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Does My Dog Have a Concussion?

09/07/2017 by Cuteness Team
September 7th, 2017 by Cuteness Team

head pain dog

Updated March 24, 2020

If you see your dog experience any type of head trauma, especially if you witness him getting knocked unconscious, you should take him to a vet immediately as there may be the possibility of a concussion. Some symptoms of concussion, like

If you see your dog experience any type of head trauma, especially if you witness them getting knocked unconscious, you should take them to a vet immediately as there may be the possibility of a concussion.

Concussion Symptoms

Since your dog can’t necessarily communicate their pain and confusion—it’s up to you to be observant and act quickly if you suspect a concussion.

Symptoms of concussion are similar to human symptoms of concussion and include:

  • Different-sized pupils
  • Lethargy, dull or sedated conciousness
  • Disorientation
  • Trouble standing or walking
  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Rapid side-to-side eye movement

If a concussion isn’t identified and treated promptly, your dog could experience long-term damage. Medical attention for suspected concussion is always recommended, even if your dog seems to have recovered from it in the moment.

Causes of Concussion

Similar to humans, dogs can get concussions from a variety of causes. Car accidents, falls from high elevations, head butts or kicks from rough play, running into hard objects or getting hit by falling debris are the kinds of things that can lead to a concussion. Concussions typically occur from blunt injuries, although they can be caused by other animal attacks, when a dog is shaken or thrown to the ground, according to Pet MD.

Small dogs are just as prone to concussions as bigger dogs as they are often carried around and may be dropped, or get into a scuffle with a much larger dog.

Puppies with open fontanels, or soft spots in their skulls, are particularly susceptible to concussion. A dog’s fontanel typically closes by 4 months of age. On rare occasions, the fontanel doesn’t close. Tiny dogs including so-called “teacup” and “toy” breeds of Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Pomeranians are more likely than others to have problems stemming from fontanels that don’t close.

What to Do If You Suspect a Concussion 

When on your way to the vet, or waiting for medical attention, keep the dog calm and cover them with a blanket to help prevent shock. Shock happens when your dog’s internal systems are not getting enough blood flow or oxygen to keep his body functioning normally. Signs of shock include panting, weakness, shivering or convulsions, rapid breathing and fast but weak pulse. Also, if the gums are any color except for pink, that is also a sign of shock.

Transport your dog to the vet as quickly as possible with his head elevated above his hindquarters to reduce intracranial pressure. You may need to use a stretcher or a board to move the dog into a car. Remove their collar or anything that restricts their breathing. If your dog loses consciousness, keep them breathing by gently opening their mouth and pulling the tongue as far forward as you can to open the airway. If your dog stops breathing, perform CPR.

Diagnosing Concussion

Usually, the vet will conduct a neurologic evaluation, check blood pressure and the temperature, sometimes give oxygen, and basically make sure things remain as normal as possible. With more serious injuries, an MRI may be needed. Your vet will likely want to keep your dog overnight for observation, as a concussion that leads to brain swelling can occur as late as 24 hours after an injury. Only a vet is equipped to catch problems that happen later.

Treatment for Concussion

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the injury. Minor concussions may just need rest and observation.

Possible treatments include:  

  • Oxygen
  • IV fluids
  • Diuretics (drugs to expel water and salt)
  • Corticosteroids (steroid hormones)
  • Surgery (in severe cases)

A concussion that leads to unconsciousness can be brief or may last several hours, depending on its severity. As in humans, single concussions in dogs will not usually lead to severe, long-lasting damage, especially if treated in a timely manner.

Preventing Concussion

Of course, the best outcome is to take precautions to prevent a concussion in the first place. Keep your dog on leash or fenced in, secure while riding in a car, and away from aggressive dogs or high, unstable places.

Trauma and accidents account for a vast majority of pet insurance claims; by getting a free quote, you can start the process of safeguarding your pup’s health and covering costly vet visits, especially for those that are unexpected.

Want to learn more about your pup? Discover How to Tell if Newborn Puppies Are Getting MilkIs It Ok To Bathe a Newborn Puppy?, and Facts About Newborn Puppies at!

This article is provided by Cuteness—the go-to destination for passionate pet parents. Cuteness has answers to all of your health, training, and behavior questions – as well as the cutest, funniest, and most inspiring pet stories from all over the world.