There is no shortage of normal reasons for your dog to occasionally shake their head. If you see your dog's ears flopping and hear their collar jingling every now and then, it’s usually not a cause for concern.
If the shaking behavior occurs frequently, consider the circumstances and check your dog. If you see any redness, purple hues, or leakage around your dog’s ears, go to the vet right away.
If your dog’s ears look normal and healthy, head shaking is likely a functional quirk.
Reasons Why Your Dog May Be Shaking Their Head
A head shake is practical and convenient for many reasons. Your dog doesn’t have towels or hands, and in many cases, shaking their head is a workaround solution.
To Dry Off
If your dog took a bath, played in the rain, or got a little too overzealous with the water dish, they might shake their head in an attempt to dry off. Rapid shaking movements fling large water droplets off of your dog’s snout and ears.
If your dog gets water all over the place, simply take a few minutes to thoroughly towel dry your dog. If you disguise blotting and rubbing motions as pets and cuddles, your pet will likely comply.
You can also get a pet dryer or use a blow dryer on low heat. Some dogs enjoy the sensation as a pampering experience.
To Relieve an Itch
Your dog can scratch an itch virtually anywhere — except their face. Their paws just adequately reach.
Dogs may shake their head or rub their face against the furniture to relieve an itch. Occasional itching is normal. It’s not usually a problem unless your dog has fleas, seasonal allergies, or skin irritation.
If your dog has seasonal allergies, talk to your vet. You can also ask your vet about giving your pet a low-dose diphenhydramine tablet to help combat the itching in the meantime until your vet can see your pet in-office fo ra checkup.
If minor skin irritation is present, VETCBD Hemp Balm can work to protect and support the affected skin as it heals.
To Get Something Out of Their Ear
If your dog's ears are dirty after playing outside, a few good shaking motions can help to clean their ears. Water may have entered your dog’s ears after a swim or a bath, and shaking knocks it loose.
Always check your dog for signs of fleas, ear mites, or excessive earwax. If things look normal and the ears aren’t irritated, everything is likely fine.
When To See a Vet About Head Shaking
If your dog tends to shake their head frequently, it may be time to evaluate the behavior with a little more scrutiny. Pay attention to the state of your dog’s ears and note any behaviors leading up to head shaking.
When a Foreign Object May Be Present
If your dog has a foreign object in their ear, such as a twig or a pebble, safely remove it if possible. If you can’t remove it yourself, see the vet immediately.
The object is causing your dog discomfort, and frequent shaking in an attempt to dislodge the foreign object can lead to hematomas or other complications that wouldn’t occur with normal, healthy, infrequent head shaking.
Additionally, make sure the children in your home understand that they cannot put objects in your dog’s ears. The line between toys and pets isn’t firmly developed in the minds of many very young children, and they may not realize they could be causing the dog serious harm.
If You See Tumors or Growths
Tumors or growths in the ear will cause a sensation of a foreign object being trapped within the ear. Your dog won’t understand that shaking won’t dislodge the tumor or growth, and will instead fruitlessly keep trying to find relief.
Tumors and growths should be tested to determine whether they’re malignant or benign. In many cases, tumors within the ear can be safely removed.
If Ear Health Is a Concern
It’s not unusual to see a small amount of earwax in your dog’s ears. Healthy earwax should present as small sparse dark brown spots within the ear. It can easily be wiped away with a damp cloth.
If the skin is red or irritated, if the earwax seems excessive or is strange in color, if the ears are leaking fluid, or if you see blood, this could be indicative of a serious health concern. Your dog may have an ear infection or ear mites.
Call your vet immediately. Ask your vet if there are any first-step treatments you can begin at home. If you’ve found mites in your dog’s ears, your vet may recommend their preferred brand of over-the-counter ear mite solution as an immediate response.
Severe ear infections require antibiotics as soon as possible. Minor ear infections can quickly and easily progress to severe ear infections if not appropriately treated.
There is no home remedy for ear infections.
Do not attempt to give your dog antibiotics. Your vet will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic treatment and give you detailed instructions about how to administer it to your dog, as well as proper timing and dosages.
If your dog is in pain, ask your vet about what you can do before the appointment. If your vet allows it, cleansing your dog’s ears with a gentle solution may help to ease discomfort prior to the appointment.
When Head Shaking May Indicate a Seizure
Most seizures involve full-body movements. A dog will lay down on the floor throughout the duration of the seizure, and most of the dog’s limbs will move. Many pet owners don’t realize that seizures can present in more subtle ways.
Pay attention to the way your dog is shaking their head. Are they flopping their ears from side to side, or are they acting as though they’re trying to bite an invisible bird fluttering around their head? Repetitive jerking motions that mimic biting or chewing could be indicative of a seizure.
If your dog is acting erratic or isn’t responding, and their head-shaking behavior doesn’t look typical of a dog trying to dry off, bring your dog to the vet immediately. Your dog may have a serious neurological health issue that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.
The management of seizures in dogs requires a multifaceted approach. Your vet may prescribe an anti-seizure medication, and you can also ask about using pet CBD to help support brain health.
Always Prioritize Your Dog’s Wellness
If you ever have any suspicions that your dog’s head-shaking behavior may be indicative of an issue that requires veterinary assistance, book the soonest possible appointment with your vet. The health of your pet isn’t worth the gamble, and there are no effective home remedies for many conditions that may cause head shaking as a symptom.
Be sure to regularly check your pup for fleas and mites. While you’re at the vet, ask about preventative care methods you can use to assure that your pet won’t have to live with the discomfort of itchy creepy crawlies.
Before you begin using over-the-counter medications or remedies, get your vet’s approval.