Head shaking is a natural behavior that dogs often use to get things out of their ears or scratch an itch. However, if your dog’s head-shaking becomes excessive or persistent, it may be time to see the vet.

Head shaking can be caused by a number of health issues, including ear infections, ear mites, allergies, and head trauma. Getting an accurate diagnosis will help your vet determine the best course of action for your dog.

Ear Infections

Head shaking or tilting of the head is one of the most common signs that a dog has an ear infection. These infections produce a lot of redness, discharge or swelling of the ear flap that can trigger your dog to shake her head.

Ear infections can also cause an unpleasant odor coming from the ear. The odor is caused by bacteria and is often a symptom of an ongoing infection.

Infections can occur if your dog has water in his ears, especially after swimming or if he has pendulous ears. The moisture and dirt inside these ears can help bacteria grow, which then leads to an ear infection.

The best way to treat an ear infection is to visit your veterinarian and have a thorough ear cleaning and ear medication administered. Your vet will use a microscopic exam to determine the type of organism causing the infection and prescribe the appropriate medications for your dog.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny insects that live inside your dog’s ear canal. They are similar to ticks and can easily spread from one dog to another.

They are most commonly picked up from other dogs, but can also be acquired through contact with stray or wild animals. They can only live for a short time without a host, making them extremely contagious.

Symptoms include itching, scratching and rubbing the ears. In extreme cases, a dark, crumbly reddish-brown discharge that resembles coffee grounds may appear in the ear.

A vet will examine your dog’s ear and discharges with an otoscope to determine if he or she has an ear mite infestation. Typically, a treatment that destroys ear mite eggs will be prescribed to eradicate the problem. This needs to be repeated at least once a month to ensure all the mite eggs are killed off.


When dogs shake their heads, it may be a sign of something as simple as a ear infection or something more serious like allergies. While the occasional shaking of the head isn’t really a cause for concern, if it’s happening more often, it’s time to take them in.

Allergies in dogs are triggered by mold spores, pollens, dust mites, food ingredients and other environmental allergens that trigger a reaction. Symptoms can include itchy skin, recurrent skin or ear infections, paw licking and scratching, excessive head shaking and even hair loss.

Allergies in dogs can be diagnosed with blood or intradermal skin testing. In addition, your vet can put your dog on a special elimination diet, putting them on a single carbohydrate and protein source that they’ve never eaten before and seeing if the symptoms improve.

Head Trauma

Head trauma can occur when your dog shakes his head too hard and the ends of his ears hit his head. This can cause hematomas (bleeding spots), and the vet will need to drain the hematoma.

This can be an extremely dangerous condition. It can lead to a seizure and brain damage, so it’s important to see your vet as soon as you notice a head shaking problem.

If your dog is shaking his head a lot, it might be because of an ear infection. Floppy-eared dogs are especially susceptible to ear infections, as the ear flaps can easily smack into their heads and rip off their skin.

Ear mites can also cause head-shaking because they can cause a yeast-based infection that causes the dog to try to scratch at his ear to relieve the pain. A vet can diagnose the condition and treat it with antibiotics if necessary. Keeping your dog’s ears clean will prevent these conditions from occurring.