Head pressing in dogs and cats… no laughing matter

What could be cuter than your dog or cat rubbing its head against you for some love and affection? That’s one of the many joys of pet ownership.

But how about when your pet is incessantly rubbing its head against a wall or some other hard surface? You might think they’re just being silly. They’re not. This is serious.

This behavior, known as head pressing, is a sign something’s going on in their brain.  Head pressing differs from affectionate head butting. It’s difficult to discern in a cat because cats often rub their heads against people and objects to mark territory and show affection.

In dogs, as you can tell from the pictures, it’s more obvious.  It’s the compulsive nature of the behavior that alerts you to a problem. So it may be common in cats for them to rub their heads against things, but doing this nonstop should sound the alarm.

Photo source: dogheirs.com

Head pressing tells you there’s damage to your pet’s nervous system and it can happen to any dog or cat, no matter the breed or age.

The damage can be caused by:

Prosencephalon (forward-most part of brain) disease

Toxic poisoning

Tumor in the brain

Metabolic disorder

Infection

Stroke

Encephalitis

Head trauma

Often, head pressing isn’t the only sign of a problem. Your pet may pace or circle endlessly. You may notice changes in learned behavior—they don’t respond to commands you’re certain they know. They may have seizures, vision problems, and abnormal vocalizations.

The head pressing, pacing and circling can lead to head and feet lesions if it’s allowed to go on for too long.

This behavior is always a sign of something serious. You must get your pet to the vet immediately. And be sure to share all the symptoms you’ve noticed, no matter how incidental they seem.

Your vet will examine the retina which may show infection or some other problem in the brain. They’ll likely do a CT scan or MRI of the brain. And a blood test and urinalysis will pick up any metabolic problem or toxicity.

Your vet will recommend a treatment plan based on the underlying diagnosis. But your pet will probably need follow-up neurological exams to monitor their improvement.

I recently read about head pressing and thought this would be an easy thing to miss—or misunderstand—and wanted to bring it to your attention so you can get your pet the help they need quickly.

Have you experienced head pressing in your dog or cat? Maybe your experience can help someone else, so please share in the comment section at the top.

 

 

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