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Why Is My Dog Shaking Its Head So Much? We Investigate Causes And Solutions

dog shaking its head

Your dog shaking its head can be a sign of an ear issue. Occasional shaking of the head is fine, but if this becomes more than just an occasional habit, you need to investigate the cause.

Dogs love shaking themselves after being bathed or taking a swim. But your dog shaking its head could also be its way of showing you something is wrong.

Dog Shaking Its Head: What It Could Mean

The following is a list of the possible causes for your dog shaking its head:

Dog Shaking Head – Checklist

  • A foreign body such as grass seed lodged in the ear canal
  • An ear infection caused by ear mites, bacteria or yeast
  • Allergic reaction
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Fly or tick bites at the ear tips
  • An immune disease
  • Sign of polyps or masses in the ear canal

Should You Be Worried If Your Dog Is Shaking Its Head A Lot?

Yes, if you don’t treat the cause of the head shaking, permanent damage can be done to your dog’s ears. This can lead to a hearing loss or a ruptured eardrum. Persistent or aggressive head shaking can cause an Aural Haematoma.

Plus, a chronic inflamed infection is very painful. You know how horrible an ear ache can be, imagine how much worse it feels if you can’t do anything to make it stop.

In Doggy World, Hearing Is Very Important

Dogs experience the world mostly through their senses of smell and hearing. This is why you can’t just ignore your dog shaking its head. Your beloved four-footed house member’s quality of life depends on you investigating what is causing the problem.

If it happens only once or twice, you can ignore it, or simply rub your dog’s ears to help get rid of the itchiness. As soon as the dog does it nonstop, you have to take it to the veterinarian to check what is causing the problem. If you want to treat the itch at home before visiting the veterinarian, rather use a proper ear cleaning product for dogs to assist you with the process.

Things to Look Out For

Check your dog’s skin for signs of infection, irritation, dryness, wounds or parasites. When your dog is shaking its head, it can be a sign of an allergy attack and general skin problems can be a further indication of this. Even a mild yeast infection can cause excessive head shaking.

Discomfort can also be caused by an injury, not just infections inside the ear. When your dog starts shaking its head on a regular basis, check his head for any bumps or cuts. Head trauma can also be a cause for the shaking. If the shaking doesn’t stop after a few days, rather visit the veterinarian to be on the safe side. If there aren’t any physical evidence of a bump or cut, that will be an indication that the problem lies inside the ears.

Inner ear infection, head trauma, a stroke or vestibular syndrome can all be reason for excessive shaking of the head. If your dog seems to be off balance, that can be a further indicator of problems inside its ears.

Has your dog been exposed to any unusual chemicals or medications? These foreign toxins can have an effect on the dog’s nervous system. Abnormal behavior such as the dog shaking its head or other neurological symptoms can occur. If you know what harmful chemicals or medications your dog has been exposed to, call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center on 888-426-4435 for immediate assistance.

dog shaking its head

How to Determine the Problem

A dog’s ear canal is shaped like an L, making it difficult to spot a problem hidden out of sight deep down in the canal. Plus, irritations in the ear canal can cause the epithelium lining to swell, reducing the size of the dog’s ear canal. This combo often causes discharge to become stuck in the inner ear, never making its way out to the external part of the ear you can view.

On top of the obvious sign of your dog shaking its head, look out for the following signs:

  • Foul smell or a discharge leaking from the ear
  • Excessive ear scratching
  • The dog holding its head in a strange position
  • Sensitivity and irritability when you touch the dog’s ear
  • A redness or swelling of the ear flap
  • Difficulty hearing you


Do not poke around in your dog’s ear with a cotton bud! You can cause more damage than you realise.

How to Treat the Problem

Firstly you can try to alleviate the discomfort by administering an ear cleaning product for dogs as mentioned above. But this should be a temporary solution while you wait for your veterinarian appointment. Your dog’s ears need to be examined with a professional instrument.

This process will determine what is causing the discomfort and your veterinarian can prescribe the most effective solution to deal with the problem. These can include anti-inflammatory or antibiotic tablets, ear drops or ear wash, or an ear mite treatment.

If the dog shaking its head indicates an allergic reaction, a dietary adjustment needs to be done. Read this article to be aware of the most common food allergies in dogs. In the worst case scenario surgery might have to be scheduled to fix the cause of the ear irritation.

When it comes to dogs any minor itch, tickle, irritation, or sting is enough to prompt them to shake their head a little in order to bring relief. When you see your dog shaking it usually isn’t a big deal. But if the shaking persists it should be a cause for concern.

dog shaking its head

Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears At Home

If you feel brave, you can attempt to clean your dog’s ears on a regular basis at home. This is more of a preventative measure, though. When your dog is shaking its head excessively, that means there is a serious problem to attend to.

There are three important things about dog ears you need to be aware of

  • The ears are very sensitive, regular maintenance can prevent infections
  • Dogs don’t like it when you clean their ears, so it will be a tricky job
  • If you do it wrong, you can cause severe damage

Make It a Positive Experience

It’s best to get your dog into the habit of cleaning its ears from a young age. Do not force your dog into submission, it will only give you more resistance if it doesn’t feel comfortable with what lies ahead. Try to give it a treat every time it cooperates with you, this way the dog will be more inclined to relax during the process.

Use the Correct Tools

No, cotton buds are not suitable for your dog’s ears. Rather use cotton balls or gauze wrapped around your finger. The type of ear rinse you use is very important. Find a product that doesn’t contain any alcohol, antibiotics, steroids or other toxic materials.

Keep Everything Close At Hand

Make sure you’ve got everything set up before you start the cleaning process. There won’t be time to fiddle around and find what you’re looking for once you’ve started. You want to keep your dog as calm as possible once you have gotten it in a secure position.

Stick To the Rules

Start on the outside and gently work your way in. No forcing, only clean until you start feeling resistance. This is crucial, if you push further, you can cause damage. Rather stay on the safe side than trying to clean too deep. Wet your gauzed finger or cotton ball with the ear rinse and start wiping the outer flap which is visible to you. For the inner ear, replace the gauze or cotton ball and wet a new one in the rinse.

If you want to undertake this cleaning process on your own, try to do it at least once a week. When you notice that the gauze or cotton ball is excessively dirty, schedule an appointment at the veterinarian for a check up to see if everything is in order.

Conclusion – Why Is My Dog Shaking Its Head So Much?

There are a number of reasons that can cause excessive head shaking. It is best to keep a close eye on your dog to see if the symptoms disappear within a day or two. Otherwise you will have to visit your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is not in any pain and to determine what is causing the problem.

When it comes to your dog’s hearing, you should rather stay on the safe side and take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible for a checkup. Hearing loss is a terrible impairment for your dog to suffer from.

Has your dog ever started shaking its head excessively? How did you manage to determine the problem?