Accidentally Hit My Dog in the Head [Do’s & Don’ts]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Have you ever felt panic and guilt as a pet owner? I certainly have.

There was once while playing when I accidentally hit my dog in the head, prompting a really loud yelp from her.

I feel terrible even though it was an accident.

And if you’re a dog parent like me, you’ll understand.

Well, despite your best efforts, accidents happen.

And because of these dangers, it is essential to recognize the possible outcomes of playing with your dog and take preventive measures to avoid accidents.

Let’s learn more in this post.

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Overview of Dog Skull Structure

Your dog’s skull is composed of multiple bones that have fused and these bones include:

  • Occipital bone
  • Interparietal and Parietal bone
  • Frontal bone
  • Temporal bone
  • Sphenoid bone
  • Ethmoid bone
  • Maxilla bone
  • Palatine bone
  • Pterygoid bone
  • Zygomatic bone
  • Mandible

And its shape differs depending on the breed. 

Some dog skulls are oval-shaped, while others are wider or of intermediate length and width. 

They have variations or three categories known as Dolichocephalic, Brachycephalic, and Mesaticephalic.

First, Dolichocephalic skulls are longer than wide, and you can see them in breeds such as Greyhounds and Collies. If you notice a Greyhound, their heads are long and narrow. 

Next, Brachycephalic skulls are broader than long, and you can find them in breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs. These breeds have wide and flat heads. 

Finally, Mesaticephalic skulls are in the middle length and width and in breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and Beagles. These breeds have a balanced skull shape, neither too long nor too short.

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Importance of protecting the head

One of the most important ways to protect your pet’s well-being is starting with its head.

The brain is the most critical organ to all and any damage can have serious consequences. 

You know that they are adventurous creatures and love to explore and play. 

However, various risks can threaten their head while out and about. 

For instance, a car collision, a fall from a high place, or getting hit by objects.

It can bring severe damage to the head, leading to brain injury, so it’s really important for you to protect your furry companion’s head.

Aside from accidental injuries, dust, windblown objects, and other harmful elements can also irritate your dog.

These irritants can cause pain and discomfort, leading to infections or other health problems.

Areas of the head most prone to injury

While their fluffy coats and hard skulls can provide some cushioning and protection, the truth is that dogs can still feel pain, just like us humans. 

A hard hit to the head, even from something as seemingly harmless as an elbow, can be very uncomfortable for your pup.

And some areas of your dog’s head are more prone to injury. 

The top of their head is particularly vulnerable since it’s exposed, especially for dogs with short hair or were recently groomed. 

Additionally, floppy or long, sharp ears can easily get injured if your dog runs through shrubs or accidentally bumps into objects. 

Also, protect your puppy’s nose and eyes from twigs, branches, and other potentially harmful objects.

You don’t want your dog’s nose scraped and not turn black again!

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What Are the Different Types of Dog Head Injuries?

What Are the Different Types of Dog Head Injuries

Several possible head injuries can happen to your dog.

The most common types of dog head injuries are:


It is the most common type of head injury in dogs. 

Concussions happen due to a violent blow to the head, such as hitting by a car or falling from a high place. 

Its symptoms include confusion, disorientation, and instability.

Skull fractures

When your dog’s skull experiences a severe impact from a car accident or a hard object, it can result in a skull fracture – a break in the bones of the skull. 

This can lead to various severe issues, including pain, swelling, and neurological problems.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden impact or trauma damages the brain. 

It results from a severe blow to the head, a fall, or a car accident. It has significant side effects like confusion, convulsions, and unconsciousness.

Penetrating head injuries

A penetrating head injury occurs in dogs when foreign objects such as knives, sticks, or bullets enter their brain through the skull. 

This type of injury can lead to severe symptoms such as bleeding from the nose or ears, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

What Are the Symptoms of Head Injury in Dogs?

Now that you know what kinds of head injuries there are, it’s also good to know what signs of trauma to look out for.

Spotting these symptoms is a great way to ensure your pet gets the attention and care he or she needs to recover from injuries.

Here are some symptoms of head injury:

Behavioral changes

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Aggression
  • Lethargic
  • Unresponsive

Physical signs

  • Bleeding from the nose or ears
  • Swelling of the head
  • Change in the shape of the skull
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Neurological symptoms

  • Circling or pacing
  • Losing balance
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dilated pupils or display abnormal eye movements.

What Should You Do Immediately if You Accidentally Hit Your Dog’s Head?

What Should You Do Immediately if You Accidentally Hit Your Dog's Head?

First, don’t panic. I know it’s easier said than done, but at this critical juncture, you need to stay calm. Take a deep breath.

It will help you think clearly and handle the situation better.

If you’re flustered and panicky, that’s just going to add to the stress levels of your dog.

Here’s what you should do:

Check for injuries

Look for signs like bleeding, swelling, or bruising.

If you see these symptoms in your pup, seek professional help.

Some injuries may not be apparent initially, so watch for any unusual behavior or signs of discomfort.

Monitor your dog’s behavior

Watch your dog’s behavior for any changes. 

Confusion, lethargy, and appetite loss are indicators of an injury that might need medical care.

Keep a close watch on your pup for other unusual signs or symptoms.

Contact a veterinarian

Call your vet if your dog has injured their head.

Even if your dog appears fine, a head injury may cause complications and require medical attention.

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Treatment for Head Injuries in Dogs

Treating your pups’ health will be easier if you catch them immediately.

Keep reading for more information on the kind of treatment for head injuries in your dog.

Diagnosis by a veterinarian

If your dog has suffered a head injury, seek medical attention.

Your vet monitors neurological symptoms during a physical examination, including loss of balance, confusion, or seizures.

