Why Does My Dog Keep Shaking His Head?

Dogs shake themselves for lots of reasons, such as to alleviate itchy skin, to dry off, and even to relieve tension. But, when a dog vigorously shakes just his head back and forth, chances are you could be looking at an ear infection. In addition to your dog shaking his head, there are other signs and symptoms of ear infection you can be on the lookout for.

Telltale Sign My Dog Has An Ear Infection

My dog, I learned, creates an ear scratching post, by digging his ear into the carpet while walking across the room at the same time. In addition, he’s not quiet about it, he groans through the process, and then proceeds to rub his ear across every piece of furniture in the room. Next, comes the vigorous head shaking, both of his floppy ears loudly slapping from side to side.

But, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Without these telltale signs, I wouldn’t be alerted to the issue. Since dog ear infections can be itchy, uncomfortable, and even painful, it’s not something I want to hold off on resolving.

Signs & Symptoms of Dog Ear Infection

Why does my dog keep shaking his head?
photo by: Takashi Hososhima on Flickr
  • Shaking head back and forth
  • Rubbing side of head/ears against the floor, furniture, or walls
  • scratching ears with paws
  • discharge from the ear
  • inside of ear is red, crusty, or swelling
  • odor coming from inside the ear
  • hearing loss
  • loss of balance

Types & Causes of Dog Ear Infection

There are many types of ear infection, but the most common are an overgrowth of yeast, or bacteria. Other ear infections can come from ear mites, flea bites, or allergens in the environment including mold, dust, or pollens.

  • Floppy-eared dogs can be more prone to getting ear infections since the ears are covered, and moisture within the ear canal cannot dry out as easily.
  • Dogs who swim a lot can get more ear infections, since wet ears is one of the very things that cause infection. In addition, a portion of a dog’s ear canal runs vertically, which can trap water and debris within the ear canal, instead of moving it upward and out, leading to infection. Drying a dog’s ears after swimming can significantly help.
  • Dogs who get groomed can also be prone to ear infections. As a preventative measure, groomers should place cotton in dogs ears to prevent water and moisture from entering the ear canal. Also, some groomers will pluck hair out of the ear. There is a bit of controversy over whether or not this process is actually harmful, and may be contributing to ear infection by leaving tiny openings in the skin for bacteria to settle and grow, and also leave the ears in an irritated state. In contrast, some groomers believe the process to be beneficial, saying that excessive hair growth in the ears prevents air flow, and in turn can trap moisture in the skin folds causing the growth of bacteria that way. Possibly it is beneficial for some dogs if done properly, however, in general dogs don’t like the feeling of ear plucking, and my vet has recommended that I tell my groomer to stop this process. For my situation, I’ve decided to stick with her recommendation for future grooming sessions. As an added preventative measure, my vet has also recommended bringing along a sample sized ear cleanser so the groomer can clean the ears immediately after the grooming session.

Treatment for Your Dog’s Ear Infection

It is important to seek treatment with your veterinarian since ear infections are not only incredibly uncomfortable for your dog, but a deep infection may also cause permanent hearing loss. In addition, ear infections usually cause dogs to frequently shake their heads, which can lead to something called aural hematoma. This is when the blood vessels in the ear flap break, which is a painful experience for a dog, and requires surgery to correct.

To determine the proper treatment for your dog, your vet will use a magnifying instrument to peer into the ear canal. Depending on the type of organism found to be causing the ear infection, the proper medication can then be prescribed. In small cases, surgery or an ear-flushing procedure may be required, however, most times, treatment consists of a simple ear cleaning at the vets office and medication to be given at home.


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