Can Dogs Get Concussions? All You Need To Know

Can Dogs Get Concussions?
Can Dogs Get Concussions?

Concussions are most commonly associated with football players, hockey players, and other elite athletes. You may have never considered that your dog could sustain a concussion. You might not even know what it means, aside from the fact that it is a head injury. We researched everything you need to know about dog concussions and how to treat dogs concussions at home.

What is Dogs Concussion?

A canine concussion is very similar to a human concussion. In contrast to a dog skull fracture, it is a traumatic brain injury, which means that the brain is the focal point of the head injury. Both can occur concurrently, but the dog does not have to have one to have the other.

Dogs can get concussions when the brain moves around inside the skull because of a direct blow to the head or a blow that jars the brain. One example of the latter is when one dog runs into the body of another dog. The head was not directly hit, but the impact was so strong that the brain moved with too much force inside the skull, resulting in a concussion.

There are also contusions, which occur when the brain is hit directly rather than from movement, and a diffuse axonal injury caused by a shaking or rotating motion, such as shaken baby syndrome.
Depending on what happened to the dog or how badly it was treated, it could have a mix of these wounds. An impact on the head or body is the most common cause of traumatic brain injury and concussion.

Because most dogs have thick skulls, they are less likely to suffer head injuries than humans, but this also makes knowing how to hurt our dog less intuitive. We believe they appear fine on the outside, with no visible head injury, and that they may be unaware that their brain has been damaged.

Concussions in dogs are more likely to cause temporary or permanent brain damage than to kill the dog, but death is a possibility. The dog is likely to hurt itself again, and maybe even more badly. It could start bleeding internally or go into shock.

Common Causes of Concussions in Dogs

#1. Car Accident

Auto accidents, like in humans, are a leading cause of concussions. A concussion can occur when a dog (or person) collides and hits its head. As a result, you should never drive with your dog unrestrained.

A dog crate or seatbelt can help to reduce (but not eliminate) the risk. If your dog is involved in an accident, he or she may hit their head on the crate or the car seat. Human passengers should be reminded to wear seatbelts as well.

Be alert and aware while driving, and avoid making calls or texts while driving. Even though these safety precautions may seem like overkill, remember that you are transporting valuable cargo!

#2. Blunt force injuries

Blunt force traumas are a broad category of injuries. On the other end, abuse can result in a concussion. A person who strikes a dog in the head with enough force may suffer a concussion… or worse.

Other examples of blunt force trauma include a falling object, a dog knocking over a heavy piece of furniture on themselves, or crashing into a glass door too hard. A concussion can be caused by blunt force trauma, whether by accident or on purpose.

#3. Attacks by dogs or other animals

Fighting dogs is another way for them to sustain concussions or other injuries. When introducing your dog to other dogs, use extreme caution and never leave your dog alone with a dog you (or they) don’t know. If you have multiple dogs, go to the dog park, or use doggie daycare, you are at risk for dogs fighting. While proper training and supervision can help prevent problems, you should always be on the lookout for them.

#4. Falling or being thrown

Falling or being dropped is a common cause of concussions in smaller breeds of dogs, such as chihuahuas. This can happen if you (or another person) are holding the dog and it wiggles out of your arms. When carrying your dog outside or up and down stairs, be especially cautious because uneven footing can cause you to fall and injure both you and your dog.

Can Dogs Get Concussions

The short answer is yes, dogs can suffer from concussions. It might be harder to figure out what’s wrong with a person, but they still feel the effects of a concussion. The causes of dog concussions vary, but the three most common causes are car accidents, falls, and roughhousing with other dogs. If your dog was in a car accident, please take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Concussions in Dogs

#1. Consciousness loss

“An altered level of consciousness is one of the most common symptoms of dog concussions, in which the dog appears sedated, noninteractive, and less responsive to their surroundings.” If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your dog, even if you have no idea how they were injured, you should contact your veterinarian right away because the therapeutic intervention is most effective when started right away. According to Dr. Karen Becker

#2. Walking and balance issues

Having trouble walking or keeping your balance is a more subtle but still important sign of a concussion. If you know (or suspect) that your dog has had a concussion, look for problems with walking and balance. Another sign that your dog needs medical attention is if he walks unevenly.

#3. Vomiting

Even though a dog may throw up for many reasons, such as the stress of an accident or a fight, it is important to know that throwing up is a sign of a concussion. If your dog is vomiting in addition to any of the other symptoms listed here, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible and get your dog in for treatment.

#4. Pupils of various sizes

Different-sized pupils (one very small, one larger) are a classic sign that a dog has suffered some sort of head trauma. Dr. Becker explains that rapid side-to-side or up-and-down eye movements can occur if the dog is watching something moving very quickly.

How to Treat Concussions in Dogs

Most dog concussions, like human concussions, must heal on their own. Except in the most extreme cases, the vet and you will create conditions that will help the brain work well. Your job is to keep an eye on the dog to make sure that the injury or any side effects don’t get worse and needs emergency care.

