why dog head shaking

Dogs often shake their heads to scratch an itch or remove something stuck in their ears. But when they do this regularly, it can be a sign of a medical problem.

Check your dog’s ear flap for redness, swelling or discharge. If he shakes his head and exhibits other symptoms like itching, rubbing his face or chewing his feet, it’s time to consult with your veterinarian.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are the most commonly diagnosed health issue that causes a dog’s head shaking. They tend to be itchy and produce a lot of inflammation and discharge, both of which can trigger a dog’s natural head shaking behavior. If you lift up your dog’s ear flap and see redness, swelling or excessive wax, you should schedule an appointment.

Ear tremors caused by ear infections can be especially troublesome for dogs that swim. This is because water that builds up in the ear canal can cause bacteria to grow, leading to infection. Dogs with hairy ears or dangly earrings are also more prone to ear infections due to the fact that they can’t easily air their ears out.

Vigorous head shaking can also rupture blood vessels within a dog’s ear flap, resulting in aural haematomas that require surgery to treat. This is why prompt veterinary diagnosis and treatment are so important for your pet’s long-term well-being.

Ear Mites

When a dog shakes their head, they are often trying to remove an object from the ear canal. This is a natural behavior for our furry friends because they lack opposable thumbs. Infections in the ear cause itching and discomfort. If you lift up your dog’s ear flap, you may see redness, swelling and a foul smell.

Ear mites are another common problem that causes head shaking in dogs. These parasitic creatures live in the ear canal and produce itching and irritation. They can also spread to other areas of the body if they are not treated promptly. Symptoms of ear mite infestation include scratching around the ears and head, a crusty rash on the skin, a dark waxy discharge resembling coffee grounds and an unpleasant odor from the ears.

If you suspect your dog has ear mites, please schedule an appointment with your vet. They will clean your dog’s ears and prescribe a topical medication to kill the mites.


Dogs don’t have opposable thumbs so when they itchy, bump or get something stuck in their ears, they shake their heads to scratch it or to remove the foreign object. However, if they continue to shake their heads excessively, the blood vessels in the ear flap may rupture which can be quite painful for your fur baby.

Head shaking can also be caused by allergies to food ingredients or environmental triggers like mold spores, pollen, dust or storage mites. If your dog is itchy, has recurrent ear or skin infections or shows other signs such as rubbing their ears, chewing on their feet or whining, they may be suffering from an allergy and will need to undergo a food trial on a diet with no allergens to determine what they’re allergic to.

Antihistamines such as Benadryl are often prescribed for head shaking associated with allergies along with ear cleaning drops and limited exposure to the allergen. Your vet can also carry out tests to identify what your pet is allergic to.

Ear Growths

Occasionally, a dog will shake its head to get rid of itching and discomfort from an ear infection or another health condition. However, persistent shaking and other symptoms such as itchy ears, ear discharge and a foul smell may indicate a serious problem.

Dogs can also develop a tumor in their ear canal, which is another cause of head shaking. If a tumor is diagnosed, our vets can help your dog find the right treatment plan to manage or remove it.

Distraction can often stop dogs from shaking their heads, but when this isn’t helping, a veterinarian should be seen as soon as possible to determine what is causing the tremors. Our experienced veterinary team will be able to use a scope to see inside your dog’s ear canal and check for foreign objects, ear mites or trapped water and can take a swab sample to find the right solution to make sure your dog feels better soon.