Head Pressing in Dogs: Cute Behavior or an Alarming Health Problem?

It may seem cute at first, but your dog’s habit of pressing his noggin’ against the wall is actually an alarming health issue. Head pressing in dogs have been observed by many veterinarians and the tests showed that this isn’t just a game your pet loves to play.

Remember that the tell-tale sign of a health problem is abnormal behavior. However, for some pet owners, a dog head on wall is just a mere exhibition of cuteness. And this is where the problem arises.

Why is my dog pressing his head on the wall?

Most of the time, our pets will show lethargy, stomach irritation, and mood swings if they’re feeling unwell. However, in some cases, head pressing may happen. This is where your dog presses its head on the wall without moving.

Why is my dog doing this, anyway? There’s a high chance that your pooch is experiencing a massive headache. This also means that your doggo has a problem with its nervous system.

If head pressing has been going on for long, the nervous system issue may develop into a full-fledged neurological problem. Remember, this condition won’t go away on its own. If you don’t seek veterinary help, your dog will succumb to the health problem.

Take note that head pressing is only exhibited by dogs with neural damage or those under the influence of different toxins. It may look cute, but this is a very alarming condition that needs treatment right away.

In fact, Dr. Michelle Murray of NEST Veterinary Neurology said that such behavior may indicate a disease on a dog’s front brain. Other conditions related to the lingering head pressing include encephalitis, stroke, rabies, fungal infection, and more.

Since this is a multi-faceted condition, you should seek the help of a veterinarian the moment you observe this behavior on your dog. Take note that this can take place on cats as well.

In this video, Dr. Karen Becker discusses why head pressing among dogs isn’t just a funny act:

Is head pressing a serious condition?

There are many reasons why your dog does this act. However, to be sure, always consider it as a serious condition. To give you an idea, the cause could be poisoning or something more serious like a brain tumor or cancer. Whatever the cause is, it requires immediate medical attention.

Regardless of the cause, I can say that head pressing is a serious condition. It may not cause any physical injury, but the underlying reason may endanger your pet’s life.

Signs that head pressing is a problem

Usually, head pressing in dogs is accompanied by a myriad of other symptoms. Some of the usual inclusions are pacing in circles, getting stuck in corners, pooing in the house after being fully housebroken, and more. If your dog exhibits one or two of these accompanying symptoms, you should be alarmed.

Other symptoms include the following:

🐶Strong changes in behavior which may include aggression, extreme lethargy, or lack of discipline

🐶Visual problems like constant bumping and inability to identify obstacles along the way.

🐶Pressing the head on an object for no reason, not scratching or easing an itch

🐶Seizures which is an advanced sign of a neurological problem

🐶Sores due to excessive pacing in an isolated area

Don’t wait for all these symptoms to surface before you act. A dog head on wall alone is already a sign of a problem which you should seek help for.

How to diagnose the problem

Once you send your dog into the vet’s clinic, the goal is to prevent the cause from developing into a life-threatening disease. The vet will ask for a detailed report of your pet’s medical history, recent vet visits, and medication that’s taken.

Before jumping to conclusions, the vet has to rule out other possible causes. Head pressing and abnormal behavior can be due to poisoning and other external factors. If your dog vomits, you should mention any possible indoor plants that your pooch might have chewed.

The vet will perform the following steps:

🐶Physical examination

If the vet suspects poisoning, s/he will conduct physical examination by checking the heart rate, muscle tremors, dilation of the eyes, and other related procedures. If poisoning is ruled out, the vet will perform the next step.

🐶Magnetic Resonance Imaging and X-ray

Upon sedating the dog, it will undergo these large machines to check if there are brain abnormalities. An additional CT scan will reveal if your doggo has brain tumors or any growth inside the skull. It will also tell why your dog is pressing a specific side of its head on the wall.

Succeeding tests will be performed to identify the health issue further. Your vet will advise about this.

What causes head pressing

Aside from neural damage, there are many possible causes of head pressing. Just think about the reasons why humans develop headaches.

Your pooch might be experiencing metabolic disorders, a tumor, infection in the nervous system, and even head trauma from zooming in too fast outdoors. Beware, though, since head pressing in dogs can also be a tell-tale sign of rabies infection.

To give you a clearer picture, these are the possible causes why your dog is pressing its head:

🐶Trauma from injuries or major falls

🐶Distemper

🐶Degenerative diseases, especially for senior dogs

🐶A neurological disease like tumors, mineral build-up on the brain, and more

🐶Poisoning

🐶Cancers of the nervous system

🐶Meningitis or swelling of the brain

🐶Other infections of the nervous system

head pressing in dogs

This list isn’t conclusive and only your vet can tell the exact cause of your dog’s sudden head pressing behavior. Always consider such an act as an emergency situation. You’ll never know when your pooch is on the verge of neural damage or a brain tumor. A dog head on wall is just a clue.

The question is this, though. Is your dog in pain when it’s head pressing? There’s a high chance that the pooch is experiencing discomfort and pain. Also, there’s a possibility that the pooch is having a dull headache. Still, no one can tell for sure until necessary tests are conducted.

