Can Animals Have Headaches?

Can animals have headaches?

Can animals have headaches?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

The evidence from various animal studies suggests that animals are capable of experiencing pain that could include headaches. The behavioral and physiological parallels between humans and animals, along with the cognitive aspects of pain observed in animal models, support the notion that animals can indeed have headaches.


Introduction to Animal Pain Perception

The question of whether animals can experience headaches is rooted in the broader inquiry into animal pain perception. Pain in animals is a complex phenomenon that encompasses sensory-discriminative, affective-emotional, and cognitive aspects, much like in humans1. Animal models have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the pathophysiology of headaches and have highlighted potential therapeutic targets1.

Behavioral and Cognitive Models in Headache Research

Behavioral alterations in animals, such as increased grooming, freezing, and decreased locomotion, are indicators of pain and have been used to infer the presence of headaches in animal models1. These spontaneous behaviors are easily observable and can be correlated with clinical outcomes in humans, although they provide limited information about the specific localization and modality of the pain1. Cognitive dysfunction, which is a common complaint among headache patients, has also been observed in animal models, suggesting that animals may experience similar cognitive impairments during pain episodes1.

Pain and Distress in Animal Research

The use of animals in scientific experimentation often results in pain and distress, which can be acute, recurrent, or chronic2. Research conditions themselves can contribute to animal suffering, and parallels have been drawn between human and animal experiences of pain and psychological distress based on shared brain structures and physiological mechanisms2. This suggests that animals are capable of experiencing a range of painful sensations that could include headaches.

Medication-overuse Headache in Animal Studies

Animal studies have shown that chronic medication exposure can lead to changes in the nervous system that are associated with headache pathogenesis, such as increased excitability of cortical and trigeminal neurons3. These findings imply that animals not only experience pain but can also develop conditions analogous to medication-overuse headache, which is characterized by chronic head pain resulting from the excessive use of headache medications3.

Pain and Suffering in Invertebrates

While the presence of nociceptors is widespread among animals, their presence alone is not sufficient to confirm the experience of pain, which is a more complex phenomenon4. Invertebrates, for example, may demonstrate behaviors consistent with the experience of pain, such as rapid avoidance learning and complex grooming, which suggest a level of cognitive processing beyond simple reflexes4. This indicates that even invertebrates might experience pain in a way that could be analogous to headaches.

Conscious Experience of Pain in Animals

The philosophical debate on whether animals are conscious of their pain is ongoing, but the behavioral and physiological evidence strongly suggests that many animals experience pain sensations5. The similarity in neurological structures, including pain-transmitting fibers, between animals and humans supports the contention that animals feel their pains, which could include headaches5.

Pain, Suffering, and Anxiety in Animals

Pain, suffering, and anxiety are distinct phenomena that should not be conflated6. Animals, particularly vertebrates, appear to have the neurochemical and behavioral capacity to experience anxious states, which are often associated with pain and could be indicative of headaches6. The differentiation between nociception and pain is crucial, as the latter implies a conscious experience that animals are likely capable of6.


Can animals have headaches?

Arne May has answered Uncertain

An expert from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Neurology

We simply have no idea.

There are good reasons to believe that animals (vertebrates) do experience headache since headache (just as pain) is a simple physiological answer to a noxious input. A trauma or infection should be perceived as pain. Can animals have a migraine? We do not know. Some behaviour may be interpreted as such (scratching the head, withdrawing to a dark corner etc.) and it has been claimed that some gorilla in the netherlands showed this behaviour- but we do notand cannot know. Full stop.

BTW: That is exactly why we should (in my opinion) investigate the species that does have this problem: ourselves- humans.


Can animals have headaches?

Antonio Russo has answered Unlikely

An expert from University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli in Neurology

There is a quite shared agreement among headache experts about the fact that animals don’t experience migraine, retaining that migraine could represent a “particular” effect of the human and cerebral evolution. Nevertheless, in the past, some anecdotic observations have been spread related to primates exhibiting peculiar behaviors resembling those observed in migraine patients (the so called “behavioral sickness”), characterized for instance by lethargy, depressed mood, reduced social exploration, loss of appetite and sleepiness. However, only recently, a dog showing signs and symptoms suggestive of a migraine attack, similar to a migraine attack in humans, has been reported as scientific communication. 


Can animals have headaches?

Fayyaz Ahmed has answered Uncertain

An expert from Hull York Medical School in Neurology

I don’t know but I am sure they do


Can animals have headaches?

Anna Andreou has answered Uncertain

An expert from King’s College London in Neuroscience, Neurology

The fair answer is that we don’t know.  Clinical symptoms of other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s for example, have been identified in animals. The same neuronal pathways that are present in humans and potentially involved in migraine pathophysiology, are also found in animals with minor differences. Stimulation and activation of those pathways has been used to model at least aspects of headaches pathophysiology in licensed laboratories.


Can animals have headaches?

Amanda Ellison has answered Likely

An expert from Durham University in Psychology, Neuroscience

The pain that comes from headache is due to a widening of blood vessels in the brain. This would surely happen in animals always and so there is the potential that the signals sent to the brain to signify this dilation will be experienced as pain by the animal. As they are in humans. It is an early warning system that our most vital organ is under threat. If the blood vessels of the head over-widen and burst, that will cause bleeding in the brain and blood kills brain tissue. There is every reason to believe that this would happen in animals too and there certainly is some evidence of this at least in dogs.


Can animals have headaches?

Janet Bultitude has answered Likely

An expert from University of Bath in Psychology

I don’t see why not.


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