why dog head shaking

Many pet owners notice their dog’s head shaking and tilting, but this can be a concerning sign of a severe underlying medical problem.

The most common reason why dogs shake their heads excessively is due to an ear infection. This can cause your dog’s ears to be itchy and produce a lot of inflammation and discharge.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are the most common health issue that causes dogs to shake their head excessively. They often occur when a dog has a yeast or bacterial infection of the ear canal. These conditions are common in older dogs, especially those with floppy ears (Spaniels).

When you lift up your dog’s ear flap to check for any signs of an infection, look for redness, discharge or swelling. Some ear infections can be located too deep to see visually, so it is important to get your dog checked by a vet if you notice any of these symptoms.

Other potential causes of head shaking include allergies, excessive moisture in the ear from bathing or swimming, foreign objects in the ear (grass awns or foxtail seeds), parasites (ear mites), endocrine issues (hypothyroidism), trauma to the ear, certain types of cancer, and autoimmune diseases (lupus, pemphigus, vasculitis). Treatment of these underlying conditions often results in improved recurrence rates of ear infections and less frequent visits to the veterinarian.

Ear Mites

One of the most common causes of head shaking in dogs is ear mites. These tiny parasites live in the ear canal and feed off skin oils, ear wax and other debris.

When your dog shakes their head, they are trying to get rid of the ear mites that are in there. It can also be a sign of an ear infection.

You can check your dog’s ears for ear mites by examining them with an otoscope or microscope. It’s also important to get a good ear cleaning to make sure there are no underlying issues that need to be addressed, like a yeast infection or a skin allergy.

There are very effective ear mite treatments available from your vet that can eliminate the ear mites and the infection. They usually require a continuous treatment for 21 days to ensure that all of the mite eggs are eliminated.

Ear Growths

If your dog is constantly shaking its head, this could be a sign of ear growths. These are often the result of a yeast or bacteria infection that can develop inside the ear canal.

The ear canal of dogs is long and curved, which makes it easier for water and debris to get trapped in the ear. This can lead to a buildup of yeast and bacteria, which can cause itching and inflammation in the ear.

When this is a chronic problem, it can lead to ear infections that are hard to treat. Ear infections need to be diagnosed and treated quickly so your dog can get back to enjoying life without pain.

If your dog is shaking its head a lot, especially after bathing or swimming, there may be a problem with ear growths. These can include polyps, tumors, or warts. Your vet can send you to a specialist for evaluation and treatment if this is the case.


Dogs that frequently shake their head may develop hemomatomas, or blood-filled bumps, on their ears. This happens because a small blood vessel in the ear flap (pinna) is damaged or ruptured, creating a pocket of blood that fills up the ear.

They can occur in both dogs and cats, but they’re much more common in dogs due to a number of factors, including ear mites, otitis externa (infection outside the ear canal), and trauma to the ear.

Hematomas look like blood blisters but don’t usually explode; they just reabsorb over time, leaving the ear hardened and thicker. The swelling can be painful, and the ear may permanently change shape if not treated.

Your vet will be able to make a diagnosis of your dog’s hematoma by looking down their ear with an otoscope and taking swabs for microscopic examination. This helps to find out what’s causing the head shaking, which is vital for treatment and prevention of future hematomas.