Common conditions related to head pressing

It’s quite difficult to identify the cause of head pressing among dogs without the help of a veterinarian. Still, the following conditions are the common culprit behind the notorious head pressing:

🐾Nervous system infection. A fungal, viral, or bacterial infection in the nervous system will trigger head pressing. Since the infection will stir irritation and pain, the dog will use head pressing as a way to ease the discomfort. Be careful since the nervous system infection could be highly lethal rabies.

🐾Stroke. A ruptured vessel or a blood clot in the brain can cause stroke among dogs. Such condition may also send them pressing their heads against the wall. Take note that dog stroke can also be a symptom of cancer and poisoning.

🐾Brain tumors. Though not a common condition, brain tumors can be the culprit to the head pressing. Head pressing may indicate a tumor growth in the brain or somewhere at the base of the neck or the skull.

🐾Prosencephalon disease. The prosencephalon or forebrain of the dog may develop a disease which will manifest through pacing in circles, vision problems, seizures, and head pressing. This requires immediate treatment to prevent from developing into a deadly condition.

🐾Toxic poisoning. Once the poison is in the dog’s body, its white blood cells will try to fight off the harmful substances. This process will send the dog pressing its head on the wall. Other symptoms of toxic poisoning include liver disease, poor immune system, diarrhea, and vomiting.

🐾Liver Shunt. This condition happens when the blood isn’t flowing properly into the liver. When the blood bypasses the liver, it proceeds to the systemic bloodstream without getting filtered. Since the unfiltered by-products stay in the blood, the discomfort may cause head pressing.

Treatment and recovery of your dog

Head pressing in dogs is likely to be a symptom of a bigger, underlying condition. With this, the goal is to cure the disease and not the head pressing itself. This is the reason why prompt and proper diagnosis is necessary.

For example, if the dog is poisoned, the vet will provide fluids to arrest dehydration and drain the toxins out of the pooch’s body.

When it comes to neurological problems, your vet will try to try to administer an antibiotic to your dog. This will combat swelling and other symptoms.

However, the antibiotics have to be continuously administered even if the symptoms have improved. Otherwise, your dog will develop resistance to the medication which will sabotage its recovery.

If the cause of head pressing is cancer, the cause will be treated based on the affected spot. The approach will depend depending on the severity, type, and location of cancer. For this condition, veterinarians and dog owners may opt for chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery if needed.

After the initial treatment, the vet will conduct follow-up check-ups, especially if the dog has neurological problems.

During your pet’s recovery period, avoid any possible stressors like vacuuming or overexciting the pooch. Also, make sure that the doggo gets enough food, water, and medication as prescribed by the veterinarian.

Cost of treating the condition

The cost of the treatment will vary widely depending on the cause of head pressing. If the cause is poisoning, the treatment will cost around $1,000 to $2,000. However, if the diagnosis is cancer or any neurological issue, the treatment cost will spike to $5,000 and more.

To give you an idea, here are some of the potential items that will add up to the cost:

🐾Ampicillin for cerebral spinal fluid culture: $50-$55

🐾Bicarbonate injection: $10 per injection

🐾Fluids to ease poisoning: $40-$60

🐾Chelation therapy: $200 -$1,000

🐾Activated charcoal: $15 for 250ct.

These are just some of the possible items your dog will need during treatment. The cost is yet to include vet fees and other procedures like MRI, CT scan, and X-rays.

What if my dog has brain injuries?

If your Fido has been diagnosed with a serious brain injury, long-term care will be needed. It’s important that the doggo is monitored and subjected to continuous professional care.

To prepare you on the possible condition of your pooch, it may experience the following symptoms on the course of the treatment:

🐾Seizures

🐾Malnourishment due to poor appetite and difficulty eating

🐾Possible bleeding inside the skull which may require a surgery

🐾Swelling of the brain that requires immediate treatment

head pressing in dogs

You need to monitor your dog so you can act right away whenever a seizure or untoward incident happens. Since brain injuries can be the underlying cause of dog head on wall, this will need close attention to check if the dog is progressing or relapsing from treatment.

What should I do if my dog is head pressing?

Don’t waste time! Drive straight to the vet to get your dog checked. Be it poisoning, liver shunt, or a possible brain injury, you should treat the condition as an emergency situation.

Head pressing can be caused by various underlying conditions. Some could be serious while others can be treated as long as it’s addressed early on.

If you let your dog press its head continuously, the dog may develop blisters and injuries. It will also cause facial pain and even damages to the facial bone for young pups.

Head pressing in dogs isn’t a cute habit. Also, it’s a condition you shouldn’t ignore. Although it will be a hassle to drop by the vet’s clinic, it can save your pet’s life.

During the treatment, be a hands-on pawrent. You’ll play a big role in the recovery of your pooch, especially in administering medication and providing TLC.

When it comes to your dog, you simply can’t take chances. If the Fido exhibits unusual behavior like head pressing, take the time to send him to the vet. A quick test may reveal a bigger problem. Nevertheless, the consolation here is that if you act right away, you can help prevent the spread of the infection or the development of the disease.

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Head Pressing in Dogs: Cute Behavior or an Alarming Health Problem?

by Kevin Zhou time to read: 8 min
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