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Dogs Who Head Press Should See A Vet ASAP. Recognizing This Behavior Could Save Your Dog’s Life.

Dhicon_thumb By DogHeirs Team | May 30, 2014 | Comments (9)

If you notice your dog repeatedly pressing their heads against the wall, floor or other object for no apparent reason, your pet could have a dangerous medical condition.

Doberman with hepatic encephalopathy evincing head pressing
Doberman with hepatic encephalopathy evincing head pressing

The behavior is called "head pressing", and it is characterized by the compulsive act of pressing the head against something solid for extended periods of time.

Cat head pressing

Head pressing generally indicates damage to the nervous system or a neurological condition or illness and it is very important that you take your dog or cat to a veterinarian for diagnosis.

Dog head pressing

The causes of head pressing behavior can be varied, but may include:

  • prosencephalon disease (in which the forebrain and thalamus parts of the brain are damaged)
  • tumors (eg brain or skull)
  • liver shunt
  • toxic poisoning (e.g. lead poisoning)
  • metabolic disorder, such as hyper or hyponatremia (too much, or too little sodium in the body’s blood plasma)
  • stroke
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Many things can cause encephalitis. Infectious causes include bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and tick-transmitted disease).
  • hepatic encephalopathy (metabolic disorder as result of liver disease)
  • infection of the nervous system (rabies, parasites, bacterial, viral or fungal infection)
  • head trauma

Dog head pressing

Head pressing should not be confused with a "headbutting", where a dog or cat affectionately rubs against a person or other animal.

Cat head pressing

Cat head pressing

Head pressing can be just one symptom among other behaviors and symptoms of neurological or metabolic distress. Other behaviors and symptoms can include:

  • constant pacing
  • walking in circles
  • face rubbing (pushing head into ground)
  • damaged reflexes
  • visual problems
  • seizures
  • getting stuck in corners
  • staring at walls

By recognizing head pressing and other neurologically-related symptoms in your dog or cat, you could potentially save their lives!


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View more articles in: General Health

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Comments on this Article

My dog exhibits all these. He has idiopathic vestibular disease seizures...I treat him with holistic suppliers and watch for seizures.
I really see no point to the article other than to advise people that the behavior is indicative of something seriously wrong. The causes of this behavior are so serious that by the time you get to the vet its too late. The vet will earn a hefty sum however on diagnostic tests.
This is a great post and something to watch for in our dogs.
Thanks for the replies about my breed inquiry. I don't believe my dog is a Jack Russel or a Rat Terrier, he is too big. He is 60+ lbs which is far too big to be either of those breeds. He is a mix, so maybe one of those breeds is part of his mix.
Drew- not 100% since I can't really see the face and ears, but the dog in the last photo looks to me like a rat terrier! They are on avg around 15 lbs but can be a bit larger or smaller and are an awesome and smart breed! Maybe that's what you have?
My cat phoebe was 18 month old and started doing this very odd behaviour as i had never heard of this before i didnt think anything of it...2 week later i took her to the vets and she was having acidents in the house...after scans xrays and ultrasounds it turned out she had tumours all over her liver and kidneys. sadly it was to late for my best friend and i had to make that awful choice of keep her alive for maybe a few more months being in pain or have her put to sleep. the vet said i made the right choice of putting her to sleep. just wish i had known about this back then maybe things would have been different. so please guys keep an eye on ur furry friends :-)
I did not know this. Glad I do now, thanks DogHeirs. Incidentally, does anyone know what breed that is in the last photo in the article? I have a dog that looks almost exactly like that only about 25-30% bigger and the big black spot is located directly on the top of his back. I have no idea what breed he is.
I've never seen this symptomatic behavior before in a dog or cat. If I did see one of my dogs exhibiting this type of abnormal behavior, I'd like to think that I would be so concerned about it that I would take my dog to the vet. However, when witnessing an odd behavior for the first time there can be a time of hesitation when one is trying to determine if the behavior warrants an emergency. This is why a little knowledge beforehand can make all the difference in the world. I now have DogHeirs to thank for that. Thanks DogHeirs for bringing this to my attention.
Well apparently judging my the number of pictures its also pretty common. However duly noted.
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