Did Your Dog Hit Their Head? How to Know if Your Dog Has a Concussion and What to Do

Kori Williams - Author

Jan. 5 2024, Updated 10:59 a.m. ET

A dog with bandages around their head.
Source: iStock

The Gist:

  • Dogs can get concussions similar to humans.
  • Concussions in dogs can present with both physical and behavioral symptoms.
  • There are certain symptoms to look out for in your dog that will help you determine what your next steps should be.
  • If you think your dog has a concussion, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
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Pet parents everywhere love how energetic and playful dogs can be — it's one of their best qualities! But running around for hours and playing can tire any creature out. And much like human children, sometimes, dogs can take play time too far.

If you've spent any time on social media, you have probably seen a number videos of these furry friends running into walls or furniture, falling over, and having other kinds of accidents where they hit their heads.

Head injuries are serious concerns for humans and dogs alike. The skull is designed by nature to protect the brain, but it's still a fragile bone in the body. When humans develop concussions, it's a result of trauma to the head. But can dogs also get concussed?

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A brown dog laying down on a table at the vet.
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Can dogs get concussed?

According to Rover, yes, dogs can get concussions. Just like humans, dogs can experience head trauma. Despite the perceived hardiness of dogs, they don't have extra padding in their brains or any other adaptations to prevent concussions. So the next time your dog has the zoomies, make sure to keep a close watch on them lest they hit their heads.

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Here's why dogs may get a concussion.

"Anything that can cause blunt force trauma can unfortunately result in trauma to the brain," said Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover and Chief Veterinarian at Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital Rover.

Frontier Veterinary Urgent Care also points out that there are two kinds of concussion symptoms to look out for in your dogs: physical and behavioral changes.

If your dog has a concussion, physically, dogs will look weak or unsteady on their paws. Sometimes, they will walk abnormally or not get up at all. Additionally, their eyes may shift unnaturally, and you may notice changes in their pupils. Some dogs exhibiting concussion symptoms may look like they are staring into space.

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A dog getting checked out at the vet.
Source: iStock

When it comes to behavioral changes, with a concussion, the most playful of dogs may become lethargic. They will seem tired and won't be as responsive to things around them, including your voice. The Veterinary Emergency Group also states that concussed dogs could experience vomiting and seizures, similar to humans with severe concussions.

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Here's what to do if you think your dog has a concussion.

If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should take this to the vet right away. "Don’t assume that how [your dog is] in the first hour is going to reflect how they’re going to be over the coming hours or even days," said Dr. Greenstein.

To ensure your dog is okay, Dr. Greenstein states you should visually inspect how your dog is acting every 30 to 60 minutes. Over time, they may start to show the symptoms described above, and if they do, you should take your dog to the vet.

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