I Accidentally Hit My Dog in the Head

Accidents happen. Hitting your dog in the head is one of them. Usually, they’re fine, but sometimes, they’re not. How do you know the difference?

And how does this happen? You might be more concerned with their feelings after the fact, especially if you’re a sensitive soul who views your pups as your children.

How do we make peace again and regain their trust? Will they actually be distrustful after such as event?

Let’s find out.

How Does This Happen?

Imagine clearing out the garage. It’s heavy work, and the old furniture and other junk you’re moving are big and heavy.

You can’t see past the old armchair you’re wrestling through the door, and you can’t hear much over the sound of your own labored breathing. I mean, come on, that thing weighs more than Santa’s sleigh. Then, you hear a dull thud, an anxious yelp, and see your dog racing away.

Oh man, you hit him with the thing! You chase after him, attempting to calm him, and see a bump on his head. Poor pup!

Dogs are kind of like small kids, always curious and with a knack for getting in the way when you’re doing something potentially dangerous. 

Or, perhaps your pup is tough to discipline. Those are also a dime a dozen. You know, the type that doesn’t listen to stern words or respond to treats.

No, these ones seem to need a gentle flick on the nose. Sometimes, in intense moments, we get this the wrong way around and give them a whack on the head instead, and those can be a bit harder than intended.

It happens, but it’s not advisable. Again, similar to disciplining kids, we sometimes lose our cool, shouting instead of talking. Parenting is stressful, regardless of your kids’ species.

Either way, a whack (on the bum or elsewhere) is generally not the best way to train a dog since they aren’t necessarily capable of understanding the reason behind it.

Reward-based training tends to work better, raising a pup that responds well to instruction and isn’t fearful.

How do I Know If He’s Okay?

Dogs are usually okay after a bump on the head, but sometimes they’re not. So, how do you know the difference?

Firstly, you know your pup. If he’s acting weird, there’s probably something wrong, and you should have him checked out.

Next, look for tell-tale signs of a head injury: uneven pupils, blood in and around the eyes and nose, or a wobbly walk.

All these could indicate anything ranging from a mild injury to a severe concussion and are cause for concern. If you notice any of these, take your pup to the vet for a check-up ASAP.

Additionally, if your dog has any blood in his ears or seems disorientated, you should pay close attention.

He might also seem very confused and have some facial weakness, or even pass out. Some dogs show signs of lethargy or paralysis when they’re suffering from a head injury. These are all sure signs that a trip to the vet is crucial and urgent.

If your dog doesn’t show any of these signs, he’s probably fine. If you’re still worried, though, you could always take him for a check-up, just in case.

Types of Head Injuries

There are several types of head injuries, and all vary in severity.

The most common one is a concussion, where a hard blow to the head causes trauma to the brain. Here, your pup could suffer temporary or permanent damage, depending on the severity of the situation and the location of impact.

Direct impact to the head causes a contusion, which we recognize by bleeding on the brain.

A coup-contrecoup is a double contusionone on the impact site and one on the opposite side of the skull. This occurs when the impact is violent enough for the brain to hit the opposite side of the skull.

Diffuse axonal is a type of brain damage caused by severe shaking or rotation. Here, nerve tissues tear, and various parts of the brain could sustain damage.

What Are The Risks?

Dog skulls are thicker than human skulls, so they’re way more resilient than we are. That said, a knock to the head, if it’s hard enough, could cause some severe damage.

From the previous section, you could imagine that the consequences of brain damage could be pretty intense. The most severe risk of head injury is death. So if your dog gets a hard enough knock aimed at the right spot on his skull, it could kill him. That’s scary.

When they get hit in the head, pups could suffer some swelling in the brain. This causes insane pressure inside their skull, which could lead to seizures or a coma.

And, they’ll have one insane headache to boot. But, if this gets treated quickly enough, they should be fine. That’s why it’s crucial to get your pup to the vet as quickly as possible.

Are Puppies More At Risk?

Puppies have softer skulls than grown dogs, and they have open fontanels. Say what now? So, when a puppy gets born, his skull consists of several separate fragments that are kind of loose from each other. This helps him squeeze through the birth canal.

By the time he gets to around four months of age, these fontanels, or fragments, have grown together and all the gaps are closed.

Unfortunately, open fontanels mean that the soft tissue of the brain is only covered by a bit of skin, and not protected by the skull. This puts puppies at greater risk for a head injury.

Elderly dogs are also more at risk than young dogs, since they’re less likely to survive the accompanying shock, simply because they’re old and their bodies arent’ as resilient.

How Would the Vet Treat My Dog?

There are various treatments available for head trauma, and the details will vary based on the case at hand. Regardless of the details, treatment should start as soon as possible. If you spot any of the abovementioned signs, take your pup to the vet immediately.

He might be in shock, which could in itself also be life-threatening. If that’s the case, keep him warm and calm. You know your pup best, so you’ll know the best way to accomplish that.

For example, some dogs would respond well to being wrapped in a warm blanket, while others might feel smothered by it and freak out even more.

Your pup might pass out before you reach the vet. If this happens, gently open his mouth and pull his tongue forward. Doing this will clear his airways and prevent suffocation.

However, in severe cases, his heart might stop, in which case he will need CPR immediately.

To know if your dog is in shock, look out for bluish gums, lowered temperature, irregular heart rate, and slowed mental activity.

Once at the vet, your pup might receive a drip, administering anti-inflammatory medication and rehydration medication. These will prevent dehydration and reduce the swelling caused by the injury.

This will also assist in reducing the pain they’re likely experiencing. In severe cases, the vet might recommend doing x-rays and other scans to find injuries not visible from the outside.

How Do I Rebuild the Relationship?

Whether or not the blow to your pup’s head was intentional, he could have some serious trust issues afterward. Kind of like the cat who wouldn’t come near my friend because the dog bit his tail while she was holding him.

The poor thing thought that she bit him. This is a classic case of Pavlovian conditioning, where the animal learns to associate an event with a specific outcome (in this case, my friend being associated with pain).

Here, the dog will learn to avoid the thing he associates with pain or other negative things. Luckily, dogs are pretty good at reading intent and will usually understand that you didn’t hurt them on purpose. When this happens, you just say sorry, give them some cuddles and move on.

If your dog now associates the situation with something unpleasant, as is the case in Pavlovian conditioning, you might need some retraining. Consult a professional about this if you’re not sure what to do.

Closing Thoughts

If you accidentally hit your dog in the head, he will probably be fine. Unfortunately, accidents happen, and we’ve probably all accidentally hit our dog with a gym bag or something.

Sometimes, these bumps are pretty hard, though, and he might get seriously hurt. Watch out for signs of head trauma, and take him to the vet if you spot any.

Head trauma is potentially fatal and should be treated immediately.

Luckily, your pup isn’t likely to hold a grudge when you accidentally hit him in the head. Dogs read intent rather well, and they’re quick to move on.

So if you bumped your dog and he seems fine, say sorry, give him some cuddles and move on. He’ll probably do the same.