How Do Concussions Occur in Dogs?


A concussion or mild traumatic brain injury does not only happen to people. Even animals, especially dogs, can get one. How will you know if a dog is already suffering from this kind of head trauma? Read on to find out what you can do in case your own pet accidentally experienced it.

How Do Dogs Get Concussions?

There are many possible reasons why dogs suffer from a traumatic brain injury. The most common one is the pet hitting its head on furniture such as tables around the house. Serious cases involve forceful trauma, like car accidents.

A brain injurycan happen to any dog but the most active ones are more prone to getting one. It is not impossible to happen to a dog that likes rough play. If your pooch is very active, it could occur from him bumping his head on hard surfaces as he plays.

In some dogs, it occurs after a fall. Canines usually limp after a fall because it is very painful for them, especially if they fall from high places. After all, dogs are not as flexible as cats.

Puppies are more prone to head injuries than adult dogs because their fontanels are not yet closed. This refers to the soft spot in their head like the one we all have when we are babies. It will stay open until they reached adulthood.

The fontanel should be closed by the time the pup reached his 9th to 12th week of life. Adult pets with an open fontanel, with the exemption of Chihuahuas, may be suffering from hydrocephalus. The abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain is often hereditary.

Aside from puppies, small breeds like the Chihuahua are more prone to concussions than larger dog breeds. This is due to the structure of their heads because their fontanels are open. This characteristic is a standard for this dog breed and this is also referred to as molera.

What Are the Symptoms of Concussions in Dogs?

The symptoms of canine concussion are almost similar to the ones people have. Non-dilated pupils are the leading signs of brain injury. The eyes are often the parts being affected because the optic nerve is connected to the brain.

If your pet’s pupils are obviously not the same size and he finds it difficult to move around, he might be suffering from brain injury. He might have been very energetic before but suddenly finds it hard to keep his balance.

If severe, a head injurywill be characterized by bleeding. It’s best to check if there’s blood in the nose and the mouth. Oftentimes, it can be in the eyes. Subdural hematoma or the collection of blood outside the brain may also occur.

Do note that there are two different types of brain injury, namely primary and secondary injuries. A primary injury usually occurs right after the time of the impact. Aside from hemorrhages, the flow of blood in the dog’s brain will be affected as the artery was torn.

The other one is the secondary injury, which is more serious because it already involves the swelling of the brain. It is important to bring the pet to an animal clinic because this type of injury can put his life at risk. This may lead to serious health complications like not having enough oxygen in the body or losing blood supply.

What to Do With a Dog With Concussion?

Given that all the symptoms are present, don’t think twice and bring your pet to the nearest vet clinic. A head injury can be fatal especially in pups, whose heads are still very soft. While bringing your pet to the vet, remember to elevate his head to lessen the pressure around the brain. It should be positioned above his hindquarters.

How Are Concussions Diagnosed?

The vet will start by observing for clinical signs of brain injury. Differently sized pupils are the first sign to check. To see the eyes clearly, your vet may use a flashlight and might check them in a darker room.

A CT scan or an MRI is necessary to examine the extent of the head trauma. A veterinary neurologist will be the best person to do this kind of examination.

Your doctor may begin looking for other clinical signs, like the pet appearing stressed or thrilled. After looking at the clinical signs, your vet may also conduct a hematocrit test to measure the percentage of red blood found in the whole blood.

The other types of tests your vet may perform are serum analysis and complete blood count. Your vet will likely check the level of glucose in your pet’s blood to determine your dog’s level of injury.

How Can Concussion Be Treated?

The only way to find out the necessary treatment for your pooch is to see a vet so he can give a proper diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the head injury, your vet will likely ask to hospitalize the dog so the pet can be monitored.

Dogs without balance and who look confused after an injury should be observed and can be given oxygen as needed. In case there is a wound and your pet’s injury is obviously severe, he needs to stay in the hospital for a few more days for treatment.

Pain medications are commonly given to dogs if they are suffering from headaches. If there is an open wound, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics. For severe cases where the dog is already experiencing seizures, the vet may administer anticonvulsants.


Due to their active nature, dogs are susceptible to concussions. Keep an eye on your pet after a fall or any incident that would hurt his brain. This can lead to brain trauma, which causes complications when left untreated. Studies suggest that severe concussion can even lead to seizures in canines.


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