Why is my dog ​​shaking his head? Vet’s Guide to Causes


When your dog keeps shaking his head, it can be both frustrating for you and painful and irritating for him. But they don’t just do it to annoy you, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong.

In this article, we cover the most common causes of head shaking in dogs, from ear infections to stray grass seeds. We also explain what symptoms to look out for and when to see a vet.

Why is my dog ​​shaking his head?

There are a few possible reasons why your dog is shaking his head. Let’s find out what they are:

ear infection

Dog ear infections can be caused by an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. In addition to causing head shaking, the ears can smell with a lot of earwax or discharge. Your dog may seem sore, and the inside of the ear may look red, inflamed, or swollen.

If the infection is deep in the duct, your dog may tilt his head to one side or seem off balance. Ear infections can be frustrating and stubborn, and are more common in dogs that swim, have allergies, or have droopy ears.

Most ear infections can be treated with antibiotic drops or gels. However, sometimes more intensive treatment is required.


Just like humans, dogs can get allergies to many things, including foods, pollen, mold, and parasites.

Many allergies often cause itchy skin and rashes, and since the ear canals are an extension of the skin, they can also be affected. If your dog shakes his head due to allergies, there may be no discharge or odor, but both ears may look red and sore.

You may notice your dog scratching his ears with his paws or rubbing his head on objects. If an allergic ear disease is left untreated, bacteria and yeast take their chance and cause an infection.

Although allergies cannot be cured, symptoms can usually be controlled with specific anti-inflammatory and antipruritic medications or by avoiding exposure to the allergen.

A foreign body

If your dog has a grass seed or other foreign object in his ear, he will suddenly start shaking his head. This can be quite hectic and severe, and they can seem desperate.

The ear often looks clean and may not appear inflamed, especially if the foreign object has not been there long. A vet can use a special instrument called an otoscope to look inside your dog’s ear to check for foreign objects. However, they may need to sedate them to remove them.

ear mites

It’s not very pleasant to think about little creepy crawlies hanging around in your dog’s ear. But if they shake their heads a lot, they might have ear mites. Ear mites are believed to be more active at night, so you may find that your dog suddenly seems to be itchy more as soon as you lie in bed!

Along with head shaking, you may notice your dog’s ears looking dirty with a dark brown discharge. Your vet can swab your dog’s ear and look for ear mites under a microscope. Fortunately, ear mites can be treated with a variety of prescription medications, including ear drops, tablets, and spot-ons.

water in the ears

After swimming or getting wet, dogs shake their bodies to remove excess water from their fur. But did you know that they shake their heads when they have water in their ears?

Usually, the head shaking subsides after a few moments. However, regular swimming can make dogs more susceptible to ear infections. If the head shaking persists, get them checked out by a veterinarian.

head trembling

Some conditions that affect the brain can cause head tremors, where the head bobs back and forth rapidly. It can look very similar to a head shake but is likely to be constant.

If your dog develops a head tremor, you should make an urgent appointment with the vet. This is especially important if she is having seizures, acting unwell, or you notice changes in her eye position, head position, or mobility.

What should I do if my dog ​​keeps shaking his head?

You must seek veterinary advice if your dog suddenly starts shaking his head or if he appears to be in pain or pain. If you can examine the ears for unpleasant odors, redness, and discharge, it could give you a clue as to what might be going on. Ultimately, however, it is likely that they will need veterinary care.

If your dog’s head shakes slightly or occasionally and the ears look normal, you can try using a cleaning solution for a few days to see if that helps. However, if the signs worsen, make an appointment at the veterinary clinic.

Dog shakes his head in the room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why is my dog ​​shaking his head without an ear infection?

When your dog’s ears look good but you’re constantly being bothered with scratching and head shaking, it can be frustrating. You may be wondering, “Why is my dog ​​shaking his head when his ears are clean?”

Well, there are a few causes of head shaking in dogs that don’t cause a discharge. For example, a foreign object in the ear or an allergy could be causing your pooch to feel irritated. On the other hand, it can be more of a tremor than a head shake, so talk to your vet.

dr  Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS

dr Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS

dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet with a passion for dentistry and soft tissue surgery. She lives in Wales with her partner, son and two cats.

Why does my dog ​​only shake his head at night?

Ear mites are most active at night. So if your dog has some unwanted guests, they might shake their heads at night.

Although this can be annoying when trying to sleep, there are very effective treatments to get rid of ear mite infestations. A quick visit to your vet will get you back on track for a good night’s sleep!

Why is my senior dog shaking his head?

If you have a golden oldie and notice him shaking his head, it could be an ear infection, allergy, or one of the other causes.

However, it’s worth making sure they shake their heads rather than a tremor as this can be more serious. Various neurological conditions can cause head tremors, and your veterinarian can help you investigate the cause.

Elderly dog ​​lying on grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to clean dog ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears could be a two-person job, at least initially! Best outdoors or somewhere with wipeable surfaces so you don’t have to clean up any messy earwax afterwards!

By using a cleaning solution, you can mobilize earwax and discharge deep in the ear canal and then blot it with cotton or allow your dog to shake it out.

You can read more about how to clean your dog’s ears in our vet guide.


Many people assume that when a dog shakes its head it means it has an ear infection, and this is often the case. However, there are other causes of head shaking in dogs, including allergies, ear mites, and foreign objects or water in the ear.

If your dog is suffering from their ears, they may need treatment from their veterinarian to resolve the issue. And it’s not just your dog that feels better – you too can stop shaking your head all the time!


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