Do Dogs Get Headaches?

Sad dog
Ethan Standal / Flickr

Can you recall how many times a headache ruined your plans for the entire day? It wasn’t a pleasant experience, was it? Headaches do not give you a heads-up before hitting you on the head with a sledgehammer. A headache can make you feel irritated faster than anything else will, and it’ s the same for our furry little friends too. Yep. You read that right. Dogs can get headaches too.

What Is a Headache?

The World Health Organization states that headaches rank among the most common disorders of the nervous system. Dr. William C. Shiel Jr defines a headache as a pain in the head. This pain is felt above the eyes or ears, behind the head, or at the back of the neck.

By WHO analysis, headaches can either be primary or secondary. While primary headaches could be triggered by alcohol intake, consumption of processed food that contains nitrate, lack of sleep, stress, and even skipping meals, secondary headaches could occur due to terminal illnesses.

Sad dog
Chris Price / Flickr

A bad headache can make you feel confused, drowsy, or even cause nausea. When you experience headaches, you can easily get drug prescriptions from a pharmacy to eliminate it and reduce its effects.

Why Do Dogs Have Headaches?

Just like you feel your head brimming with so much hurt when it aches, your dog can feel such pain as well. The reason for this not farfetched; your dog has a brain, veins, and muscles, which makes it possible for them to have a headache.

According to Ella E. Bittel, DVM in the Integrative Veterinary Care Journal, “logic dictates that any animal who has a head and can perceive pain would have the capacity to suffer from headaches.” Your dog fits this description, and, as such, he can feel a headache.

Andrew Galka / Flickr

So far, there are no exact reasons for headaches in dogs, but headaches in dogs can be directly linked to some physical actions and medical conditions. Actions like tightening a chain around your dog’s neck, poor hydration, heat exhaustion, lack of rest, excessive activities, and even poor feeding could cause headaches in dogs. In other instances, medical conditions like dental issues or even brain tumors could trigger headaches from time to time. Your dog could also get a headache if they are exposed to conditions or food they are allergic to.

How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Headache

Each time you had a headache, you could tell a doctor exactly what you felt. You could answer the doctor’s questions on how bad the pain was and how long you had the headache. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to dogs.

Dogs cannot speak, and because of that, you are left with the option of speculating what is wrong with them. Unless they begin to have behavioral changes, you might not be able to tell what exactly is wrong. Behavioral changes also do not explicitly tell what the problem is. This explains why many dogs might suffer a headache for a long while before they finally get treated.


If you notice some weird behavioral changes in your dog, he might have a headache. There’s no way to be sure unless you seek professional help, but you can watch out for the following signs in your dog to tell whether they have a headache or not:

  • Excessive sleeping
  • Sluggish behavior
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Flinching at touches
  • Irritation to familiar activities
  • Keeping the head low / Hitting the head against furniture / Aggressively shaking the head
  • Squinting the eyes
  • Refusal to eat
  • Drooling excessively
  • Pacing anxiously.

We’ve established that dogs can experience headaches, and in some instances, they can also have migraines. When such occur, you shouldn’t panic. It might hurt you to see your friend in that state, but getting help is paramount. Visit your vet to examine your dog and to make a prescription.

Here’s one more essential point to note. Avoid treating your dog with drugs that you use; their body system might process it differently, causing complications. Letting your dog get enough rest, hydration, and watching out to remove items they are allergic to could also help. While treatments like acupuncture could be prescribed, it should be carried out by an expert.

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