How To Tell If A Dog Has A Concussion: Signs To Watch For

Like humans, dogs can also suffer from concussions. Canines can suffer from this head injury, which can be inflicted by a bad fall, being hit by a car, and other blunt force trauma causes. However, the challenging part is that dogs have no way to communicate their pain verbally. This is why you should know how to tell if a dog has a concussion so that you can seek immediate veterinary care.

Take note that concussions in dogs should be identified and treated as soon as possible. Otherwise, your pet will suffer from long-term and permanent consequences.

What is a concussion?

how to tell if a dog has a concussion

Canine concussions are pretty similar to what humans experience. A strong impact on the head will lead to a condition called traumatic brain injury (TBI). The injury is due to the rapid and sudden movement of the brain. Such occurrences can cause chemical changes within the brain or even damage brain cells in the process.

Take note that concussions in dogs are serious. The worst part is that many pet owners can’t identify a concussion since the symptoms are similar to many health problems. And since the injury isn’t diagnosed right away, the damage gets worse by the hour.

Moreover, puppies are at a high risk of concussions since their skulls are softer than adult dogs. Puppies have open fontanels that only close at four months onward. However, teacup or toy breeds are at high risk of having fontanels that never close. When that happens, they are extremely susceptible to serious concussions.

What causes dog concussions?

Anything that will cause a direct impact on the head can lead to concussions in canines. The following are some of the most common scenarios when concussions are diagnosed:

  • Falling from elevated surfaces
  • Car accidents
  • Strong kick due to rough playing
  • Strong head butts with other dogs
  • Dog being thrown to the ground
  • Dog being hit with a blunt object
  • Animal attacks
  • Falling objects

If your dog has experienced any of these, you should get it checked for concussions. However, take note that some cases of concussions won’t show immediate signs. Worse, these delayed reactions are often the most life-threatening.

Whether there’s an apparent concussion or not, you should treat these situations seriously. There could be other injuries that could put your dog’s life at risk.

How to tell if a dog has a concussion

Canine concussions are tricky since dogs have no way of telling how they feel. As the owner, you have to be observant of your dog’s behavior after encountering the incident.

Nonetheless, concussion symptoms are similar to that of humans. Here are a few signs you should look for:

  • Trouble standing up
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Rapid side-to-side eye movement
  • Inability to move
  • Vomiting after experiencing the cause of trauma
  • Little to no response to you
  • Seizures, especially if your dog has no history of seizures
  • Varying pupil size
  • Nose or ear bleeding
  • Loss of consciousness

If you notice at least two of these symptoms on your dog, you should bring it to the vet right away. This is much so if your dog recently experienced head trauma.

Even if your dog didn’t experience any apparent head trauma, you should still have it checked. This is because the symptoms above can also point to other health problems that could be life-threatening. 

Also, it’s expected for dogs to lose consciousness for a few hours. This depends on the severity of the injury.

What to do if your dog has a concussion

If you suspect that your dog has a concussion, you should bring it to the vet as soon as possible. Make sure that you wrap and cover your dog with a blanket during the travel to the vet. This is to prevent shock and to keep the canine as comfortable as possible.

At the vet’s clinic, treatment varies depending on the specific condition of your dog. For minor concussions, the vet can discharge the dog without special medications. You’ll be asked to monitor the canine and allow it to rest. In these cases, the dog is expected to recover from the concussion naturally within the next few days. Single concussions are rarely life-threatening, and your dog will recover fully with timely treatment.

For serious concussions, your dog will be put on IV medication to reduce brain swelling. The canine will also be placed on oxygen if it develops breathing problems.

However, if your dog sustained a severe concussion, a surgical procedure might be necessary to treat the problem. Otherwise, the canine may succumb to the injuries or suffer from a life-long disability.

How to keep your dog safe from concussions

Concussions are highly preventable injuries. With proper precautions, your dog won’t end up in the vet’s clinic with a head injury. Here are a few things you can do:

🐶Build a fence

Since canine concussions can also occur due to animal attacks, it’s important to keep your yard fenced. This will directly shield your dog from aggressive dogs and wild animals. Aside from that, a fence will deter burglars from breaking in and potentially hurting your dog.

Take note that wireless dog fences used to keep canines in a specific perimeter won’t work for this purpose. Such fences only deter your pet from escaping your property. It won’t stop stray animals from charging toward your canine.

🐶Keep the dog leashed.

If you’re taking your dog outside and along a busy street, you should keep it leashed at all times. This is to prevent the dog from running into the middle of the road and getting hit by a car.

You should also keep your dog indoors if you live beside a busy road. Reinforcing your fences are also crucial, especially if your dog is an escape artist.

🐶Keep your windows shut.

You should also keep your windows on elevated floors shut at all times. Dogs don’t know the fact that they can’t fly, so they may try to leap from your second-floor window. This can easily lead to life-threatening concussions and other injuries.

🐶Remove unstable objects

You should secure your precious vases and chinas in an enclosed cabinet where they will not fall on top of your dog’s head. Also, you should remove any objects that could tip and fall easily. This is much so if you have a rambunctious dog that gets into almost everything in your house.

🐶Get your dog insured!

Lastly, you should consider getting a pet insurance policy for your dog. While this won’t prevent concussions and other injuries, it will become your safety net in case your dog sustains injuries that require expensive treatments.

Pet insurance policies are much like human health insurance. It will save your pocket from expensive vet bills.

In a separate post, we discussed the best pet insurance for dogs that you can consider for your pet. As they say, it’s best to be ‘puppared’!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What happens if a concussion goes untreated in dogs?

A: If a concussion is left untreated, your dog may suffer from brain swelling, brain bleeding, and permanent brain injuries. All of these are serious and potentially irreversible. This is why you should be proactive when it comes to concussion symptoms.

Q: Can a dog survive a skull fracture?

A: Skull fracture is a severe condition that can lead to life-threatening consequences. Depending on the extent of the injury, your dog may or may not survive the injury. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are necessary to increase your dog’s survival rate.

Q: How to know if your dog is okay after a fall?

A: It’s crucial to monitor your dog for a few hours after the bad fall. Take note that many canines will appear okay in the first hours then turn out injured later on. I recommend monitoring the dog for one to two days for any behavioral changes that could indicate a concussion and other physical injuries.

Q: What happens if a dog falls on his head?

A: If a dog falls on his head, it’s important to check for signs of a concussion. Trouble walking, uneven pupil size, and confusion are just some of the tell-tale signs that your pet is suffering from the said head injury. If you’re worried, it’s best to bring your dog to the vet for proper examination.

Q: Can dogs get knocked out?

A: It’s possible for dogs to get knocked out by a strong impact directed to their heads. This can happen during dog fights or a fall from an elevated surface. So if you see your dog unconscious after a direct hit to the head, you should bring it to the vet as soon as possible.

Final words

Knowing how to tell if a dog has a concussion could save your pet from life-threatening injuries. Depending on its severity, concussions can leave permanent brain damage if not detected and treated right away.

If your dog suffered a direct hit on the head, consider bringing him to the vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to this type of injury.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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