Seeing your dog excessively shake their head can be quite startling for any pet owner. Why is it happening? Should you call your vet? In this post, our Cumming vets answer these and any other questions about why your dog keeps shaking their head and when to reach out to your vet.
My Dog Keeps Shaking His Head, Why?
If you notice that your dog shakes their head every now and then you likely have nothing to worry about. The main reason behind head shaking in dogs is that they have something in their ear that they are trying to get out.
Should I be worried about my dog's shaking head?
As mentioned above, the occasional dog head shaking isn't too concerning. However, if your dog is shaking their head a lot, and doing it persistently and vigorously, it is time to reach out to your vet to schedule an exam.
Reasons Why Your Dog is Shaking Their Head
Some of the most common reasons for head shaking in dogs can be easily treated by your veterinarian once diagnosed. If the underlying cause of dog head shaking isn't treated it could lead to other potentially serious concerns.
Here are some of the commonly seen causes of dog head shaking:
Ear Infections (Yeast or Bacterial)
An ear infection is the most frequently diagnosed health issue that causes excessive head shaking. in dogs. These infections tend to get itchy and produce a significant amount of inflammation and discharge, all of which will trigger a dog to shake her head. Lift up your dog's ear flap - do you see redness, discharge or swelling? If so, an infection is likely. Similar symptoms can be caused by ear mite infestations, but these are not as common as yeast or bacterial infections in dogs (particularly in adult dogs).
Remember that infections may happen deep in a dog's ear, so even if you don't see obvious signs of one an infection may still be present.
Your Dog Has Water in Their Ears
This can easily be prevented by placing cotton balls (or for small breeds, half a cotton ball) in your canine companion's ears before swimming or bathing. Avoid dumping or spraying water directly onto your dog's head while bathing. Instead, bathe the body from the neck down and wipe down her ears and face with a damp washcloth.
If your dog won't tolerate cotton balls in her ears while swimming, consider cleaning the ears with a drying solution after their swim. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a safe, effective product based on your dog's needs. You might also consider using an ear band.
They Are Suffering From Allergies
Allergies are another common issue that lead to head shaking in dogs. Your pup may be experiencing a food allergy or environmental triggers (mold spores, pollen, storage mites, dust, etc.) Symptoms of allergies in dogs typically include some combination of hair loss, itchy skin, recurrent ear and skin infections, head shaking, scratching at their ears, rubbing at the face or chewing on the feet.
To diagnose a food allergy, a vet will often prescribe a diet containing a single carbohydrate (e.g. potato or rice) for your canine friend, plus a single source of protein that the dog has never had before (e.g. venison or duck) or that's been hydrolyzed (broken down into tiny, non-allergenic pieces). The dog must eat only this food for a month or two. A food allergy is likely if symptoms significantly improve or disappear altogether.
What are some of the serious concerns that can cause dog head shaking?
Other health conditions that may cause dogs to shake their heads excessively include inflammatory diseases, foreign objects that get lodged in the ear canal or neurologic disorders that lead to head tremors (sometimes easily confused with head shaking).
If your dog has recurrent ear infections, the underlying cause needs to be diagnosed by your veterinarian. The cause may be anatomical abnormalities, hypothyroidism, allergies or something else.
Diagnosing and addressing the reason for a dog's head shaking is important to their long-term health - as it can potentially point to a serious problem. It's also critical because especially vigorous or continued head shaking can result in ruptured blood vessels within a dog's ear flap. Aural hematomas that result from this often require surgery to correct, which is why we should be preventing excessive head shaking, not just treating it when it develops.
What should I do if my dog keeps shaking their head?
There are a number of potential causes for head shaking in dogs and if they continue it may lead to other concerns.
It's key for your vet to diagnose the specific cause of your dog's head shaking early so the issue can be treated before it becomes a more serious problem.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.