Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Head Shaking in Dogs: When to Worry

Head shaking in dogs is a common behavior that can be considered normal if it occurs infrequently. However, when head shaking becomes a regular occurrence, it may indicate an underlying issue that warrants concern. Therefore, pet owners should be aware of when to become worried about their dog’s head shaking.

Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads?

Understanding why dogs shake their heads is essential. It serves as a mechanism for them to dislodge anything from their ears that shouldn’t be there. The force generated by a vigorous shake is considerable, as evidenced by the impact of a dog’s ear against someone. When dogs experience itchiness or irritation in their ears, they instinctively shake their heads. While this action may resolve the issue if there’s something like water, a piece of grass, or an insect in the ear, persistent head shaking indicates ongoing irritation that requires attention. If your dog continues to shake its head repeatedly without cessation for a day or more, it’s advisable to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Bacterial and Yeast Infections in the Ear

The primary health issue leading to excessive head shaking in dogs is often an ear infection. These infections typically manifest as itchiness, accompanied by significant discharge and inflammation, prompting dogs to shake their heads. If you observe redness, swelling, or discharge when you lift the flap of your dog’s ear(s), it’s likely an infection is present. While ear mite infestations can cause similar symptoms, they are less common compared to yeast or bacterial infections, especially in adult dogs. It’s important to note that infections can occur deep within a dog’s ear, so the presence of an infection may not always be evident from external signs alone.

Itchiness in the Ear Due to Allergies

Allergies represent another prevalent cause of head shaking in dogs. These allergies can stem from ingredients in their food or environmental triggers such as pollen, mold spores, dust, or storage mites. Symptoms of allergies in dogs typically encompass various signs including itchy skin, hair loss, recurring skin and ear infections, scratching at the ears, head shaking, chewing on the feet, and rubbing at the face.

Identifying a food allergy often requires placing the dog on a special diet consisting of a single carbohydrate (e.g., rice or potato) and a single source of protein that the dog has never consumed before (e.g., duck or venison), or a hydrolyzed protein. The dog must exclusively consume this diet for a month or two. If the symptoms vanish or notably improve, a food allergy is probable.

Diagnosing environmental allergies is ideally done through intradermal skin testing, although blood testing is a viable option for some dogs.

Water in the Ears

Preventing head shaking due to water getting into the ears is straightforward. Before bathing or swimming, simply insert cotton balls (or half a cotton ball for small breeds) into the dog’s ears. During baths, avoid spraying or pouring water directly onto the dog’s head; instead, focus on bathing the body from the neck down and gently wipe the face and ears with a damp washcloth. If your dog dislikes cotton balls during swimming, alternative options include using an ear band or utilizing a drying solution to clean the ears after swimming. Your veterinarian can recommend a suitable and effective product tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

Serious Conditions Related to Head Shaking

Other serious conditions that can cause dogs to excessively shake their heads include foreign objects becoming lodged in the ear canal, inflammatory diseases, or neurological disorders that result in head tremors, which can be mistaken for head shaking.

If your dog experiences recurrent ear infections, both you and your veterinarian should investigate potential underlying causes such as allergies, anatomical abnormalities, or hypothyroidism.

It’s crucial to diagnose and address the root cause of a dog’s head shaking, not only because it indicates a potentially severe problem but also because persistent or vigorous head shaking can lead to ruptured blood vessels in the dog’s ear flap. The resulting aural hematomas often necessitate surgical repair. Therefore, whenever feasible, it’s important to prevent excessive head shaking rather than merely treating it once it occurs.

Scroll to Top