They provide a thorough examination to know the extent of the injury.

Additional tests may be necessary to determine the extent and location of the injury, like:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI

Treatment options

After diagnosis, the vet will recommend the best treatment options.

Rest and monitoring may be enough for mild injuries, while more severe ones may require hospitalization, medication, or surgery.

Medication can be a vital part of the healing process when treating head injuries in your dog.

Here are the medication categories and treatment supports that your vet may prescribe:

  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Intravenous Fluid Therapy
  • Oxygenation and Ventilation
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Nutritional Support

Of course, the type of medication and dosage will depend on the injury’s severity and your dog’s specific needs.

Additionally, strictly follow your vet’s instructions and express any adverse effects or worries you may have.

The ultimate goal of treatment is to:

  • Manage pain and inflammation
  • Prevent further damage
  • Promote healing of the injured tissues

Delaying treatment can be dangerous! Symptoms may develop and result in permanent harm or death if untreated.

Follow-up care

Provide follow-up care to ensure a smooth recovery. 

Here are some essential types of follow-up care you should consider:

Rest and Restricted Activity

Limit your dog’s physical activity and provide a comfortable, quiet space to rest and recover. 

Even though it could be challenging to figure out why they are struggling to play or go for walks as they previously did, show them much love and care now. 

Your pup will soon return to its active self with patience and care.


Your vet may prescribe medications to help manage your dog’s pain and reduce inflammation after a head injury.

It is available as pills, injections, or topical creams.

Be sure to follow your vet’s instructions precisely and continue giving the medication until your vet advises otherwise, even if your dog appears to be feeling better.

Additionally, watch for side effects, such as changes in appetite or behavior.

Special Diet

Your vet may suggest a specific diet to aid your dog’s recovery. So ensure that they receive the necessary nutrients. 

Your dog’s diet should include foods high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote tissue repair and overall health.

Physical Therapy

Your dog can regain strength, flexibility, and coordination through physical therapy. 

Examples of physical therapy for dogs may include walking on an underwater treadmill, using resistance bands, or practicing agility exercises. 

It’s like going to the gym for your dog, but instead of lifting weights, they’re doing exercises that promote recovery and healing!

Regular Check-Ups

Regular follow-up check-ups are essential to monitor your dog’s progress and ensure they heal correctly.

It will also help your vet make necessary adjustments to your dog’s treatment plan and catch any possible issues before they become more significant problems. 

Just like going to the doctor for a check-up when you’re under the weather. 

Regular check-ups for your furry friend are a wise idea to ensure they’re on the path to a full recovery.

Preventing Head Injuries in Dogs

Who doesn’t know that dogs are energetic and curious animals that enjoy playing, running, and discovering new things? 

But, the problem is, their active lifestyle also puts them at risk of head injuries.

It would help if you try preventive measures to protect your dog, and below are a few different ways to keep your furry friend safe.

Awareness of surroundings

As they say, prevention is better than cure.

By being aware of your dog’s surroundings, you can watch for potential dangers while walking outside, such as low-hanging branches or uneven ground.

Your dog won’t run into traffic or risky situations if you keep them on a leash.

When playing, ensure the area is safe and free of any obstacles or objects that could cause harm. If you have a backyard, secure it with a fence to prevent your pup from escaping.

Another aspect of preventing head injuries is proper training and socialization. A trained dog is unlikely to engage in risky behavior or fight with other dogs.

Proper handling and restraint

Proper handling and restraint are crucial in preventing head injuries in dogs. 

Here are some examples of how to handle and restrain your dog:

  • Use a dog seat belt or crate to keep them safe and secure during car rides.
  • When grooming or bathing, support their body weight and maintain a firm grip on their collar or leash.
  • Provide a safe and secure space to retreat if they fear loud noises.
  • Avoid roughhousing or wrestling during playtime.
  • Use a dog harness rather than a collar when walking a dog with a history of head injuries or recovering from one.

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Use of protective gear

Using protective gear prevents head injuries in dogs. 

Here are some protective equipment you can consider:

  • A helmet protects your dog’s head during biking, skating, or hiking activities. These helmets are to fit securely on your dog’s head and prevent head injuries.
  • Dog boots can protect your dog’s paws from slipping or tripping on uneven terrain, which can cause head injuries. They are also helpful in protecting their paws from extreme temperatures or rough surfaces.
  • Eye and ear protection can benefit dogs that participate in activities such as hunting or swimming. These can help prevent head injuries caused by debris or loud noises.
  • Muzzles prevent your dog from biting or chewing on objects that can cause head injuries. They can also help prevent dogs from fighting with other animals.
  • A life jacket can keep them afloat and protect their head from hitting rocks or other objects in the water. It is significant for dogs who aren’t strong swimmers or recovering from a head injury.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take for a dog to recover from a head injury?

Your pup’s recovery depends on the severity of the damage. Mild injuries may take a few days to weeks to heal. While more serious injuries can take several weeks or months to recover from. 

How are dog head injuries diagnosed?

Dog head injuries are diagnosed through physical examinations, neurological tests, and imaging techniques like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. These tests help determine the extent of the injury and guide the appropriate treatment plan.

In Conclusion: Accidentally Hit My Dog in the Head

It’s normal to feel guilty and upset after such an incident, but try not to dwell on it too much and instead, focus on giving your dog the care they need.

Make sure to keep an eye on them for any signs of discomfort or distress, and provide a calm and peaceful environment for them to recover.

Remember: Our dogs are incredibly resilient and forgiving creatures. With proper care and a little love and patience, your dog will likely make a full recovery and be back to their happy and playful self in no time!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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