Some dogs have a bump on their head that is more pronounced than in other dogs and this may trigger curiosity in dog owners.
There are dogs with small heads, dogs with large heads, and then, there are some dogs with a prominent bump on the head.
Before understanding why dogs have a bump on the head, it's important to clarify something: all dogs have a bump on their head, only that in some dogs the bump is more noticeable than in others.
The bump in question is a skeletal bump that dogs have all their lives and that's normal part of their anatomy.
We're therefore not talking about any unusual lumps or bumps that dogs may get on their heads.
If your dog develops any new suspicious lumps or bumps on his head, please see your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Introducing the "Smart Bump"
Pluto isn't the only dog with a bump on his head, turns out many dogs have it and they're not part of a Disney cartoon.
Some dog owners proudly call the bump on their dog's head the "smart bump" because in the olden days, dogs blessed with this bump were thought to be more intelligent, and the more pronounced the bump, the smarter the dog.
Other names for the bump include: knowledge knot, brain bump and wisdom bump. Some even call it "stoll."
Regardless of what it's called, it is important to debunk some ancient myths that have been going on for quite some time.
Turns out, this bump being an indication of superior intelligence, is an old wives' tale.
A Lesson in Anatomy
In case you were wondering, there's an anatomical term for that bump on the dog's head: it's called formally called the "occiput."
The term derives from the Latin word "occiput" which means "back of the skull."
Also known as "occipital protuberance" this bony triangular projection of the skull is located at the back of the head, in the lower-back area of the cranium.
One important function of the occipital bone is to provide protection to the brain along with other bones forming the skull.
This bone also enables movement of the dog's head in relation to the spine.
A Matter of Breed
As mentioned, all dogs have an occiput but it is more pronounced in certain dogs than others.
For instance, the bump is particularly noticeable in hounds, particularly the bloodhound.
Possibly, this gave rise to another old common belief once popular in dog folklore, suggesting that the bump was also an indicator of a superior sense of smell.
The occipital protuberance can also be seen in some sporting dog breeds such as golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and English setters.
A Warning Signal
An occiput that appears more prominent than usual may at times be an indicator of a health problem.
While during puberty this bone may appear more prominent, normally the occiput shouldn't undergo any major changes throughout the dog's life.
When it does, this should be worthy of veterinary investigation.
Two main issues may be seen with the dog's occiput. The occiput appearing larger due to swelling of the muscles or presence of masses, or the occiput appearing larger because the dog is losing muscle mass.
Let's take a closer look at both possibilities.
Presence of Masses
Being more prominent, makes the occipital area potentially prone to bumping.
This may lead to the presence of localized swellings such as seromas and hematomas.
The area may also swell due to bug bites and dogs scratching the area.
While rather rare, there are also chances that dogs may develop tumors in the area such as multilobular tumors of bone (MTB).
It can be challenging at times for dog owners to differentiate whether a bump on a dog's head is actual bone or some type of skin growth. There's an easy little test though that can be carried out.
If the bump is part of skin, then you should be able to move it around a little, while if it is bone, and therefore, it is part of your dog's skull, you should not be able to move it at all, points out veterinarian Dr. Gabby
Presence of Muscle Atrophy
According to Neuro Pet Vet, a medical condition known as "masticatory myositis" may cause the occipital protuberance to become increasingly visible because the dog's muscles undergo atrophy.
Other than a more prominent bump on the head, masticatory myositis causes pain upon opening the mouth, trouble chewing and a decrease in appetite.
Did you know? The occiput has several nerve endings and is an area that gets attention from canine therapeutic massage specialists.
Maryjean Ballner, a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist, suggests massaging the occipital bump in her book "Dog Massage: A Whiskers-to-Tail Guide to Your Dog's Ultimate Petting Experience."