Do Dogs Get Headaches? The Bottom Line

Published by I Love Veterinary

Updated on

I Love Veterinary blog is reader-supported, and we may earn a commission from products purchased through links on this page, at no additional cost to you. Learn more About Us and our Product Review Process >

Animal Headaches 

Do dogs get headaches? Yes, canine headaches are real and can cause a great deal of discomfort for your pet. 

Although the studies on this subject are few, largely because dogs cannot communicate their discomfort to us orally, most veterinarians concur that headaches in dogs are not only feasible but also quite common.

Dog headache

Do Dogs Get Headaches?

Do animals get headaches? Let’s look at how your dog may act when they have a headache, what may cause or make this head pain worse, and how to manage dog migraines at home because we don’t want your furry friends to feel discomfort.

Many veterinarians concur that it is conceivable for dogs to experience headaches, although few studies support this. We must first comprehend how and why headaches develop in us to understand how and why our pets might experience them.

The brain serves as the body’s pain informant. Pain in the head comes about by the enlargement or constriction of the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that surround our skull and neck. 

Do dogs get headaches like humans? Dogs also get headaches because their nerves and blood vessel structures resemble humans.

Dogs cannot speak or convey where their pain originates, how long it lasts, or the precise sensation it causes. Therefore headaches are controversial in the veterinary profession since they are challenging to diagnose in canines (all questions doctors ask human patients to diagnose headaches properly).

Can dogs get migraines? While some veterinarians question whether dogs can get headaches, many may conclude that there is no reason why they can’t. This could be either momentary or persistent head discomfort. 

Some claim that dogs have stronger olfactory sensitivity than humans and that strong, disagreeable smells are a major contributor to canine migraines.

Can Dogs Get Migraines?

According to the case study below, dogs get migraines. Because you don’t want your dog to be in any pain, take a look at some of the symptoms that could indicate that your dog is suffering from a headache, as well as some of the things that could be causing or exacerbating this kind of head pain, and some of the ways that you can treat dog migraines at home.

How to Know if Your Dog Has a Headache

How do you know if your dog has a headache? Even though dogs may not express their discomfort in the same way that we do, there are a few methods to identify if your dog is suffering from a headache.

The following are some of the symptoms that a dog may display if it is suffering from a headache:

Sensitivity to Light

Your dog’s sensitivity to light is one of the most important indicators that it may suffer from a headache. It’s possible that you’ve seen your dog avoiding regions of the house with bright lights or that it’s seeking to flee to darker rooms and corners of the house. 

Because the brightness of the sunlight makes the dog’s headache worse, the dog may be reluctant to go outside, even to use the toilet, if it has a headache because it irritates their headache.

In addition to avoiding areas with a lot of bright light, you could notice your dog squinting or narrowing its eyes more frequently to reduce the amount of light reaching them. They may blink more quickly and often due to the same issue.

Sensitivity to Touch

If your dog has a headache, it may be sensitive to touch in addition to being sensitive to light. This is most likely the case in the region around their eyes and temples. If your dog is generally very friendly and enjoys caressing but avoids this attention, they may suffer from a headache.

Anxious Behaviors May Indicate a Headache

Many dogs show tension when in pain, such as frequent licking, panting, or pacing around the house. Stress behaviors such as these can indicate various problems in dogs, ranging from general separation anxiety to aversion to loudness.

However, if you also see additional symptoms on this list, your dog may be trying to communicate that they are experiencing head pain through these recurring acts.

Lack of Interest in its Meals

Eating can be challenging for both of you when your dog has a terrible headache. Your ordinarily ravenous dog may have a headache if you observe that they are less interested in their meal than usual or have difficulty chewing their food. 

A lack of appetite in a dog is a significant issue that you shouldn’t ignore; therefore, if this is one of the symptoms of your dog’s headache, you must find out the origin of the problem and find a solution as soon as possible.

Sleeping More

A headache in animals, as well as humans, may cause an increase in sleep. When a dog has a headache, it may sleep more, spend more time laying around, go to bed earlier, and wake up later in the morning. It may also spend more time lounging around. 

Either they are trying to relieve their head pain by sleeping, or their headache is causing them not to get up and move around.

Causes of Canine Headaches

Dogs certainly have headaches for several causes, just like humans do (but it doesn’t include alcohol-related headaches). The following are some of the most likely causes:

  • Head or neck trauma or injury
  • Dental issues
  • Misuse of collars
  • Irritating chemicals, like smoke
  • Mold spore exposure
  • A poor diet
  • Allergies
  • Emotional suffering, tension, or worry
  • Nose or sinus infection
  • Colds in the head and associated ailments
Dog with headache

Treating and Managing Headaches in Dogs


Ensure your pet receives an allergy test from a veterinarian to prevent allergic headaches. The test will show you everything your dog might be allergic to, so you can avoid it. There are things you can consider to keep your dog quiet and prevent aggravating the discomfort while they are experiencing a headache, for example:

  • Create a calm, cool, and dark resting area for your dog.
  • Don’t touch it anywhere, especially its head.
  • Keep your dog away from pets and children to give it space and prevent disruptions.
  • According to a veterinarian’s prescription, give pets the appropriate amount of aspirin.
  • Hot or cold compresses that you gently administer to the back or neck


Usually, headaches go away in 30 to 60 minutes, but they can stay longer, especially if they frequently involve noise, light, or loud sounds.

Most canine headaches require the assistance of your veterinarian. Most veterinarians will focus on treating your pet’s symptoms, but they may also suggest several tests to rule out more serious issues.

