Why Does My Dog Keep Shaking His Head

Picture of a beagle shaking his head

Head shaking is not normal behavior in dogs, especially if you do not know the cause. While it can occasionally happen, if your pup keeps shaking his head time and again, something might be wrong, and you should take him to the vet.

In today’s article, we are looking at several possible reasons why this might happen and if there are any therapies available.

Common Causes of Head Shaking in Dogs

Even if you do not possess vast knowledge about pet health, if you see a symptom manifesting in a specific area of your dog’s body, there can be two possibilities.

There could be a local cause, meaning trauma, infection, or something else, or there could be a broad cause, such as your dog’s neurologic, muscular, osteoarticular, or other systems being affected and the signs being shown in a specific area tied to a nerve or a nucleus of nerves nearby or in your dog’s central nervous system.

The most common reasons for head shaking in dogs are either ear conditions (of various kinds, which we will detail below) or diseases affecting the pet’s nervous system.

Ear conditions

Some auricular health issues that can cause head shaking are the following:

  • Otitis externa
  • Ear trauma
  • Ear hematomas
  • The presence of water in your dog’s ears
  • Foreign objects such as sand or rocks
  • Growths inside the ear

Infections can be caused by a plethora of pathogens from various bacterial species, but they are usually associated with inflammation and secretions, as well as a foul odor coming from your dog’s ears.

At first, your dog might itch and scratch their ear in an attempt to soothe themselves or shake their head to try to get rid of the discharge.

Once the infection becomes more severe, your dog will experience pain, which is why they will be more reluctant when it comes to touching that area. They might also experience a local increase in body temperature or fever.

Dogs can get ear infections also because of foreign bodies, such as foxtail or grass, ear mites, or lesions they might have sustained as a result of being involved in an accident.

Foreign objects can be removed at the veterinary hospital. Sometimes, they might have gotten lodged in the ear wall, which can make the procedure quite complicated and time-consuming. In any case, the vet will use a device called an otoscope to look at the inside of your dog’s ear.

If they find that there doesn’t seem to be a local cause of your pet’s head shaking, they might perform additional tests to assess how your dog’s body is functioning on the whole, including testing their reflexes and doing imaging tests that might reveal more subtle changes (such as MRI, CT, or x-rays).

Early diagnosis can make the difference when it comes to treating all of these conditions, whether they are local or generalized.

Vestibular Syndrome in Dogs

Although vestibular syndrome isn’t necessarily linked to head shaking all the time, it does cause several upsetting symptoms in both dogs and cats.

But the clinical manifestation is quite different in that pets might have a head tilt all the time, might fall suddenly and without any apparent reason, or might walk in circles and be wobbly.

The vestibular system is in charge of maintaining balance, so if it is affected, it can cause more serious symptoms besides head shaking. Some dogs might even experience face paralysis or seizures, for example, so a neurologic examination is very important in diagnosing and treating this condition.


Head shaking can also be the result of dog allergies, but if your pet has this issue, you will most likely also notice itching in one or both of the ears.

The problem with allergies is that most are generalized, which means that dogs can itch everywhere on their body. However, what makes things complicated when it comes to their ears is that with incessant scratching, they can cause lesions that could be entryways for pathogens such as bacteria.

In other words, your dog could cause an infection without realizing that they are doing so.

Your pet’s paws inevitably come in contact with the floor in your house, which might be clean, but that cannot be said for the pavement outside or the ground they walk on when you take them to the park.

As much as you might try to clean your pet’s paws when you get back home, especially in the winter, when they are likely to get messy, you might not be able to eliminate all the gunk that could be left underneath or in-between your dog’s nails/toes.

What Should you Do?

In case you see your dog shaking their head time and again, the best way of going about things would be to take them to the vet. You can’t know for sure what the cause might be until your pooch is diagnosed, so there’s no point in trying all sorts of homemade remedies.

In certain cases, such as when your dog has sustained an eardrum rupture, putting drops into your pet’s ears might make matters worse rather than heal them.

The ear is a particularly sensitive organ and is composed of different parts, and if your pet’s middle or inner ear is affected, they could lose their hearing.



One Response

  1. My lovely Beagle got this. It started out as an ear infection. He then was walking in circles,could not go up and stairs. He was losing his balance and was terrified to go downstairs. He lost his ability to control his peeing. Had to put a diaper on. This all happened quite suddenly and was so hard to watch it happen. The vet said next step was a CT scan ,but the vet said if its neurological ,what would I do. I elected to put him down. He was such a full of life dog. I took a video if anyone wants to see what happened. Thanks for posting this article.

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