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Dog Shaking Head

A dog may constantly shaking his head because of some minor problems such as itching or irritation, but head shaking in dogs can also indicate some more serious problems such as ear infections, ear mites, or ear injuries. This page looks at some possible causes of dog head shaking.

Labrador Retriever in the Snow
Very often, dogs shake their head when something is irritating or tickling their face or ears causing them to feel itchy. Sometimes an insect bite or sting can also cause them to shake their head in order to bring relief from the irritation.

However, when a dog is shaking his head persistently, it indicates that something more serious is causing the head shaking.

If your dog suddenly starts shaking his head persistently, you need to examine him carefully, paying particular attention to his ears. Try to see if there are signs of infection, such as redness, heat, discharge, and foul odor. Also gently feel your dog's head including the ears for signs of pain and tenderness. In addition, check your dog's skin for signs of dryness, irritation, infection, wounds, or parasites.

So, what may cause a dog to shake his head? There are a number of possible reasons, some require veterinary attention and treatment. Let's take a look.

Causes of Dog Shaking Head

Perhaps the most common cause of dog shaking head is due to some kind of ear problems. For example: Sometimes, persistent and violent head shaking can cause small blood vessels in the ear to rupture, resulting in bleeding in the ear flap which collects under the skin, making the ear swollen. This condition is called an aural hematoma. Other times, aural hematomas may be caused by insect bites (e.g. tick bites, mosquito bites), excessive scratching, and so on. No matter the cause, aural hematomas irritate the dog, making him shake his head even more.

Besides ear problems, a dog may shake his head for the following reasons:
  • An injury or infection: A wound or a local infection of any part of the dog's head can cause discomfort and irritation, making him shake his head.
  • A head trauma: Trauma to the head may result in a number of problems that might cause dog shaking head.
  • A brain tumor: Brain tumors can also cause a dog to shake his head. Other symptoms of canine brain tumors may include seizures, and symptoms that are similar to vestibular disease.
  • An allergy: Allergies (such as fleabite allergy dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and food allergy) can cause extreme itchiness and discomfort to a dog, making him shake his head, scratch, lick, and chew himself incessantly in order to relieve the itching.
  • Vestibular disease: Vestibular disease is a problem of the vestibular system, which is a sensory system located in the inner ear. The vestibular system synchronizes eye movements and maintains posture, balance, and coordination. Vestibular disease causes a dog to feel imbalanced and sometimes dizzy. This can result in the dog shaking his head in an attempt to relieve such symptoms.
  • Toxicity: Some toxic chemicals and medications can have a direct effect on the dog's nervous system. Exposure to such toxins can result in abnormal behaviors or neurological symptoms such as head shaking.

When to See a Vet

Get your dog to the vet if the head shaking persists, or if the head shaking is accompanied by: Your dog should also get veterinary attention if his head shaking is caused by an ear infection or other ear problems that cannot be resolved by home treatment.
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