You can perform several things to make your puppy feel better in the interim. You might, for instance, want to:

  • Make the room dark so your dog can sleep.
  • Give your dog somewhere cool to rest, like the restroom floor. A cooling dog pad or vest may also help with pain management.
  • Remove any distracting elements, such as kids or other animals.
  • Allowing your dog to relax on your lap while you softly rub her ears, chest, or haunches may be beneficial.
  • Give your dog a pillow or headrest if you don’t usually do so.
  • If you think your dog’s headaches are allergy-related, try to keep her away from allergens.

Your dog may benefit from various treatments, including NSAIDs and opioid-based drugs. If it is acceptable, your veterinarian may also prescribe allergy medicines.

Avoid administering any medication to your dog without visiting your veterinarian since many drugs that seem safe for dogs, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can be quite harmful.

Can You Manage Canine Headaches at Home?

Can dogs get headaches? In most cases, a dog’s headache originates from something incidental, like simple congestion from an allergy to pollen or an unintentional head knock. However, it’s also possible that your dog’s headaches are from something you can prevent, such as a collar that doesn’t fit properly or dental issues. 

If you observe that your dog is exhibiting symptoms of a headache, you shouldn’t ignore them. Rather, you should provide your pet with temporary comfort and relief in the form of a doggy safe zone. Also, check to ensure that your pet’s normal routine isn’t the cause of the headaches.

Dog Headache Case Study Results

Researchers P.J. Kenny, I.N. Plessas, and H.A. Volk published a paper in 2013 about a 5-year-old cocker spaniel displaying some of the symptoms associated with migraines. The dog was suffering from the condition. p

Although the team did not provide a conclusive diagnosis, the study resulted in some fascinating findings. Those findings were part of a report in an issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine published in 2013.

Be aware, however, that the research paper contains some chilling and upsetting paragraphs about how brutally the poor dog was suffering; as a result, you should read it with extreme caution.

Be aware that migraines differ from “normal” headaches in many ways (as anyone who has ever had a migraine can attest to). In addition to causing mild to severe levels of head pain, nausea and fatigue are other common side effects of migraines. Photophobia, which is sensitivity to light, is one of the symptoms of migraines.

Before the headache even starts, some people have a series of symptoms that are so strange. For instance, some individuals suffer a condition known as aphasia, while others see auras surrounding things or experience some tingling on one side of the body (the inability to speak coherently). Prodromes affect around 75 percent of all people who get migraines.

Migraines often last between 4 and 48 hours, give or take a few hours. After a migraine attack, most sufferers experience significant exhaustion and need at least a day or two of rest after the pain subsides. Some people may have a brief period of depression after they recover from a migraine.

Migraines are notoriously difficult to identify in human patients. Most medical professionals rely on a mix of diagnostic tests and patient reports of symptoms. These procedures aim to rule out seizures and other probable causes of the condition. 

Because dogs are terrible at completing paperwork, identifying migraines in dogs is even more difficult than diagnosing migraines in people.

The specific dog in the study in 2013 had sporadic periods of fear and vocalizations. These incidents were present throughout the dog’s life, commencing when it was approximately six months old.

The dog would often start the episode by withdrawing from her family and hiding beneath the couch or another piece of furniture. After a few hours, the pain set in, and it would cry out fairly regularly.

Dog Headache

During these episodes, it frequently had phonophobia (sensitivity to loud noises) and photophobia (sensitivity to bright lights), and it would occasionally refuse to eat or drink. It frequently exhibited acute nausea, such as drooling and frequent swallowing, which was one of those instances.

The presence of all of these symptoms is consistent with a migraine. Still, one more data was particularly significant: the dog would typically act sluggish and tired for a few days after the episodes.

You can probably understand that the owner of the poor puppy took the dog to different veterinarians, searching high and low for a cause. 

Because none of the tests on the spaniel turned up any abnormalities, they gave a large number of various drugs to alleviate the symptoms. Most of them, including opioid medications, were ineffective at producing positive benefits.

However, when the vets ruled out one ailment and treatment after another, they examined the possibility that the animals were suffering from migraines. As a result, the dog was on the anti-epileptic drug topiramate, which is also often given to those who suffer from migraines in humans. 

The good news is that this had a noticeable effect, and although it didn’t completely get rid of the episodes, it did greatly lowers both the severity of its symptoms and the length of the episodes.

The owners are now confident that their dog is living a life of reasonably good quality, and they express this confidence to their dog.

Sick Dog

Parting Words

Do dogs get headaches? The majority of veterinarians think that headaches can and do occur in dogs. It is impossible to be certain about some of the things our pets may feel, but there is no way to think that they do not occasionally suffer headaches as people do. Headaches are a common complaint among animals and people alike.

Because our pets cannot communicate with us when they are experiencing discomfort, it is important to keep an eye out for such indications and symptoms. This can manifest itself in various ways, including irritation, head shaking, and jaw clenching, to name a few.

If your pet may be experiencing a headache, make an appointment with their veterinarian. Do not give any medications to your pet unless specifically instructed to do so; meanwhile, make every effort to provide a peaceful and quiet place to relax.

Sharing is caring!


Project dedicated to support and help to improve Veterinary Medicine. Sharing information and raising discussions in the veterinary community.


pedialyte for dogs

Pedialyte for Dogs: 2024 Updated

8 min read

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Drop your email below to join I Love Veterinary squad and enjoy regular news, updates, exclusive content, new arrivals and more!