Why You Should Take Head Pressing in Dogs Seriously (And Why It's Not Cute!)

Is your dog constantly pressing his head against the wall? This may look cute and almost funny to some pet owners, but you should know better. This canine activity must be taken seriously, lest you want to put your dog in danger. It's a medical emergency that shouldn't be taken lightly. I'm sure you have several questions about the proper measures to take your pet to the vet, so we at Rosy and Rocky have decided to help you answer them.

Question: What is head pressing in dogs?

Answer: Head pressing is a condition where your dog presses his head against the wall, floor, or any other object compulsively for no reason. This often occurs for long periods of time, and happens not only with dogs but also with horses, sheep, cows, and cats. For dogs, it can happen for all breeds and ages.

Head Pressing in DogsUsually, head pressing is a symptom of a neurological or metabolic disorder, and can be life-threatening. If your dog does it often enough--meaning more than once--you should not think of it as a playful activity on your pet's part.

Question: What is causing dog head pressing?

Answer: Metabolic or neurological illnesses are often related to your dog pressing his head against the wall. If it's a metabolic disorder, it could be hypero or hyponatremia, where your pet has a lack or excess of sodium in his blood plasma. It can also be caused by a tumor located in the brain, or an infection in the nervous system. Head trauma from an accident or from being exposed to toxins can cause this as well.

Here's an overview of diseases that can be causing head pressing:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke
  • Head trauma
  • Meningitis
  • Nervous system infection - rabies, fungal, viral, or bacterial infection
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Metabolic disorder 

Question: What other symptoms should you watch out for?

Answer: Head pressing is an indication of a prosencephalon disease, where the thalamus and fore brain areas of your brain are affected.

Aside from head pressing, there are also other symptoms that will indicate possible neurological or metabolic illness. You might want to observe the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Constantly running in circles
  • Compulsively walking about
  • Staring into space 
  • Changes in behavior
  • Getting easily stuck in corners
  • Vision problems
  • Reflexes that are off-sync
  • Seizures
  • Pushing and rubbing one's face into the ground

These symptoms may lead to lesions on the feet as a result of excessively walking and pacing about, as well as injuries to your dog's head as a result of pressing one's head against the wall.

However, you should also be aware of your over reactive tendencies. Be observant, but don't put meaning where there is none. For instance, if your pet is simply rubbing his head against your legs, they might only just want affection from you.

Question: What is the diagnosis for head pressing?

Answer: Dog vets will run a number of tests on your dog, starting with a fundic examination of the eye, specifically the retina and other parts at the back of the eye. The purpose is to check if there is any infection or inflammatory diseases.
A blood pressure test will also be done to check for high blood pressure, as well as a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brain. A urinalysis and blood lead concentration test will also be done.

Question: What is the proper treatment for this?

Answer: The best and most immediate action you should take is to bring your pet to the vet. The last thing you should do is try and diagnose your pet by yourselves canine vet specialist will likely run a number of tests on your dog to find out what's causing the head pressing. Most conditions are treatable and can help your canine friend make full recovery, but if you wait too long, your pet could get into trouble.

The veterinary care that will be done to your canine friend really depends on the symptoms and the diagnosis. Take note that severe signs may require hospitalization of your dog.Your dog may also have to be administered drugs or therapies. If the cause is neurological, your dog will likely have to undergo repeat neurological examinations.

Having said all these, you might want to make sure that your dog doesn't run away and is within your range of sight. You best use an extra long retractable dog leash to help your dog stay in sight and away from corners where they can easily press their head to, while at the same time allowing them to remain comfortable with the length of the leash. After all, at the end of the day, it's really a matter of giving both comfort and the proper treatment to your canine friend.