Ask Dr. V

Do dogs get headaches?

Humans For Sure Get Headaches

A week ago, I decided I was going to stop drinking caffeine. Now if you know me at all, you know I adore coffee, more than almost anything else in life. If you cut my arm, skinny vanilla latte would pour out. The decision to give up my biggest vice was not an easy one by any means, but at the end of the day, health trumps pleasure, and I figured there’s always decaf.

I did what everyone tells you not to do, and just stopped cold turkey. Big mistake, everyone.

8 am: I felt a little sluggish, but not too off. This is totally manageable.

10 am: I felt really sluggish, like I was about to fall off the kitchen barstool; a sober drunk. I am still mostly coherent, though, so I figure I can continue to tough it out. My children look on in confusion.

noon: I felt a little twinge in the back of my temple, just a tiny blip of a possible headache. I take 2 Advil. Ah yes, the infamous caffeine headache. It’s not too bad, though.

3 pm: An small but bloodthirsty miniature barbarian horde has invaded my head. They have taken microscopic pickaxes to my sinuses and are attempting to harvest my eyeballs through the back of my orbits. Paralyzed by exhaustion, I am unable to tell anyone of my predicament as I am systematically destroyed.

Here they come.

Here they come.

5 pm: My husband finds me slumped on the bed in the fetal position, moving centimeter by centimeter in slow motion because every time a wave of movement jolts the marauding horde in my cranium, they get angry again. He has no way to tell that this is what is going on; as far as he knows, I have the flu, or allergies, or I ate some bad Greek yogurt. In a feathery voice, I whisper: “Make me a cup of coffee, if you would.”

I admit defeat, and give the barbarians their drugs.

7 pm: Feel fine.

If you are not someone who experiences headaches, you have my complete and utter envy. While my caffeine withdrawal headache was nasty (I have since elected for a more subtle weaning-off process), I used to suffer migraines as well and those would pretty much put you out of commission in a blinding stroke of agony, nausea, and an unending mantra: please let me go unconscious please let me go unconscious. And despite the misery and despair you are experiencing, to the outside you simply look like someone who doesn’t feel that great.

But what about dogs?

At 11 pm, recovered but now fully awake from my late night caffeine jolt, I started thinking about dogs and headaches. As veterinarians, we aren’t really trained in the idea that dogs get headaches, so therefore they don’t exist. Well, pain in the head is not a disease, it’s a clinical sign of a disease process, such as dehydration, brain tumors, or any number of other problem that both dogs and humans do get, so it’s not unreasonable to think they might get head pain as well. They get other kinds of pain, after all. But objectively speaking, we have no idea whether or not a dog gets a headache because there’s no way for them to describe it as such.

I suspect they do get them. Have you ever seen a dog with a hangover? I have, sadly, in the ER. It’s not funny, it’s actually very sad that someone would knowingly intoxicate an animal, but the morning after they really do look like every college kid on a Sunday morning. Whatever it is they are feeling, it’s not super awesome.

At my first job, I worked with an old timer who always criticized how long it took my pets to wake up from anesthesia. “Look how quickly mine wake up!” he’d crow proudly. 20 minutes after a spay they were up and pacing. Mine were usually out for at least an hour or two. Eventually I decided to take a look at the differences in technique, and the main difference was this: I gave a lot more pain medications. My pain protocol back then was an eye-roller to many, but is now standard in many hospitals. My patients weren’t taking too long to recover, they were sleeping because their pain was being managed appropriately and they were comfortable.

If you could tell the cat to please stop playing the bongoes over there, that would be great.

If you could please stop playing the bongoes over there, that would be great.

If you talk to your typical veterinary anesthesiologist or oncologist, many of them will tell you that most people- vets included- tend to underestimate the amount of pain a pet experiences, assuming if a pet is not howling in pain they are OK. The more we learn, the more we are realizing the effect of pain on health, and how much more we can do to alleviate it. We are getting better about that as a profession, and I’m glad to see more and more vets adopting aggressive pain management protocols for everything from cancer to arthritis, but at the end of the day we can’t really manage a symptom we don’t know exists.

So to answer the question: Do dogs get headaches? I hope not, but I suspect they might. Poor dogs. Good thing Brody’s not hooked on caffeine.

