Have you caught your dog shaking his head a lot? Do you often see him tilting his head to one side? Is he constantly doing this even though his ears seem clean?

Unfortunately you won’t always be able to see what’s irritating your dog’s ears with the naked eye, but if he’s shaking his head frequently it means something is causing him discomfort. Most of the time this will either be an ear infection or an allergy, although there are other possible causes.

Other signs something is wrong with your dog’s ears

There are several other behaviour changes that can let you know your dog is having issues with his ears:
• Rubbing their ears on furniture or the floor
• Scratching their ears
• Loss of balance
• Walking in circles
• Erratic eye movements

You may also notice swelling around the ears, brown or bloody discharge leaking out of the ears, or an unpleasant smell from the ears.

Causes of ear issues

Ear infections can be caused by several underlying conditions. For starters, dog’s ears are warm, moist chambers with total darkness—in other words, the perfect place for all kinds of infections and parasites to thrive. This is particularly true for floppy eared dogs because their ears tend to have a lot more fur and be exposed to less outside air, giving bacteria free reign to grow.

If your dog’s ears appear to be clean there are only a few things it could be:
Bacteria – As mentioned above, your dog’s ears are the perfect home for bacteria of all kinds, especially if they have floppy, fur filled ears. Your dog is also more likely to develop a bacterial ear infection if they spend a lot of time swimming.
Fungus – There are a few types of fungal ear infection your dog can get but by far the most common is a yeast infection. Once these progress past a certain point you’ll be able to see them but the first sign of a fungal infection is usually a bad smell coming from the ears.
Allergies –Dog Allergies are far more common and varied than you might think. Many dogs have skin allergies which can cause severe irritation and repeated ear infections. If allergies are the underlying problem you will notice that your dog frequently gets ear infections and you may also see small reddish brown spots on the inside of their ears. You may have to start your dog on allergy medication at the same time as their ear infection treatment.
Parasites – These aren’t particularly common but there are a few types of parasites which often live inside dog ears.

How to stop your dog’s head shaking

If you want to stop your dog from constantly shaking their head you need to deal with the underlying infection or allergy. This means a trip to the vet to figure out exactly what is going on. If your dog is constantly shaking or scratching even though their ears are clean you should call the vet immediately. Ear infections can get worse quickly and can cause severe hearing loss.
The vet will thoroughly clean your dog’s ears, cut away any excess fur, and give you some antibiotics, usually an antibiotic rinse to be applied directly to the ears immediately after cleaning. If your dog has had repeated ear infections you should also ask for an allergy test.

Preventing future ear infections

Ear infections are unpleasant for everyone but the majority of them can be avoided if you take the time to properly care for your dog’s ears. This means regularly trimming any excess fur that grows in or around their ears and using a special ear cleanser once a week. Dogs who swim frequently may need to have their ears cleaned more often.

You should also always check your dog’s ears for dirt and debris after you go for a big walk through the park, especially if the park you usually go to is highly wooded. Dogs can easily injure themselves trying to get debris out on their own and these wounds are highly susceptible to infection.

If you’re nervous about trimming your dog’s fur or cleaning their ears yourself you can ask the vet to show you how to do it while you’re treating the ear infection.

Final advice

Whatever the cause of your dog’s irritation may be, you’re right to be concerned about their constant head shaking. Call your vet right away and get the infection dealt with before it can get any worse.

Dianna is the resident dog expert over at Pro Pooch, who produce pet health supplies for the more discerning canine.

Image Credit: https://stocksnap.io/author/471

This story is a guest submission and does not reflect the views of Dogs Monthly Magazine, always consult a qualified expert.

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  1. My dog just came in from a walk and won’t stop the ear thing. Curious if I could use the peroxide and ACV and see if it will flush out what ever my massage or his shake can’t. Flashlight exam proves nothing visible. Memorial day weekend…can’t get him in until Tuesday. Any suggestions? PS. Really appreciate this page. Great helpful information at an hour it was needed. : )

  2. Carried my dog to the vet he keeps shaking his head they said they where clean pulled the hair out of ears and out ear cleaner in his ear and now he is shaking his head even more and running around hiding it is worst now than before we went to the vet

    • My German Shepherd has huge ears and I clean them on a regular basis. She’s a inside dog and only goes in our backyard to play, under my supervision. She just started this itching and shaking of her head her and there. Not bad, but noticeable to me. I’ve cleaned them everyday and noticed only small amounts of a dirt debris, which I removed. There are a few small scabs which could be from scratching. I’ve applied neosporin and cortisone cream in rotation. I’ve used diluted alcohol and now witch hazel diluted. I’m at a loss as I don’t know what it could be. There’s no fleas or ticks it’s too cold outside here in the NE. now I have to go to the vet with her. I’m at a loss I have no idea.

  3. My dog had an ear infection 4 months ago, the vet did an ear cleaning, started him on steroids, and we even changed his food to a food allergy sensitivity type. He continues to shake his head and scratch at only his right ear. I’ve taken him to them vet a couple times since July 2019 and they keep telling me his ears look good not infection, not dirty. Is there anything else I can ask vet to look into to relive him. I feel bad I can’t get his shaking and itching to stop.

  4. I am curious if this is the case also if all four of your dogs shake their ears simultaneously? Mostly in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, one dog will shake their ears and the other have now learned to mimic it in a consecutive order after the first.


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