There are a number of reasons why your dog could be shaking their head from an infection to allergies and more. But what can you do to help your furry friend? In this post, our Southern Wisconsin vets talk about the reasons why your dog may be shaking their head and when you should schedule an examination.
Why does your dog keep shaking their head?
There could be a variety of reasons why your dog keeps shaking their head. Some of which can be nothing at all really. While other times the head shaking could be caused by a serious health condition.
Dogs may use headshaking as an effective way to expel irritants from their ears.
Should I be worried about how much my dog is shaking his head?
The occasional head shaking which only results in a shake or two is probably nothing to worry about. However, if your dog is shaking their head for extended periods of time and aggressively then you should schedule a veterinary exam.
What are the most common reasons behind dog head shaking?
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:
Infections: Bacterial or Yeast
When it comes to head shaking in dogs, ear infections are usually the top cause behind them. 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 the answer is yes then your dog then an infection is likely present. 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 in the cases where the signs are not obvious, the dog may still be experiencing an ear infection.
They Have 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. Take precautions to prevent water from going directly into your dog's ears will bathing or swimming. Instead, bathe the body from the neck down and wipe down her ears and face with a damp washcloth.
Some dogs are not able to put up with the feeling of cotton in their ears. In these cases, you could try using a drying solution once your dog is out of the water. 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.
Itchy Ears Caused By Allergies
If your dog suffers from allergies then head shaking may be a common occurrence as they try to relieve the itchy sensation. 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. If the food allergy symptoms clear up then you will have found the likely culprit.
What are some more serious causes behind head shaking in dogs?
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 steps should you take if your dog keeps shaking their head?
While some head shaking is nothing to worry about, other times it can be an indication of a serious health concern.
The first step will always be to contact your vet to schedule an examination.
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.