Identifying and Treating Dog Brain Injuries

There are several types of dog brain injuries including actual trauma to the brain by injury and brain damage from dog cancer resulting in a dog tumor. Different types of brain injuries lead to different types of treatments. Early identification of the symptoms of a possible brain injury can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful treatment.

Identifying Acute Brain Trauma

Brain trauma, or an actual physical injury to the brain, can result in similar symptoms to a dog tumor from dog cancer. Such symptoms include the animal bleeding by the mouth, nose, or ears, or seeming confused or unconscious. Other signs include unusual eye movement or unequal pupils, vomiting, vision problems, paralysis in a limb, or a fast yet weak pulse. An animal with a dog brain injury might also exhibit a head tilt or go into seizures. After a traffic accident, fall, or injury to the head, it is wise to assess for trauma to the brain. Brain trauma can also occur in a dog fight or if the dog has been shot, hit, or stepped on. Even if the animal was conscious after an accident, brain hemorrhage and other serious problems in the dog brain might be present.

Your vet will do a complete physical examination and ask you very specific questions about how the injury occurred. The vet may give an initial neurologic examination to assess the level of consciousness and brain functioning. The vet will do this through observation of the pupils and the dog's behavior, and seeing how the dog responds to light being shined in his eyes. The physical examination often follows the neurologic exam to assess for injury to other parts of the body. The vet may then recommend an X-Ray or CT Scan to more thoroughly assess suspected damage to the dog brain.

Treatment Options for Brain Trauma

If you suspect an acute injury to your dog's brain, keeping the dog lying down and calm can prevent further brain hemorrhage. If the head is bleeding, a sterile cloth or bandage held firmly on the wound can slow the bleeding. If you must move your dog, keeping the head and neck immobile can reduce the risk of further injury. This is an emergency medical situation and quick yet calm action can make a huge difference in the prognosis. Keeping your dog warm and making sure his head is at least level with the rest of the body will help reduce shock and further stress on the body during transport and while waiting for the vet.

Repeated neurologic examinations, particularly within the first 24 hours, will help determine if your dog is improving or getting worse. Supportive care will initially include intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, pain killers as needed, or medication to control seizures that may occur as a result of brain trauma. Other medications will prevent or treat the swelling of the dog brain. Solutions that draw fluids from the tissues may help decrease the production of excess spinal fluid. The vet may also administer oxygen therapy and any medication to reduce the risk of cough and sneeze reflexes. Oxygen may help prevent the progression of brain damage and may help reverse dog brain swelling or edema. Oxygen may be provided via face mask or oxygen cage. Some fractures to the skull can be treated by non-surgical means but fractures that put pressure directly on the brain may need to be surgically removed or repaired.