Head Pressing

July 8th, 2014

Dogs do things all the time that we humans might seem a bit odd, so it is not surprising that we also might miss unusual behaviors, which could actually be life threatening.

If you notice your dog or cat pressing their head against a wall or other object for no apparent reason, your pet could have a dangerous medical condition, which warrants an immediate medical assessment. This is called “head pressing,” and is characterized by the action of pressing the skull against something solid for extended periods of time. This behavior indicates a neurological condition or damage to the central nervous system. Other behaviors and symptoms related to this condition include pacing in circles, getting stuck in corners, staring at walls, unresponsive reflexes, seizures and vision problems.

The causes of head pressing are widely varied, but a few of the most common causes are: brain tumors; liver shunts (which means the blood flow to and through the liver is compromised), prosencephalon disease (in which the forebrain and thalamus parts of the brain are damaged), stroke, toxic poisoning, metabolic disorder, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungus), infection of the nervous system (such as rabies, parasites, bacterial, viral or fungal infection), liver disease or head trauma.

Recognizing symptoms and taking immediate action is paramount in saving an animals life. If your pet is exhibiting head pressing behavior or any other associated symptoms, you should seek veterinary help immediately. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment can vary widely in cost, difficulty, time and prognosis. Some underlying conditions involve medical treatment while others require surgical intervention. Your veterinarian will be able to perform tests and determine a treatment protocol that is best for your pet. Often in the case of complicated neurologic diseases involving the brain, referral to a specialist is recommended.