Did you know that it was once thought possible to decipher the personality of a person from the bumps on the head? My dog’s head would probably read as ‘dog with 10 stomachs, trouble maker and a cuddle bug’.
If you were to put run your hands around the head of your dog, you will notice a rather prominent bump on your dog’s head. This bump is called the occiput.
But what happens when your dog’s occiput is getting bigger?
Your dog’s occiput grows in proportion to its skull, hence dogs that are still developing will have occiputs that will get bigger until they mature. An underlying medical condition like Myositis or a tumor can also cause abnormal swelling of the occiput.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what the occiput is and why it is getting bigger.
Where Is The Occiput On A Dog?
The occiput is the bump at the back of your dog’s skull and is also present in most mammals.
You might also hear the occiput being referred to as the knowledge bump/knot, smart bump, wisdom bump, love knot and my personal favorite, bone head.
I know, I know…but it is just too funny.
The occiput in your dog serves a few purposes.
If you were to look at a dog’s anatomy, the occiput is connected to your dog’s neck which helps with its neck movements and allows nerve endings to run from your dog’s spinal cord to its brain.
It also serves as protection for your dog’s brain against bumps and predator attacks.
Although all dogs have an occiput, there are some dog breeds that just have a more pronounced occiput.
These dog breeds are:
- Basset hound
- Golden retrievers
- Labrador retriever
If you have one of the above dog breeds, you can expect your dog to have a more prominent bump as compared to a bulldog.
The size of your dog’s occiput was once thought to be an indicator of your dog’s intelligence as it was more pronounced on very trainable dogs like a Golden Retriever but that turned out to be just a myth.
Why Is My Dog’s Skull Changing Shape?
The time when your dog has the most physical changes is during its puppy phase.
Puppies grow like weeds, almost in the range of 5-10% of their body weight each day for about the first 8 weeks.
That is some hefty growing.
After 8 weeks, the growth spurt will slow down but your litter dog will still continue to grow until it reaches adulthood by 12-15 months.
For big and giant dog breeds like the Great Dane can grow for up to 24 months before reaching maturity.
These dog breeds need to eat a lot to fuel their growth or the Great Dane can appear to be underweight.
If your dog is still growing, it is perfectly normal to expect your dog’s head and occiput to grow in relation to its body size.
So don’t be alarmed if you notice that your dog’s occiput seems larger than a week before.
I would be more concerned if my dog’s head wasn’t growing.
Male dogs tend to have larger heads as compared to female dogs so that will make their occiput seem bigger too.
However, there could also be times when your dog’s growing occiput bone could be due to any underlying cause.
Masticatory Muscle Myositis
Myositis is a medical condition that causes the dog’s immune system to attack its own muscle tissue thinking that its some foreign intruder.
There are different types of myositis but the one that can affect the size of your dog’s occiput would be masticatory muscle myositis.
The immune system will attack your dog’s muscles that are used when your dog chews. So this would be muscle around your dog’s jaw and neck.
Myositis can cause these muscles to become swollen and inflamed which can cause the occiput area to appear larger than normal.
Symptoms of masticatory myositis in dogs include:
- Inability to open mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain in jaw
- Sunken eyes
- Weight loss
This condition can be caused by a viral or parasitic infection, stress, genetic disposition, vaccination, cancer, etc.
It can be difficult to ascertain the direct root cause as it can be caused by such a wide range of possible factors.
How Is Masticatory Myositis Treated?
Most vets will give your dog immunosuppressive medications and antibiotics to try and clear up the problem.
As your dog gets better, the dosages will be reduced as long as there aren’t any relapses.
In best case scenarios, the dog is able to make a full recovery. Otherwise, a minimum dosage might still be required to prevent the problem from returning.
Head injuries can also cause your dog’s occiput area to grow larger. There are some dogs that just seem to have limitless energy.
They can run, jump and bounce off anything that they can find. Such boisterous and energetic dogs can get themselves injured from time to time if they are not too careful.
Your dog might have hit the back of its head against a hard object which caused some swelling and inflammation.
In the unfortunate event of a car accident, the impact is usually hard enough to cause swelling and injury to your dog’s head. Dogs that like to chase cars are usually at higher risk of getting hit by a vehicle.
If your dog is experiencing symptoms like dizziness, incoordination, bleeding or swelling of the head, you need to take your dog to the vet for an x-ray.
There might have been damage to the occipital bone which requires emergency treatment.
Why Is My Dog’s Head Getting Bony?
If you notice that your dog’s occiput has been looking more noticeable, it might not be due to inflammation but from the loss of muscle mass.
Loss of muscle mass or muscle atrophy happens when there is a degeneration of the dog’s muscle cells.
This issue can be caused when your dog isn’t eating enough, getting old or has an underlying medical condition like diabetes or cancer.
Dogs with cancer can lose body weight drastically due to cachexia which causes the dog’s body to break down due to the presence of cancer cells.
As your dog losses muscle mass, it can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Looking bony at the neck, ribs and face regions
- Unable to support its own weight
- Lack of energy
- Dragging itself on the floor
For dog owners that have an active or growing dog in their hands, you need to make sure that you are meeting your dog’s basic caloric intake.
Most dogs need about 20-25 calories for every pound of body weight.
If your dog isn’t eating enough daily, it will start to lose weight and muscle mass.
For dogs that are eating enough but are still losing weight, it is best to get your dog looked at by the vet.
The vet will have to run a complete blood work to see what is wrong with your dog.