What is head pressing in dogs and cats?

Head pressing-Cat2

Head pressing-Dog

Have you ever seen pictures like these on the Internet with funny “Sad” or “Time Out” captions? On first glance, these images are cute, but they may depict a serious medical warning sign in your pet. It’s called “head pressing” and could indicate a dangerous neurological condition in your dog or cat.

According to the PetMD website, head pressing is defined as “the compulsive act of pressing the head against a wall or other object for no apparent reason.” This can occur in dogs and cats of any breed or age, and can be a sign of damage to the nervous system, specifically the forebrain and thalamus (called prosencephalon disease), or toxic poisoning.

Symptoms

Besides head pressing, dogs and cats may also exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Pacing and circling
  • Seizures
  • Behavior changes
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Vision problems

Causes

Head pressing can be caused by a number of different conditions, including:

  • Metabolic disorders (such as too much or too little sodium)
  • Tumors
  • Nervous system infection (such as rabies or fungus)
  • Head trauma
  • Exposure to toxins (such as lead)

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet may perform an examination of the retina and other parts of the back of the eye to look for signs of disease. Your vet may also take a blood pressure measurement, and blood and urine specimens. CT and MRI scans of the brain may also be performed.

Treatment varies according to the cause and severity of the condition. Your pet may require immediate treatment and hospitalization, but no specific treatment can be administered until a definitive diagnosis is reached. Long term care will depend on the diagnosis, with your vet scheduling follow-up neurological exams to check on progress.

You can read the full PetMD articles on head pressing in both DOGS and CATS.

Head pressing-Cat

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22 thoughts on “What is head pressing in dogs and cats?

  1. We have been struggling with our dog having seizures since last September. In April he was hospitalized for cluster seizures. Since then he will be good for about 3 weeks and then he starts having seizures again and they adjust his medication. He was diagnosed as being epileptic after and MRI didn’t show any reason for the seizures. Now I’m reading about prosencephalon disease and I think this is what my dog has! He isn’t having violent shaking seizures but he seems likes he’s blind, he is clumsy, he paces is circles, and he always tries to find a corner to push his head into the corner. It’s almost like he is very nervous or anxious and I was going to ask the vet about something for anxiety. He is already taking 5 different seizure medications and they are running out of options! We are going to see our neurologist tomorrow and I am going to suggest that he considers that our dog has prosencephalon disease.

    • Mindy, so sorry to hear about your dog. I hope you have a successful visit with the neurologist and you get the answers you’ve been looking for! Thank you for sharing your experiences with our readers and helping to spread the word about getting a proper diagnosis for such distressing symptoms! Best wishes to you.

  2. My elderly dog pushes his head against me or his bedding. Since he has Cushings, untreated at this time, I’m guessing it is related, perhaps due to a growth on his pituitary gland. Thanks for the warning, and for checking our myleashonlife.me.

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