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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Head Injuries View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

The brain is encased in bone, surrounded by cushioning fluid, and suspended inside the skull by ligaments that act like shock absorbers.


Head injuries aren't always visible, although there may be bleeding from the nose or ears. The symptoms are usually more subtle. Pets may stare into space or act dazed. They will be unsteady on their feet, and their eyes may look in different directions. Sometimes they may simply pass out, with no indication of why.

Sometimes, severe brain injuries can damage tissues and cause electrical currents to go on the fritz. Within hours of head injuries, some pets will experience seizures, ranging in severity from momentary confusion to total collapse. Most seizures last less than 1 minute. They may continue having seizures for the duration of their life. This can be controlled with medication, and rarely causes serious problems.


Any type of trauma to the head will cause a head injury.


Diagnosis can be made by veterinary examination.


  1. Wrap him in a blanket - Since a pet with a head injury often loses consciousness, you will want to wrap him in a blanket before doing anything else. This will protect him if he should wake up and thrash around. By keeping your pet warm, you will also help prevent shock, a life threatening condition in which the body's organs don't work efficiently or stop working all together. Shock can kill a pet in as little as 10 - 20 minutes.
  2. Transport him carefully - Any jostling can increase bleeding or make brain bruises worse. if you have to move your pet, keep him as still as possible. Put a small pet in box or pet carrier. You can slide a large dog onto a rigid surface, such as a piece of plywood. you can even use an ironing board in a pinch. Tape or tie him down so that he can't roll off.
  3. Be careful on positioning - Keep your pet's head level with his feet unless he starts trying to cough or vomits. In that case, lower his head and allow the fluids to drain out, then return him to a level position.
  4. Check his breathing - If your pet stops breathing, you will need to give artificial respiration. hold his mouth closed, cover his nose with your mouth, and give 2 quick breaths. Watch to see if his chest rises. Next, give 15 - 20 breaths per minute until he starts breathing or you can get him to a vet.
  5. Control bleeding - Bleeding from head wounds generally looks more serious than it is, but you still need to stop it. If the bones seem intact, you can apply pressure to the head while on your way to the veterinarian. If you detect any crunching or see broken bones through the skin, DO NOT apply pressure. Get to the vet as soon as possible.

    Hold a clean cloth or a gauze pad against the wound until the bleeding stops. This will usually happen in 5 minutes or less.


This is an accident condition.


Its not uncommon for a pet to show remarkable improvement after a head injury, and then have a crisis hours later. The signs are not always visible. Some pets simply go to sleep and never wake up. To make sure that your pet is recovering properly in the 24 hours following the injury, wake him up every 1 - 2 hours. He should wake up easily and be alert. If he doesn't wake easily, or is unusually groggy, there may be swelling, bleeding, or clotting within the brain. Take him back to the veterinarian immediately.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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