While we like to think that nothing bad will ever happen to our beloved dog, accidents happen, and dogs may wind up with a head injury. Unfortunately, you can’t call an ambulance for your dog, so what are you supposed to do in this situation? VETMED in Phoenix, Arizona, understands that the situation is stressful and scary and is here to help you.

Pet owners are likely to think any little bump is a big deal because they love their pets. While small bumps to the noggin aren’t likely to lead to any real injury, other cases will require serious care, so it is important to know what to do in these situations. In some instances, you won’t even see an accident happen, so you also need to know what head trauma looks like in dogs.

Symptoms of Head Trauma

Head trauma can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Coordination problems or difficulty walking
  • Bleeding from the ears or nose
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Rigid or flaccid limbs
  • Differences in pupil size
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these symptoms, bring your dog in to see a veterinarian right away—even if you aren’t aware of any head trauma. These symptoms can be signs of different injuries or illnesses that need to be dealt with immediately.

Types of Head Trauma

While dogs have thicker skulls than humans, they can still damage their skulls or brains. Dogs can suffer from many of the same head injuries as humans. The most common causes of head injuries in dogs are car accidents, falls, and roughhousing. Falling from high elevation and car accidents can lead to some very severe injuries.

Concussions are the most common form of head trauma in dogs. Generally, dogs make a full recovery from a concussion, but delayed treatment or extreme head trauma can lead to a concussion-causing permanent brain damage.

Dogs can also have brain bleeding and swelling. Both conditions are very serious and require immediate medical attention. Bleeding in the brain causes increased pressure inside the skull, causing worsening damage to nerves and message centers in the brain. Swelling can cause the brain to become too large for the skull, which leads to the loss of brain function. Both brain bleeds and swelling can lead to permanent brain damage and death.

What You Should Do

If you notice your dog displaying any of the above symptoms, you should take him or her to a veterinary hospital immediately. It is a good idea to call the hospital while en route to let them know you are coming. While on your way, you will need to be able to keep your dog calm and warm to prevent shock. Symptoms of shock include lethargy, weakness, pale gums, and a racing heart.

Some dogs with head injuries have external wounds. Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth to any freely bleeding wounds to try to slow the bleeding. It is a good idea to bring a second person with you on the trip to the hospital just in case your dog’s condition worsens.

What to Expect from the Veterinarian

Once you arrive at the pet hospital, the veterinarian will assess your dog’s condition. Your dog may be taken back to the treatment area immediately to assess their stability. An intravenous catheter may be placed for administration of pain medications and other emergency drugs.

A veterinarian will also be able to do a neurological examination to look for signs of brain damage. Brain damage can lead to motor and mental problems. Even if these signs are very severe, many dogs have improvement given appropriate treatment and time for recovery. If there is an ongoing neurological issue, a veterinarian will be able to help you better understand the problem and what special care your dog might need in the future.

During your visit, be sure to ask your veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet’s care. You will be provided with typed up notes, so you can be sure that you are following your vet’s guidelines.

Recovering from Head Trauma

While your dog is recovering from head trauma, you should limit the activity level to only the necessities like eating and short trips outside for bathroom breaks. To limit activity, you can confine your pet to a small room, crate, or pen. It is best to keep your dog in the same area you spend most of your time in as it provides comfort and you are better able to keep an eye on him or her.

If there were any secondary injuries, you will need to also keep an eye on those to make sure they are healing properly. Your vet may recommend frequent revisits to monitor the healing process.

In some cases, recovery may only take a few days. Other dogs may require months of recovery time. Your veterinarian will be able to provide guidance to your pet’s specific case.

If you live in Phoenix, Arizona and you notice your dog exhibiting the symptoms of head trauma, please contact VETMED at 602-697-4694 or bring your pet in and we will examine him or her right away, no appointment necessary. VETMED offers emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.