Know your dog or cat. Know what is normal behavior and what is off. And if you suspect something is wrong, trust your instincts, and get them to a vet. Subtle signs can mean big things going on.


Filed: Ask Dr. V, Blog, Dogs, Health, Musings Tagged: , ,

Ask Dr. V: headgear and flat pets questions answered!

As you watch this I will be delirious with jet lag in the middle of a 25 hour flight home. This is an appropriate topic for such antics.

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Filed: Ask Dr. V, Blog, Videos Tagged: , ,

Ask Dr V: Nutrition, rotation diets, and high protein

Today I’m showing Part 2 of the Ask Dr V series. I believe, though I haven’t checked it against the itinerary, that I should be on my way to the Ngorongoro Crater as we speak. Unless a chimp shoved me off the mountain earlier in the week, in which case these pre-published videos will be on a whole new level of macabre.

Which, by the way, my shade would find utterly hysterical.

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Filed: Ask Dr. V, Blog, Cats, Dogs, Health, Videos Tagged: ,

Ask Dr. V: Petsitters and euthanasia

Before I left, I spent a few minutes answering some of the great questions you submitted for the Ask Dr. V segments. I was on my way to a PTA meeting and had a few minutes to kill, so I figured why not. This was way more interesting, by the way.

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Do you have a clear understanding with your petsitters or boarding facilities when you leave on a trip? Would you want them to make that call for you?

Filed: Ask Dr. V, Blog, Health, Videos Tagged: ,

Have a Question?

Health topic you’d like to hear more about?

Wondering what Brody and Koa do all day?

Dying to know my favorite fruit?

I’ll be picking questions to answer in the Ask Dr. V section over here. You can send in your questions via the contact form. Questions will be selected at my discretion.

That’s Spike from Iams, who is mulling over what he might want to ask.

As always, if your pet has an immediate health concern, please see your regular veterinarian. I will answer questions about general health topics, but I will not select any questions that have to do with your specific pet’s health.

Filed: Ask Dr. V Tagged:

Your Questions Answered: Part 2

Most difficult class in vet school?That’s a toss-up. Clinical pathology was a bear, but so was neurology. The first because of the topic, the second because of the teacher.

Did the dogs get any of the cat litter chicken breast?

Nope. It was immediately tossed, much to Koa’s chagrin. She really wanted it (as you could see, I didn’t realize until watching the video that she was pacing like Jaws!)

What was the biggest animal you have treated & what for? And the smallest & what for?

I see you sneaking in 2 questions there! Biggest I have personally treated was a horse, but I watched someone else work on an elephant in school). I was treating it for, I don’t know, some horse thing. It was over 10 years ago so my memory is fuzzy.

The smallest was a mouse with an upper respiratory infection.

The most exotic was a chimpanzee.

Have you ever met a dog that truly watches television? ;0)

Just yours! :D

I had a family vet growing up who always remembered our family’s pets (and later mine) and remembered us. I never figured out how he did it, but he always said the most soothing things and knew exactly what memory to bring up to make me feel better…Do you experience this kind of connection with any of your regular clients? Is it rewarding to you?

I do with several of my regular clients. It is a wonderful experience. It’s few and far between, though- a lot of people simply aren’t looking for that depth of relationship with their veterinarian.

Do people ever ask you what type of dog (or pet) to get? How do you answer such a question?

I would actually like that if more people did ask! They usually don’t and end up getting something that is a terrible match for their lifestyle (like the couple in a tiny but immaculate apartment who got a Weimaraner and then got upset that the dog was destructive when he got bored.)

I would ask them what their lifestyle is like, and what they are looking for in a pet. Then I would give them some suggestions and maybe a list of some rescues to talk to.

What is your grossest exam room story?

Hmm, probably the severely matted Chow who was in for a “skin infection”. Once we started cutting off the mats, we found infection all right. Secondary to the fleas and maggots. Handfuls of them.

Filed: Ask Dr. V, Blogathon, Blogathon 2010

Your Questions Answered: Funniest Exam Room experience (and giveaway!)

It’s late and dark, so I’m going all Blair Witch on you.

Your turn! It’s time for another FETCHING TAGS giveaway!

To enter, you can either:
1. Tell me a funny experience from your own work

or 2. Ask another question for me to answer.

Filed: Ask Dr. V, Blogathon, Blogathon 2010, Daily Life