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Why do dogs shake their heads?

Updated on May 10, 2010

A dog’s head shaking behavior can be due to a medical condition. The dog may have a brain tumor, may have a head injury or may be epileptic. A dog that is infected by canine distemper virus may also shake its head.

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The dog’s head shaking can be an allergic reaction to pollen and insect bites. The dog may have ingested food and substances it is sensitive to. Allergic reactions would make the dog extremely uncomfortable. In most cases the dog would itch all over. An allergic reaction will also cause the inflammation of the skin lining the ear canal. Head shaking is done because the dog is trying to alleviate the discomfort it feels.


Ear troubles are the most common cause of head shaking in dogs. Pain in the ears would cause the dog to shake its head. The pain is usually caused by an ear infection. Aside from head shaking, a dog that has an infected ear would tilt or hold the head in an odd position. The ear would have a foul smelling discharge.

Ear infection is most common in dogs with pendant ears. The ear remains moist and became a hotbed for bacteria and yeast. These organism cause the ear canal to be inflamed and to ulcerate


Dogs are active and curious creatures. Dogs would sniff anything and everything. Summer and spring is an ideal time for the dog to frolic in the garden. However, grass seeds can be a problem if they get lodged on the dog’s ears. This would make the dog extremely uncomfortable. Other foreign objects on the dog’s ear can be burrs and small particles of dirt.

A dog would shake its head if it feels very uncomfortable because of parasite infestation. The dog would try to dislodge fleas that crawl on its head, face and ears by shaking its head. Ear mites inside the ears can cause ulceration of the ear canal lining. This will be very painful and uncomfortable for the dog. Unfortunately, it would be hard for a pet owner to know if the dog is infested by ear mites given that ear mites can only be seen under a microscope. A sample of the exudate can be taken to a laboratory to determine ear mite infestation as well as to determine the cause of infection. This is necessary so that the accurate treatment will be given to the dog.


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