My Dog Keeps Shaking Head and Tilting: Common Reasons Why

If your dog keeps shaking its head, it could be a sign something more serious is wrong. Head shaking after a wet walk or a bath is perfectly normal behavior and nothing to worry about but persistent vigorous head-shaking needs investigation.

A Dogs ear canal is very different to ours; it is much deeper and while this means they can hear about 4 times better than us, it also means the ears are prone to infections when debris or water gets trapped.

If your dog is shaking their head side to side a couple of times, they’re probably trying to remove an irritant.

Does your pooch have smelly ears or other symptoms? Most problems that cause head shaking are easily treated, whilst a few will require veterinary care. Let’s have a look at the possible causes for your dogs head shaking.

Common Reasons Dog’s Shake Their Head

Foreign Body in the Ear Canal

Your dog shakes his head. Should you be worried? Dogs often get things inside their ears, one of the most common being grass seeds, the sharp tip of these becomes embedded and can cause irritation and inflammation, which in turn causes head shaking to force irritants from the ear.

What to Do

Left untreated, this can cause serious ear damage. Hence, it’s important to book a visit to see veterinary professionals, who will either flush the ear to remove the problem, which should stop your dog’s head from shaking. In serious cases, however, this may even require surgery.

Head Shaking Due to Infection

Another reason your dog may be shaking his head is a bacterial infection otherwise known as Otitis Externa; several things can cause this; skin allergies, irritants trapped in ears, excessive moisture or ear polyps.

If your dog’s ears are red, you notice a blood blister inside the ear (Aural Haematoma), or he keeps shaking his head, it may be a sign of an ear infection.

What to Do

Left untreated ear conditions can cause lots of unnecessary pain and even deafness, so it’s essential to speak to your vet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment to prevent further damage. Always dry your dog’s ears after bathing or swimming to prevent yeast infection inflammation.

Dogs susceptible to ear infections include;

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Poodles
  • Labradors
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Beagles
  • Springer Spaniels
  • King Charles Spaniels
  • Bassett Hounds

Parasites in Your Pup’s Ears

Ear mites are one of the most common reasons dogs shake their heads; these tiny parasites are often found in puppies and will result in your dog scratching themselves; you may even notice the ears start to smell or become inflamed.

What to Do

These parasites are quite simple to treat; you can purchase some good quality ear wax drops for dogs that kills mites and will stop your dog shaking or your vet can prescribe medication.

They also usually recommend daily cleaning to prevent further problems. Mites are contagious, so if the head shaking persists and you have multiple pets, they will all need to be treated


Head shaking is one of the symptoms often associated with food allergies, so if your canine companion is shaking his head persistently, this may be the problem. Most dogs who suffer from allergies will experience itchy skin and this can include their ear flaps.

What to Do

If your dog is shaking his head through allergies, you need to discuss options with your vet; it may be a simple fix of changing your dog’s diet, or they may be allergic to environmental issues such as pollen, dust or even cigarette smoke.

Neurological Problems

Tremors are when dogs shake their head involuntary; this can be caused by trauma to the head, low blood sugar, vestibular syndrome or ingesting toxins such as slug pellets or rat poison. Some dogs are prone to idiopathic head tremors, such as Boxers, Bulldogs, Labradors and Spaniels.

What to Do

You definitely need to visit the vet to diagnose your pet’s condition, as this could be fatal if not treated immediately. They will do a full analysis of your dog and advise treatment.

When Should You Be Worried About Your Dog’s Head Shaking?

If your dog keeps shaking his head, it’s a sign something is wrong and you should visit your local veterinary practice. It could be a secondary infection caused by mites, grass seeds in your dog’s lug or a sign they have allergies.

Excessive head shaking can lead to ruptured blood vessels or ear vasculitis and, without the correct treatment, can cause deafness.

Last Word

Treating the cause of your dog’s head shaking early will prevent the issue from becoming more serious. Dogs shake their heads for a number of reasons, be it excess water in your dog’s ear, insects, bacterial or yeast infection and it’s vital to find out the cause.

We have covered a few above, but this does not constitute medical advice and if your dog has started shaking their head, you really need to see your vet at the earliest opportunity.

Donna Hepburn

Published author, content writer and qualified dog behaviourist I have owned dogs all my life from Boxers, Rottweilers and Akitas, to Staffies and currently a very demanding Frenchie who is harder work than all the others put together.

I had a collar making business for over 10 years and am involved with several doggy charities. I currently live in the northeast and when I am not writing about dogs I enjoy, travelling, cooking and reading.

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