Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads?

If you are given the chance to list all the behaviors of your dog, head-shaking would likely be part of your list. You are likely used to seeing your dog shaking its head occasionally. But have you ever wondered why dogs shake their heads?

Dogs shake their heads to relieve pain, itchiness, and irritation. Head shaking is a way for dogs to decongest their ear canals of water and dirt. It is a perfectly normal behavior of dogs if itโ€™s done occasionally. You should be worried if head shaking is done every time by your pup.

An ear infection is one of the dangerous reasons dogs shake their heads. Keep reading this article to know other reasons your canine is always shaking its head and the signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Before discussing the signs and symptoms, letโ€™s briefly discuss more common reasons dogs shake their heads.

What Does It Mean When Your Dog Keeps Shaking Its Head?

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It means your dog is uncomfortable due to irritants lodged in its ears, skin allergies, or an infection. There are tons of reasons dogs shake their heads continuously.

If your dog continues to shake its head and scratch its ears without relief, it will eventually lead to aural hematoma. This condition often requires surgery to treat.

Now, letโ€™s discuss the common reasons dogs shake their heads in detail.

Common Reasons Why Dogs Shake Their Heads

When your dog keeps shaking its head persistently, there are reasons behind it.

The common reasons dogs shake their heads include:

  • Skin allergies
  • Irritants
  • Bacterial or yeast infection
  • Inflammation of ear canal

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies cause persistent head shaking in dogs. Apart from head shaking, the accompanying symptoms include itchy skin, hair loss, and scratching of the ears.

If irritants are responsible for constant head shaking in your dog, the ears would likely be red and inflamed.

Head shaking is not always a negative sign in dogs. When small particles like dust enter into the ears of your pup, it instinctively shakes its head to get rid of it.


A wide array of things cause irritations for dogs. Sometimes, small insects can crawl into the ear of your dog. Your canine will start shaking its head to remove this annoyance from its ear.

Parasites such as ear mites and ticks are also common irritants of a dogโ€™s ear canal. Examine your dogโ€™s ear canal promptly if it keeps shaking its head.

You would be able to see ticks with naked eyes, but itโ€™s very difficult to see ear mites. Help your dog by removing them.

Furthermore, put aloe vera on the inflamed areas to provide some temporary relief for your canine.

Bacteria Or Yeast Infection

If your canine has bacteria or yeast infection of the ear canal, it will keep shaking its head constantly, and youโ€™ll also notice some discharge from the ear canal.

When there is an ear infection, it is not uncommon for a foul odor to be emanating from the ear canal.

Due to the pain and discomfort being felt by your canine, it would start using its paws to scratch the ears.

Inflammation Of Ear Canal

Another reason for head shaking in dogs is inflammation of the ear canal. Otitis externa is a condition in which the cells lining the external ear get inflamed.

One or both of the ears of your canine can be affected by this condition. It is treated by dealing with the cause of the inflammation.

When Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Head-Shaking?

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You should be worried about your dog if the head shaking becomes excessive or goes on for 24 hours without it stopping.

If your furry friend is also exhibiting some of the common reasons, we listed above, keep an eye on your canine to see if the symptoms worsen or not.

The persistent head shaking in your dog should warrant a visit to a veterinarian. Do not ever try to manage this condition without seeing your vet.

Is It Normal For Dogs To Shake Their Heads?

Yes! It is perfectly normal for dogs to shake their heads. But you should be worried if your canine does it with so much regularity.

You donโ€™t have to be bothered if your canine shakes its head to force out irritants out of its ears occasionally.

As humans, we cough to force out irritants from our airways. Similarly, dogs are fond of head-shaking to get rid of dirt.

What Are Idiopathic Head Tremors In Dogs?

Idiopathic head tremors are a condition in dogs characterized by involuntary and repetitive side-to-side and up and down movements.

Head shaking can be a result of seizures, nervous system disorders, or even head injury.

When all the signs above are not present, it is then referred to as idiopathic. Idiopathic head tremors are more common in younger and middle-aged dogs.

Head tremors in dogs are often likened to Parkinsonโ€™s disease in humans. The tremors are not voluntary as seen with head-shaking to remove dirt.

Some breeds of dogs are known to be more susceptible to this condition than others. When your dog has this condition, do not be worried, it doesnโ€™t mean your dog is sick.

Can Idiopathic Head Tremors Go Away In Dogs?

Yes. Idiopathic head tremors will slowly regress over time. Dogs with this condition do not need treatment as the condition does not worsen.

Idiopathic head tremors in dogs do neither worsen nor get better. If your dog has this condition, treatment is not needed.

If your dog has focal head tremors, you can distract your dog from this by simply calling its name.

Dogs with idiopathic head tremors are healthy, and they are generally not expected to develop further neurological symptoms.

What to Do If Your Dog is Head-Shaking?

Take your dog to the vet if it has been head-shaking for more than 24 hours non-stop. Early veterinary intervention is crucial in preventing serious medical conditions for your canine.

If your pup keeps shaking its head, blood vessels in the ear can rupture, leading to hematoma.

If the head-shaking of your canine is mild, being done occasionally to remove debris from the ear canal, thereโ€™s no need to go to the vet.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Has Ear Infection?

You can tell your dog has an ear infection by observing brown, yellow, or bloody discharge from its ears. Some other common symptoms that indicate this are:

  • Repetitive scratching of the ear or areas around it
  • Redness or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
  • Head shaking
  • Rubbing the ears against furniture

Infections are dangerous, as they can happen within a short period and quickly degenerate into something more serious.

Bacteria are known to be the leading cause of infection in dogs. Other causes are yeast and fungi. You should be observant to detect any negative changes in the behavior of your canine.

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What Can I Use To Clean My Dogโ€™s Ears?

Make use of normal saline or over-the-counter ear cleaner. The external ear canal of dogs is notorious for amassing wax and debris.

Some dog breeds are also predisposed to accumulating wax in the ear canal due to the structure of their ears.

From my experience, you should clean your dogโ€™s ear canal at least once a week. You donโ€™t even need a lot of tools to do that.

The basic things you need to do this are balls of cotton, tissues, or baby wipes. Many ingredients are embedded in the ear cleaner that breaks up the wax and kill any parasites in the ear canal.

When Should I Take My Dog To The Vet For A Shaking Head?

Take your dog to the vet if your dog keeps shaking its head, scratching ears with its paws, and the ear looks irritated and red.

The vet will run some diagnostic tests for your dog to determine the reason behind the head-shaking.

If an ear infection is found to be the cause of the constant head shaking, the vet will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

If thereโ€™s a lot of debris in your dogโ€™s ear, the vet will carry out a deep cleansing of the ear canals.

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Pete Decker