What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Canine Head Injuries

13 October 2015
 Categories: , Articles

If your dog has suffered a head trauma of any kind, there is always the risk that he or she may have a concussion or other serious brain injury. As a dog owner, it is important that you not only understand what can cause a concussion, but also how to recognize the signs of it and seek treatment. Here's a look at what you need to know about protecting your dog's long-term health in the event of a head injury.

What Can Cause a Dog's Concussion?

Dogs can suffer a concussion in the same manner that people do. Whether your dog falls from a high elevation, is struck by a car, runs into something hard or is hit in the head, there's a risk of concussion. Even if you think the injury is minor, it's in your best interest to have your dog evaluated at a local animal hospital like Bijou Animal Hospital P.C. or by a veterinarian, because the extent of head injuries can be tough to determine without a medical exam. Internal bleeding and swelling would require medical intervention to detect before they caused serious injury.

What Are the Signs of a Dog's Head Injury?

There are several things that you can look for as indicators that your dog may have suffered a serious head injury.

  • Disorientation – If your dog seems disoriented or is having difficulties walking, it may be the result of a contusion. Contusions are bruises on the brain. They can be difficult to detect without spotting physical signs such as the problems with walking, because contusions don't typically cause unconsciousness. While contusions are typically minor, any signs of disorientation should be taken seriously.
  • Unconsciousness – Any time your dog is knocked unconscious, you should take it seriously. When a dog is knocked unconscious, they are at greater risk of a concussion that can lead to serious lasting medical effects. The longer your dog is out, the greater the risk of problems. If your dog is knocked unconscious for any length of time, it is cause for concern.
  • Seizure – Any kind of contusion or concussion can leave scar tissue on the brain. This can lead to seizures. A mild seizure can be as subtle as gentle twitching, a dazed appearance or frequent blinking. More extensive seizures, on the other hand, can lead to physical collapse. Seizures can occur even after your dog has been released from the veterinarian's care.
  • Other Physical Signs – In addition to these symptoms, you may also notice that your dog has one pupil that is either larger than the other or possibly reacts differently to light than the other. In severe cases, your dog may even suffer paralysis in at least one limb.

How Do You Treat a Dog's Head Injury?

Your veterinarian's treatment option for your dog's head injury will vary based on the severity of the injury. Here are some of the things that you can expect.

  • Neurological Exams – The veterinarian will need to perform multiple neurological exams, because this is the only way to both diagnose and monitor the condition of your dog's brain. Brain injuries can lead to sudden changes in brain condition, so it's important for your vet to conduct these exams multiple times. In many cases, your veterinarian may want to hold your dog for a day to conduct these exams easily.
  • Supportive Care – If your dog is suffering from seizures as a result of the trauma, your veterinarian will likely administer a medication to help stop those seizures from happening. If there is visible swelling on the brain, your veterinarian can draw excess fluid away from the tissue and provide oxygen therapy to ensure that your dog is getting sufficient oxygen to the brain.
  • Surgery – In severe cases, your dog may require surgery. If the injury resulted in a fracture in the skull, the veterinarian may need to remove pieces of the skull that are putting pressure on the brain.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of head injuries in your dog is essential to getting care right away. If you have any reason to suspect that your dog has suffered an injury to the head, talk to your vet or local animal hospital about an exam and treatment.