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My Dog Keeps Shaking His Head. Why?

Has your dog been shaking her head lately, leaving you at a loss as to why? In this post, our Poway vets share what you should do if you notice your dog is shaking their head, when to go to your vet, and more. 

Why do dogs shake their heads?

Dogs may use headshaking as an effective way to expel irritants from their ears. As such, this might be perfectly normal behavior for your canine friend if it only happens rarely. 

When should I be concerned about my dog's head shaking?

If your dog shakes their head once or twice and then stops, there is probably nothing to worry about. But if your dog is head shaking vigorously, it's time to take them to the vet for an examination.

Common Reasons Dogs Shake Their Heads

Some of the most common reasons for head shaking can be treated by your vet once diagnosed. If left untreated, ear conditions can quickly develop into more serious problems. Common causes of head shaking include:

Yeast & Bacterial Infections in the Ear

The most common problem that causes excessive head shaking in dogs is ear infection. These infections are itchy and cause inflammation and discharge. This causes a dog to shake her head. Examine your dog's ear flap for redness, discharge, or swelling. If this is the case, an infection is highly likely. Ear mite infestations can cause similar symptoms. But they 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. Even if you don't see obvious signs of one an infection may still be present. 

Water in the Ears

This is avoided by inserting cotton balls (or half for small breeds) into your canine companion's ears before swimming or bathing. When bathing your dog, avoid dumping or spraying water directly on his head. Instead, bathe her from the neck down and use a damp washcloth to clean her ears and face.

If your dog doesn't like cotton balls, clean the ears afterward with a drying solution. Based on your dog's specific needs, your vet may be able to recommend a safe, effective product.

Allergies Causing Itchiness in the Ear

Another frequent problem that causes dogs to shake their heads is allergies. A food allergy or environmental triggers could be affecting your dog. When a dog has allergies, they may show a variety of signs. These include hair loss, itchy skin, head shaking, ear-scratching, face-rubbing, or foot-chewing.

A vet will usually recommend a diet containing one type of carbohydrate and one type of protein source. The protein could be something the dog has never had before or that has been broken down into tiny, non-allergenic pieces. For a month or two, the dog must only consume this food. If symptoms improve or go away completely, a food allergy is probably the cause.

Serious Conditions Associated with Head Shaking

Other conditions may cause a dog's head to shake. These include inflammatory diseases, foreign objects, or neurologic disorders.

If your dog has recurrent ear infections, the underlying cause needs to be diagnosed by your vet. The cause may be anatomical abnormalities, hypothyroidism, allergies, or something else. 

For a dog's long-term health, determining the cause of head shaking is crucial. Particularly ferocious or persistent head shaking may cause blood vessels inside a dog's ear flap to rupture.

What to Do if Your Dog is Shaking Their Head

Head shaking can be caused by or lead to minor or severe health issues in dogs. It's key for your vet to diagnose the specific cause of your dog's head shaking early. The issue can then 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.

Are you concerned about your dog's head shaking? Please do not hesitate to contact our vets in Poway right away during our daytime hours.

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Best Friends Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Poway companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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