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Dog Keeps Shaking Their Head: What To Do

When a dog keeps shaking its head, there are many different causes. Canines shake their heads to relieve irritation from the slightest itch, sting, or tickle.

As a result, it usually isn't a big deal if your pet bobs his head sometimes. 

dog keeps shaking head

However, if your dog shakes his head frequently, it can signify a more serious problem that needs to be handled.

A dog may shake his head repeatedly for various reasons, some of which may call for a quick veterinary visit.

Is a "Shake-Off" Distinct From a Head Shake?

Some dogs also "shake off," in addition to a rapid head shake. A "shake off" is a method dogs employ to reset after any uncomfortable or stressful scenario. They would shake their whole body and head so they could relax.

Typically, a "shake-off" frequently occurs when two dogs first interact. According to Dr. Georgina Phillips, this first meeting can give dogs a little anxiety, so after the customary sniffing, both dogs "shake off."

Additionally, suppose your pup vigorously shakes after activities like playing, long travels, or meeting new people. In that case, he might feel anxious about the situation and just needs to shake the stress away.

To help ease your Fluffy Friend's stress, an anti-anxiety bed helps.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Travelling With Your Dog

Possible Causes When Dog Keeps Shaking Head

Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of their head shaking, many of the most frequent causes are simple to treat.

Still, untreated disorders can quickly deteriorate into more dangerous ones. The possible reasons why your dog keeps shaking his head include the following:

Yeast or Bacterial Infection

dog keeps shaking head

An ear infection in dogs is the most frequently identified medical condition that results in significant head shaking.

An infection is likely present if you raise the flap of your dog's ear and notice redness, swelling, or discharge.

Although ear mite infestations in dogs can produce symptoms similar to yeast or bacterial illnesses, they are less frequent.

Remember that infections can happen deep inside a dog's ear, so an illness may be there even if you don't notice any evident symptoms.

Parasitic Ear Mites

Ear mites are like tiny crabs; they live in your dog's ear canal, though they occasionally move to the head and body after leaving the ear.

They feed on the fluids and tissue fragments in the ear canal.

Puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems are more likely to contract ear mites.

Skin Allergens and Irritants

A frequent issue that causes canine head shaking is allergies or irritants like grass, sand, water, or insects.

Dogs with allergies frequently exhibit various symptoms such as scratching at their ears, consistent head shaking, rubbing at their faces, chewing on their feet, itchy skin, hair loss, and recurrent skin and ear infections.

Your pup might also be experiencing food allergies. A vet would recommend putting your canine on a diet with a single carbohydrate like rice and a single source of protein like venison or hydrolyzed food. Keep your dog on this diet for about a month or two and observe any changes.

Blood testing and intradermal skin testing are other options.

Related: Dog Feeding 101: Choose the Right Food for Your Dog

Aural Hemorrhage

If a dog's ear infection is not treated, he can scratch or hit his ears against objects, which could develop a blood blister. An aural hematoma is a blister that may also cause headshakes. 

Ear Polyps

dog keeps shaking head

There are several causes of ear polyps, which can appear inside and outside of the ear.

Inflammatory polyps may develop in the ear due to persistent ear irritation brought on by allergies or excessive ear wax production.

There are numerous types of polyps, including malignant ones.

Any ear polyp can restrict the ear canal and retain natural ear secretions, providing the ideal conditions for bacterial and yeast infections to flourish.

Other Serious Conditions

Inflammatory diseases, neurologic problems, and even foreign objects stuck in the ear canal can all cause excessive head shaking in dogs.

Head tremors caused by these ailments can sometimes be mistaken for excessive head shaking.

If your dog constantly gets ear infections, you and your veterinarian should look for an underlying cause, such as allergies, structural anomalies, or hypothyroidism.

Your pup may occasionally scratch or pick at his ears in between shakes. As some dogs can be drawn to the smell of an infection, you can also notice other canines suddenly become interested in your dog's ears.

Related: How to Stop Your Dog's Excessive Barking

What To Do When Dog Keeps Shaking Their Head

Try to consider what activities you did before you noticed your furball shaking his head. Maybe you took him for a swim, played on the beach or hay, or just came from a bath.

It's also possible that your dog may already need his ears cleaned. Dirty ears can also cause frequent head shaking as dirt and debris can be itchy.

Are you unsure about how frequently to clean your dog's ears? A good basic guideline is once each month. Pups that often swim or breeds with floppy ears may require weekly or biweekly ear cleanings. Ensure that your dog's ears are completely dry after swimming or bathing.

Some breeds, like Shih Tzus and Poodles, have hair in the ear canal, which needs to be pulled out frequently to avoid infection and irritation.

Here are the easy ear-cleaning steps by the American Kennel Club:

  1. dog keeps shaking head
    Gather all your supplies: a gauze or cotton ball, a dog ear-cleaning solution, and a towel.

    If your dog is particularly furry, a 
    grooming brush helps untangle your pup's fur.

    It would be best to do your ear-cleaning process over a furniture cover to avoid getting fur all over the place.

    Add a treat so your pooch has something to look forward to, they’ll be more obedient!

  2. Fill your dog's ear canal with an ear-cleaning solution recommended by a veterinarian.

    Gently massage the base of your pooch's ear for about 30 seconds.

    You will hear a wet sound as the product removes buildup and debris.

    The applicator tip of the cleaning solution should not touch your dog's ear to avoid contamination and possible bacterial infection.

  3. Your pup might need to shake his head due to the liquid, so make sure to have a towel ready. Use the towel to clean him and cover yourself from the spray.

    Grab your gauze or cotton ball to wipe the ear canal. Make sure to go as deep as one knuckle to avoid pushing any remaining dirt or debris further into the ear.

    During cleaning, stop and call your veterinarian if your dog seems to be in pain.

  4. lint roller will also be an excellent investment to help remove the excess fur from your clothes.

Dogs naturally dry their ears as a part of their daily routine. Then again, if you observe that your dog still seems to shake his head frequently even after cleaning his ears, you may need to get your pet to a vet for a check-up.

The vet may clean your dog's ears, any extra fur will be trimmed, and medication will be prescribed. Usually, an antibiotic rinse is applied to the ears after cleaning. You should also ask for an allergy test if your dog has experienced multiple ear infections.

dog keeps shaking head


Though head shaking in dogs is normal, it's always best to observe your Fluffy Friend whenever you feel that he is exhibiting abnormal behavior. In fact, abnormal behaviors in dogs are a cause for concern.

We cannot stress the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for canines that exhibit chronic head shaking. Your dog may experience discomfort and distress due to the majority of the diseases mentioned earlier.

Proper veterinary care can prevent more serious medical problems in addition to reducing discomfort and irritation.


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  • Three year old Lab/ Poodle cross is anxiously pacing around dining room table when company is near .by. Not onboard with Veterinary advised anti- anxiety drugs.
    Please advise.

    Carole J Laramie
  • Thanks for that, I have noticed my puppy wipes his mouth and or cleanses it by rubbing after a puppy pellet and when he has come out of long grass, so I am guessing he has allergies. I will take him to the vet. Thanks for the insight. Zofia

  • Very Instructional! Thank you very much.

    Rosa Castellanos
  • Hi thanks for the article why dogs shake .
    My two dogs are quite in the car but always shake their whole body once out of the car .
    Most probably relieving stress form the journey then .
    Ho I bought one of your stress dog beds and patch loves it help him settle into our family as he is a rescue dog from RSPCA .


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