Head shaking in dogs is a normal behavior. Dogs don’t have hands and fingers like we do so shaking their head is the most effective way of helping them relieve any discomfort.
When head shaking becomes excessive then it is time to take a closer look at the reasons why.
Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads?
Dogs typically shake their heads when there is an irritation. It could be as simple as a fly being too close to their face or most likely a problem with their ear. Have you ever seen your dog shake its head after a bath?
This is normal behavior, with nothing to be concerned about, and is accompanied with an all over body shake. Dogs will shake their heads to remove a foreign object from their ear. This could be water, dirt, an insect, or some form of grass seed.
A shake of the head here and there is nothing to be concerned about. It becomes concerning when your dog keeps shaking its head, when your dog’s head begins to tilt, or when your dog is continually scratching and pawing at its ear.
There are usually 5 main common reasons a dog will shake their head excessively. If your dog is continually shaking its head for more than a day or two it is best to get a vet to check your dog as your dog is possibly in pain and is definitely in a lot of discomfort.
1. Ear Infection
Ear infections are the most common reason dogs shake their heads and tilt their heads. These infections can be caused by bacteria, yeast, and fungus. If you have noticed the inside of your dog’s ear is red or has a smell it could be from infection.
Ear infections cause pain, inflammation, swelling and can really make your dog depressed. Ear infections are horrible for us so imagine how horrible it is for our dog.
Your dog could be suffering from allergies. This could be environmental or related to their diet. Dirt, dust, and pollen can create allergies in dogs. We live in a tropical environment and in the wet season experience the presence of mold and spores.
In the wet season, the likeliness of one or more of the dogs getting a problem with their ears increases.
Dogs that have allergies to food will also develop problems with their ears. In both cases dogs will also show signs of skin issues, such as incessant scratching, bald patches of hair, constantly nibbling at their feet, and red inflamed skin.
Regular cleaning of a dog’s ears can help reduce environmental allergies, but if the allergies are food related then eliminating the cause from their diet is the best option.
3. Ticks and Ear Mites
Ticks and ear mites are often one of the major causes for head shaking in dogs. Imagine having ticks burrowing into your ear or tiny mites crawling around inside the ear canal. How horrid a feeling it would be. Ticks and mites are dangerous parasites for dogs and can cause many problems like anemia and paralysis.
If you live in an area that is known for ticks then regular checking and removal is the best practice. Using regular medication designed to eliminate and kill these parasites is another way to prevent them from getting into your dog’s ears and making them sick.
4. Foreign Objects
Dogs get into anything and everything. It is no wonder that their ears can sometimes get foreign objects stuck in them. A dog could get some food, some dirt, some sticks, or even toys stuck in their ears.
One of the most common foreign objects that I have encountered with dogs is grass seeds. These can be very nasty for your dog and its ears as they often get lodged inside the ear and no matter how much head shaking a dog does it cannot remove it. A trip to the vet is often required for any removal of a foreign object.
5. Water In The Ears
Water in your dog’s ear or ears will cause head shaking. That feeling of water inside of your ear causes us to shake our heads, too. Be extra careful when bathing your dog and try to always protect their ears from any water entering the ear canal.
If your dog likes swimming then you can try putting cotton balls into its ears. For many dogs, this is uncomfortable so they may not allow it or it may take time for them to get used to it. Don’t push the cotton balls far into the canal.
They just need to sit firmly in the external ear canal to prevent water from entering. There are also headbands and ear covers available. Hopefully, your dog will be able to dislodge any water on its own, but if not then a visit to the vet is a must.
Other Causes of Head Shaking and Head Tilting
We have covered the 5 most common causes of head shaking in dogs and for most dogs, those will be the reason your dog is shaking its head.
However, there are some serious reasons for head shaking and head tilt that are a cause for concern, and these are best diagnosed by a certified veterinarian.
Head shaking is a normal behavior. If you notice your dog is persistently shaking its head and/or has a head tilt then this needs to be addressed.
Typically, a dog will shake its head for a second or two and then go about its normal everyday business, but if your dog is shaking its head for long periods of time or often then taking them to a vet is advised.
The vet will be able to diagnose the issue and most of the time it may only require some cleaning, medicated ear drops, or oral medicine to fix the issue.