Try to keep them calm by not encouraging them to play too much or allowing them to roughhouse. If your house is darker and quieter, the dog will be more relaxed and less motivated to get rambunctious. Consider all of the ways they could hurt themselves. For example, if your home has stairs, keep them downstairs while they heal or only allow them to use the stairs when you are present. They may cause a secondary injury if they are unable to control themselves as they normally do. If possible, this should be avoided for at least two weeks.

Head wounds will almost certainly necessitate dressings, ointments, and oral medications. You should follow your veterinarian’s instructions as closely as possible.

Check that they are eating normally. They require adequate nutrition to heal properly. If they are unable or unwilling to consume a sufficient amount of nutritious food, they will have to be fed by hand or through a tube. If the injury damaged the skull around their mouth or impacted their ability to eat normally, they may have to eat soft foods.

Encourage them to change positions more frequently if they are lying down a lot and are at risk of developing bed sores or urine scalds, and be proactive about preventing and treating any potential sores. If they can sit up, they don’t have to lie down all the time. Just keep them from running around.

How to Treat a Dog Concussion at Home

The first thing to do if your dog is traumatized is to stop whatever activity he or she is doing and get to a calm, cool place. Keep an eye out for any of the symptoms listed above if your pet has a normal level of consciousness and he’s OK, just a little shocked by what happened, according to McCue. In some cases, the dog will show no symptoms. However, if the trauma is severe enough, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

“I think it’s safe to say that if your dog has experienced any type of head trauma, it’s best to have the dog seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible to make sure there isn’t a problem,” Klein says. “Certainly, if the dog has a changed mental state, such as loss of consciousness at some point—even if they’re recovered—then they should be seen by a veterinarian.”

When it comes to a concussion, McCue emphasizes the importance of acting quickly. “The time for intervention is very early on when our therapies can be most effective.” He explains that sometimes a dog “just needs a little bit of support [from the vet] so they can go home and eat and drink and be comfortable… However, if the same animal does not see a vet and has some nausea, and pain, or isn’t eating and drinking well, those secondary problems can begin to emerge. And this can have a negative impact.”

Preventing Your Dogs From Getting Concussions

Due to their thicker skulls, dogs may not get concussions as often as people do, but they can. Because concussions are usually caused by major trauma, owners must be extra cautious. This means giving your dog strict rules and leashes to keep it from running into traffic. Guard rails with small enough gaps are recommended to prevent your dog from falling from high areas, such as a porch or the second floor of a home. allowing your dog to get into fights with other animals. Allow your small dog to play rough with larger dogs, who may use your dog as a chew toy.

What are signs of a concussion in a dog?

Head trauma can manifest itself in a number of ways, including:

  • Laziness.
  • Absence of consciousness
  • Perplexity or disorientation
  • Lack of coordination or difficulty walking.
  • Bleeding from the nose or ears
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Flaccid or rigid limbs
  • Variations in pupil size.

What should I do if my dog hits his head?

If your dog sustains a head injury, take the following precautions:

  • Stay calm; your dog will pick up on your anxiety.
  • Contact a local veterinarian right away.
  • If your dog has external wounds that are excessively bleeding. Use a clean, non-fluffy cloth to apply direct pressure.
  • Keep the animal warm and transport it carefully to the veterinary surgery.

What happens if a dog hits their head?

Seizures, evidence of trauma on the head or other parts of the body, bleeding into the eyes, or bleeding from the nose or ears are all possibilities. A dog with brain damage might have trouble controlling his body temperature, which could lead to either a fever or a body temperature that is too low. The heartbeat may be very slow.

What does a concussed dog look like?

A dog with a concussion might be tired, have pupils that are different sizes, have trouble standing, throw up, or have seizures. If a concussion is suspected, wrap your dog in a blanket to help prevent shock while transporting him or her to the vet.

How long does a dog concussion last?

When it comes to concussions in dogs, time is the most powerful healer. For at least two weeks, your task at home will be to keep your dog comfortable, calm, and mostly sedentary. A full recovery could take up to six months. A calm, quiet environment, as well as protection from being disturbed or distracted, will help your dog heal faster.

How do vets treat dog concussion?

Dogs with concussions who have been vomiting are usually given IV fluids. Your dog may be dehydrated from her concussion and need fluids through an IV to get better. If she requires fluids, she will need to stay at the emergency vet clinic for some time.


Concussions can occur in dogs. If your dog loses consciousness, take him to the vet right away. Don’t let your dog play in the street. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a dog sleep with a concussion?

You should not allow your dog to sleep for the first few hours after a known or suspected head injury so you can determine whether they are lethargic or not and observe other symptoms, but if you are still concerned about them after this period, you should contact their veterinarian.

How does a dog act after a concussion?

Concussion symptoms in dogs can include lethargy, different-sized pupils, difficulty standing, vomiting, and seizures. If a concussion is suspected, wrap your dog in a blanket to help prevent shock while transporting him/her to the vet.

Can dogs get brain damage from falling?

Brain injuries can occur in a variety of ways in dogs and cats. Being hit by a vehicle, being attacked by larger animals (e.g. being severely shaken and/or bitten), falling from a great height, blunt force trauma or gunshot wounds are all common causes of brain injury in pets.

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