Head Pressing in Cats and Dogs

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What is Head Pressing in Cats and Dogs? 

Head pressing in cats and dogs can be a sign of neurological damage. It’s when your pet compulsively presses its head against a wall or different objects with no cause. Many pet owners will witness this behavior in their pets and think that it’s not harmful, but the truth is that the presence of damage to the nervous system can be very serious. 

What are the Possible Causes?

This condition can affect cats and dogs of any breed or age-range. The causes as to why pet head pressing occurs may vary. It can be present due to metabolic disorders, cell overgrowth, head trauma, toxin exposure, or infections in the nervous system. 

Dog close up, Head Pressing in Cats and Dogs - I Love Veterinary

Clinical Signs Associated with the Occurrence

The clinical signs can manifest in your pet in:

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

The diagnosis for pet head pressing is determined by a professional. A veterinarian will conduct a physical exam to establish the severity of the case. When conducting a physical exam, the veterinarian will focus on the nervous system. 

In this case, they will check your pet’s retina and other parts of the back eye. This procedure can lead to the discovery of possible infections. In order to determine the right diagnosis, your veterinarian may suggest blood and urine tests for further examination. CT and MRI scans may be performed to get a better look at the brain. These tests can indicate if there are any irregularities in its function. 

Vet examining cat's retina, Head Pressing in Cats and Dogs - I Love Veterinary

The severity of the clinical signs establishes the treatment. Your veterinarian will settle on a diagnosis and then proceed to evaluate the best medication and care for your pet. Some professionals decide that the best way to start treatment is by implementing hospitalization. If the cause of the head pressing is poison, your veterinarian will proceed to treat your pet to remove the toxins that are causing the clinical signs.

Recovery Rate and Related Costs

The recovery rate will depend on the severity and the cause of your pet’s case. Your pet will need constant attention and rest for the treatment to be effective. Head pressing caused by toxins can have a better recovery rate (with the right medication) rather than the cause being a degenerative disease. 

The cost for the treatment of head pressing varies depending on the cause. 

The average cost of treatment by cause is the following:

  • Poison: $10-$1,000
  • Meningitis: $50-$55
  • Cancer: $5,000+

Which Questions to Ask Your Vet

When visiting your veterinarian, you must communicate your observations about your pet’s behavior. This way, the diagnosis can be determined faster and more efficiently. Once your veterinarian has established a diagnosis, what questions should you ask? 

Vet with dog owner examining dog, Head Pressing in Cats and Dogs - I Love Veterinary

It’s important that owners engage in the pet’s diagnosis and have all the information to understand the situation better and guarantee that the pet will get the best treatment and fast recovery (if possible). 

  • What is the cause?
  • How can I prevent this next time?
  • What are the treatment options? 
  • Which treatment is more effective?
  • What is the cost of treatment?
  • How can I guarantee my pet’s recovery in my home?


Head pressing may go viral on the internet and can be used to create funny posts, but in reality, it is a condition related to the nervous system and should be taken seriously. It can indicate the extent of damage caused by toxins or degenerative diseases. 

It’s imperative that we look out for the clinical signs of pet head pressing. If your pet shows any behavioral changes related to this condition, contact your local veterinarian for assistance. 

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