incoming storm and consequently experience headaches?
Did you also know that the longer your dog’s snout and the larger the sinus cavities, the more likely that feeling these changes will cause headaches due to the large surface area exposed to atmospheric pressure?
Typically, changes in the external air pressure also affect the internal pressure, especially in the snout’s sinus cavities. These changes could cause a headache, similar to the airplane ear pain experienced by some people, especially first-timers when flying.
I believe a barometer pressure-induced headache could feel like an airplane ear.
It’s also commonly believed that dogs can sense storms by smelling the rain and thunder before you can and even experience a static charge.
Your pup will tell you they are having these types of headaches through:
- Pain signs, such as anxiety and pressing the head against surfaces
- Agitation, such as backing, growling, clingy, anxiety, and fear
- Sinus problems characterized by runny or congested noses
Note: Your vet can recommend heating pads, extra blankets, and other comforts if your dog is a profoundly sensitive weatherman.
3 – Prolonged Exposure to Dog Urine
Did you know that dog urine contains ammonia? Or that prolonged exposure to it can irritate sinuses in the snout and likely cause headaches?
Did you also know that when a dog’s urine dries up, it leaves behind tiny, smelly crystals that can irritate the sinuses when the molecules from the particles come into contact with moisture in your pup’s nose?
For this reason, I recommend fitting crates instead of spacious ones because your dog can’t turn that extra space into a bathroom and, subsequently, create a recipe for never-ending irritating headaches and sinus infections.
Additionally, always ensure your pup has clean sleeping quarters that don’t smell like dirty urinals. Also, potty train them so that they don’t soil their beddings.
Note: Even strong-scented colognes can cause headaches in dogs.
4 – Hypertension
An analytical paper on how hypertension causes headaches indicates that high blood pressure affects the blood-brain barrier and exerts pressure on the brain.
This pressure can cause headache-like symptoms. Therefore, healthy diets go a long way in preventing blood-pressure-related headaches.
Check out the video below for insights on fun, nutritious, and dog-friendly dog recipes. Your dog will thank you when feasting on homemade delicacies that excite the snout in healthy ways.
If you’re unsure what food your dog really likes, test it out like my wife and me in the video below.
We had so much fun and love when learning from our dog’s taste buds and other behaviors. I hope you’ll have a similar experience when testing various recipes on your pooch.
Note: High blood pressure is common in overweight dogs. Therefore, every time you feed your dog, you’re either feeding diseases or health. Choose wisely.
5 – Neck or Head Trauma
Trauma in the snout and neck region can also cause headaches as it overexcites the nervous system, overloading the brain with pain messages, causing tension headaches.
Therefore, always ensure your home is dog friendly, especially if you adopt a blind dog like Kobe.
After my wife and I adopted Kobe, we realized that he needed more space than our town home could offer. Therefore, we moved to the countryside, where it’s spacious, and Kobe doesn’t have to run into things all the time and risk head or neck trauma.
Note: Medical procedures like head surgeries can also induce headaches if and when they cause trauma or activate pain nerves and receptors in the neck or snout region.
What are the Signs Your Dog Has a Headache?
Since your dog cannot tell you when they have headaches or even migraines, it’s up to you to be on the lookout for the telling signs and symptoms.
The table below shows some of the most common symptoms associated with headaches, migraines, and sinus infections.
Light and sound sensitivity
Abnormal blinking/squinted eyes
Pressing the head against surfaces
Runny nose with clear and watery nasal discharge
Nausea and/or vomiting
Fatigue and dizziness
Runny nose with yellow or green mucus-like discharge
Lack of appetite
Coughing in some cases
Fever and lethargy
What Should You Do When Your Dog Has a Headache?
If you notice persistent worrisome signs from your pup, a trip to the vet will benefit both of you.
Although there are headaches that subside quickly and easily, others can be chronic or a sign of a more severe condition, such as a brain tumor.
At the vet center, your dog might undergo some physical examinations to diagnose the issue, such as:
- Sensitivity to light indicated by pupil dilation or squinting
- Allergy tests to determine your dog’s sensitivity to specific allergens that are most likely within the home environment
- MRI to rule out more serious causes of headaches, such as tumors
The diagnostic tests will determine the next course of action. Sometimes, it is as simple as getting rid of certain things in the house or as complex as brain surgery.
Hopefully, it’s the former. No dog deserves invasive surgery, especially in the snout region, because that’s the epicenter of their survival.
I have experienced this with some of my dogs, and it was heartbreaking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do dogs get headaches?
Dogs have headaches when there is interference in how the blood vessels, nerves, and muscles in the face, neck, and scalp work.
Can seizures cause headaches in dogs?
I have heard some owners say their dogs often squint and keep their heads low after a seizure episode. So yes, your dog can get seizure-induced headaches.
Can I give my dog my painkillers when they show signs of a headache?
Please don’t. As indicated in the table below, human-based medicine can be toxic to dogs. Therefore, if you notice any of the signs below when medicating your dog (self- or vet-prescribed), consult an animal doctor immediately.
|Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
|Paracetamol or acetaminophen
|Ibuprofen, diclofenac, and aspirin
|Panadol, calpol, and in many cold medicines
|Klonopin, valium, and Xanax
|Celexa, zoloft, and prozac
|Serious stomach or intestinal ulcers, kidney failure, seizures, coma, hemorrhages, and death
|Irreversible liver damage
|Aggression, agitation, vomiting, and incoordination
|Seizures, sedation, tremors, and incoordination
|Moderate to severe
|Moderate to severe
|Mild to severe
|Moderate to severe
About Rocky Kanaka
I’m a pet rescue advocate, Emmy-nominated host and creator of my own show. My passion is sharing stories about rescue dogs, pet adoption, fostering, and volunteering because I believe that every dog deserves a loving home.
I’m a dog dad to a rescued boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso called Kobe, and a senior terrier-mix named Zoey, along with the many foster dogs I rehabilitate on their way to their forever home.