Why Dogs Shake Their Heads

By August 31, 2021 September 1st, 2021 Dogs

There are many reasons your dog could be shaking their head. Sometimes, it’s just a part of normal dog behavior, especially if it’s infrequent. If your dog shakes their head a few times but then stops, then you don’t need to worry. However, if the behavior is persistent and occurs regularly, then something might be wrong.

Reasons Your Dog May Be Shaking Their Head

Ear Infections

Dog with ear infection

If your dog is persistently shaking their head, chances are good that they may have a yeast or bacterial infection in their ears. A yeast or bacterial infection in the ears is the most commonly diagnosed condition for which persistent head-shaking is a symptom. If your dog has been shaking their head excessively, check inside the ears for redness, discharge, or swelling. Dogs shake their heads to try to get rid of the itching and the discharge from an infection.

Some ear infections may be located too deep inside the ears to see visually, however, so even if you don’t see obvious symptoms of an ear infection, you should still take your dog to the vet if you suspect an ear infection.

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, you should schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. Their vet will thoroughly clean our your dog’s ears with a medicated cleanser. You will likely go home with a prescription ear cleaner and topical medication to further treat the infection.

Ear Mite Infestation

Dog getting ear treatment

Although ear mite infestations aren’t as common as ear infections, especially in adult dogs, they can cause the same symptoms as an ear infection. There may be redness, swelling, or discharge in the ears and your dog may shake their head excessively to relieve the symptoms. If you suspect an ear mite infestation or ear infection, you should take your dog to the vet right away.

Your veterinarian will thoroughly flush out the ear in the case of an ear mite infestation. Your dog will likely be prescribed an ear medication to tackle secondary infections and a flea and tick treatment which are often able to kill mites.

Possible treatment options include:

  • Topical ointment
  • Ivermectin injection
  • Revolution®
  • Simparica®
  • Advantage Multi®
  • Bravecto®


Dog with allergies

Just like humans, dogs can get allergies. Dogs can be allergic to pollen, dust, mites, their food, and more. Symptoms of an allergic reaction often include itching, sometimes in the ears. This may make your dog shake their head or scratch at their ears. If you suspect your dog is allergic to their food, you’ll need to try a special diet to see if the symptoms go away. You can ask your vet for advice on If you suspect an environmental allergy. In the case of environmental allergies, your vet can do a skin or blood test to check for allergies.

The solution for itching due to allergies is to cleanse the ear, apply medication prescribed by the veterinarian (likely an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory), and work to identify the allergen. The best way to solve allergy-related discomfort is to identify and remove the allergen from your dog’s environment.


Dog swimming in water

If your dog shakes their head after bathing or after swimming, it may be because they have water in their ears. You can use cotton balls to prevent the water getting in your dog’s ears in the first place. When bathing your dog, you should also avoid pouring water directly over your dog’s head, instead use a damp washcloth to wash your dog’s face and head. If your dog doesn’t like to have cotton balls in their ears while they’re swimming, you can ask your vet for recommendations on products that can help to dry out your dog’s ears afterward.

The best solution is prevention when it comes to water from getting in your pet’s ears. Because water clogging up the ears can result in an ear infection, you’ll need to focus on keeping the ears clean and dry. If your dog does end up with an ear infection caused by fungus or bacteria due to water lodged in the ear then you’ll need to take them to the vet for treatment.

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Author drphillipsah

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