Dogs (and cats) do some crazy things, but pet owners tend to know when strange behavior is not viral video-worthy, but a sign that something is very wrong. Head pressing is one such behavior. If you see your furry friend head pressing, consult The Animal Neurology & Imaging Center (The ANIC) right away.
Recognizing Head Pressing
Unlike circling that can be confused with normal, instinctual behavior, head pressing is never normal. It is easy to recognize—your dog* may either walk to a wall, solid piece of furniture or other stable object and press its head against it. It is clear during head pressing that your pet is not sniffing or searching for anything; the animal simply stands still pressing its head against the object.
There is no minimum amount of time required for head pressing to be diagnostically significant. However, if allowed to continue, your pet can develop sores on its face where pressure is frequently applied.
Possible Causes of Head Pressing
Head pressing may be symptomatic of a number of neurological issues, such as:
- Prosencephalon disease
- Brain tumor
- Infection of the nervous system, e.g. rabies or fungal infection
- Head trauma
There are also a number of possible non-neurological causes for head pressing, including metabolic disorder, tumor located somewhere other than the brain or spinal cord and exposure to toxins (e.g. lead).
Testing and Treatment for Head Pressing
There are a number of tests that may help our doctors determine the underlying cause for your dog’s head pressing. Only after your pet has been given a thorough neurological examination do we proceed to additional tests, such as lab work and imaging tests.
It is essential to determine the underlying cause of head pressing in order for an effective and safe treatment plan to be developed. Our doctors will inform you of all treatment options, at-home care requirements and costs so that you can make the best decision for your entire family.
Head pressing is never normal behavior. If you see your dog head pressing, contact us for emergency service.
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* Cats may also experience heading pressing, but it is significantly much less frequent than in dogs. Dogs of any age or breed may show this sign of neurological dysfunction.