Has your dog been shaking her head lately, leaving you at a loss as to why? In this post, our Rock Springs 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?
If your dog keeps shaking their head, this might be a perfectly normal behavior for your canine friend - if it only happens infrequently.
Dogs may use headshaking as an effective way to expel irritants from their ears.
When should I be concerned about my dog's head shaking?
If your dog shakes their head once or twice then stops, you likely have nothing to be concerned about. However, if your dog is shaking their head a lot, and doing it persistently and vigorously, it's time to see your vet for an exam.
Common Reasons Dogs Shake Their Heads
Some of the most common reasons for head shaking in dogs can be easily treated by your veterinarian once diagnosed. That said, 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 medical condition that results in excessive head shaking in dogs is ear infection. These infections frequently cause significant inflammation and discharge, which makes a dog shake her head and become itchy. Do you notice any swelling, redness, or discharge when you lift up your dog's ear flap? A possible infection exists if so. Although ear mite infestations can result in similar symptoms, they are less frequent than yeast or bacterial infections in dogs (especially 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.
Water in the Ears
If you put cotton balls (or, for small breeds, half a cotton ball) in your dog's ears before swimming or taking a bath, you can easily avoid this. While giving your dog a bath, try to avoid pouring or spraying water directly on his head. Instead, give her a full bath from the neck down and wipe her face and ears with a wet washcloth.
If your dog won't tolerate having cotton balls in her ears while swimming, you might want to think about drying the ears with a solution after their swim. Based on your dog's requirements, your veterinarian might be able to suggest a secure, useful product. An ear band is another option you might think about.
Allergies Causing Itchiness in the Ear
Dogs' head shaking can also result from allergies, which are a common problem. Environmental triggers (such as dust, mold spores, pollen, storage mites, etc.) or food allergies could be affecting your dog. Itchy skin, recurrent ear and skin infections, hair loss, head shaking, ear-scratching, face-rubbing, and foot-chewing are typical signs of allergies in dogs.
Veterinarians frequently recommend a diet for your dog that contains one carbohydrate (such as potato or rice) and one protein source that the dog has never had before (such as venison or duck) or that has been hydrolyzed (broken down into small, non-allergenic pieces). For a month or two, the dog must consume nothing but this food. If symptoms greatly improve or disappear entirely, a food allergy is probably the cause.
Serious Conditions Associated with 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 treating the cause of a dog's head shaking is critical to their long-term health because it can indicate a serious problem. It's also important because excessive or continuous head shaking can cause blood vessels within a dog's ear flap to rupture. Aural hematomas caused by this frequently necessitate surgery to correct, which is why we should be preventing excessive head shaking rather than just treating it when it occurs.
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 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.