While it may not seem like a cause for alarm, if you see your pet pressing their head against the wall, it could be a sign of a serious condition.
Head pressing is "a condition characterized by the compulsive act of pressing the head against a wall or other object for no apparent reason," according to Pet MD, and can affect both dogs and cats. Head pressing can be a symptom of a number of diseases or injuries, so veterinary care may be necessary.
The condition is different from normal head butting that cats and dogs do when they want attention or want to mark their territory, according to Little Things. The head pressing to watch out for is repetitive and purposeful, and could mean that your dog or cat is suffering from any of a number of underlying conditions.
Dogs that have a salt imbalance may press their heads against the wall. A lack of sodium can make it difficult for a dog's body to process water properly, and can lead to seizures and brain swelling.
Head pressing can also be caused by a tumor in the brain. Even if a brain tumor is benign, it can still have symptoms because it creates pressure in animal's brain. When a tumor becomes enlarged in the brain, a dog or cat might press its head to try to find relief from the discomfort.
Lead poisoning can also lead to brain damage that might be expressed through head pressing. A cat or dog might eat lead paint chips from an older home, leading to poisoning.
Head pressing might also be caused by parasites like fleas or ticks, which can cause neurological problems and conditions like Lyme disease. Ticks and fleas are especially common in outdoor pets.
Pets might also get concussions if they hit heir head. Head trauma can lead to head pressing, as dogs and cats will try to find relief from pressure or pain in their heads by pressing or rubbing them on walls.
It is also advisable to look for signs of rabies in a dog or cat that is head pressing. Other symptoms of rabies can include compulsive behavior, eating strange objects, foaming at the mouth, and an aversion to water. Rabies is often fatal for pets, and can be passed to humans easily through biting, so it is essential to take a rabies-infected pet to get care right away.
Head pressing can also be a warning sign that your animal may have had a stroke, which is part of the reason why it's important to seek veterinary care if you notice your pet pressing its head.
Care for head pressing is dependent on the underlying cause of the condition, which a vet can determine. Vets may inspect a dog or cat's retinas, take blood pressure tests, and do CT or MRI scans of an animal's brain to give a diagnosis.
Symptoms that are seemingly unrelated or insignificant can play an important part in diagnosing neurological disorders, so it's important to tell your vet about any unusual behaviors or symptoms in your cat or dog.