Is It Normal for My Dog to Constantly Shake Its Head?

Although it isn't uncommon for a dog to shake its head every once in a while, it gets worrisome if they are doing it all the time. Instances when it's common for dogs to shake their heads are when they get out of water or just have had a bath. Dogs will also shake their heads to relieve itchiness or dislodge something from their ears. 

However, dogs only do this occasionally. If you notice that your dog is shaking their head more often than normal, it could be a sign that something more serious is happening. 

A black and white dog aggressively shakes it's head while water droplets spray in all directions.

Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads? 

Head shaking is one of many ways that dogs take care of themselves. They perform the behavior to get things out of their ears that are lodged inside or relieve discomfort.

While your dog can scratch its head and ears with a paw, it can't reach inside its ears. So, if they feel something inside their ear, they'll shake their head to dislodge it. 

Dogs will also shake their heads when they're itchy because it helps relieve discomfort. Once again, however, dogs should only do this occasionally. If you notice your dog doing it constantly and without provocation, there's a chance that something is wrong. 

A brown and white spotted hound dog with huge ears has a happy open mouth while looking at the viewer. It is outside in a general grassy setting.

6 Reasons Your Dog Won't Stop Shaking Its Head 

Ear Infections 

Ear infections, also known as canine Otis externa, are one of the most common reasons for excessive head shaking in dogs. Ear infections can happen because of moisture trapped in the ear, a foreign object, or underlying allergies. Regardless of the reason for the infection, it's vital that you get your dog examined by a vet immediately. 

Ear infections don't typically go away on their own and can only be treated by antibiotics or antifungals. Yeast and bacterial infections are the two most common types of ear infections. It's also worth noting that certain breeds are more prone to ear infections than others, because of how their ears are shaped. 

Poodles, golden retrievers, Basset Hounds, and any other dog breed that has floppy ears or swims frequently are more prone to ear infections. Because of the shape and stature of floppy ears, it's easier for moisture to get trapped within them. Therefore, if you have a dog with floppy ears, you should be extra vigilant against ear infections. 

Here are some symptoms to watch out for that could indicate yeast, bacteria, or another type of ear infection. 

  • Redness and inflammation on the inside of the ear 
  • Excessive scratching and head shaking 
  • A nasty odor coming from inside your dog's ear 
  • Discharge and moisture coming out of the ear 


Just like their human masters, dogs are very prone to all sorts of allergies. It can be something in the air, their food, or something they come in contact with. An excellent way to determine if your dog is shaking their head because of an allergy is to pay close attention to them. 

If you notice that they start shaking their head anytime they eat certain foods or treats, it could mean they're allergic to them. If they shake their heads anytime they're around a certain item or object, they're probably having an allergic reaction. Seasonality is also characteristic of allergies secondary to pollen or ragweed.

However, the only way to be certain that your dog has an allergy is to take them to a vet for allergy testing or a food trial. Your vet can determine if your dog has an allergy and what to do about it. 

Here are a few symptoms your dog will display if they have an allergy. 

  • Excessive head shaking or face rubbing 
  • Excessive itching of the skin 
  • Licking or chewing their paws 
  • Patches of fur may fall away 

Damage or Trauma 

Dogs love to play and be active. Therefore, its common for them to sustain minor injuries. These injuries can happen while playing with another dog, from accidentally running into something, or scratching themselves too aggressively. 

Although minor injuries, cuts, and bruises aren't uncommon with dogs, it can become dangerous if the cut gets infected. For that reason, it's important to keep an eye on your dog when they're playing so that you can see if and when they injure themselves. Injuries resulting in infections typically require a vet visit and prescription antibiotics for a quick recovery. The ears are fragile and can become easily injured.

A mixed breed dog licks its lips while pinning a tennis ball in its front paws.

Ear Vasculitis 

Ear vasculitis is when your dog suffers from inflammation in the blood vessels inside the flappy portion of the ear. While ear vasculitis is uncommon, it's still possible in dogs. The most common cause of ear vasculitis is an abnormal immune system response. This response can cause ear vasculitis, leading to a painful and irritating skin infection. 

Here are a few signs to watch out for that indicate ear vasculitis. 

  • Purple or reddish spots inside the ear. 
  • Crusty skin around the inside of the ear. 
  • Unexplained hair loss 
  • Excessive itching and head shaking 
  • Cysts of fluid and pus inside the ear or ears 
  • Crusting on the margins of the ears

Ear Hematomas 

Ear hematomas occur when a blood vessel in one of your dog's ears bursts. The result is that blood gets trapped between the cartilage and the skin of your dog's ear. In most cases, blood vessels happen because of an injury or from scratching their ears too hard. 

While they might not seem like a huge deal, hematomas can lead to pain and scarring of the ear if they aren't treated. Typically, you'll need to take your dog to the veterinarian and have the hematoma drained or surgically repaired. A vet visit is also necessary so that your vet can see if there is an underlying cause that could result in another hematoma. 

Mites or Parasites 

It's also possible that mites or other parasites have infiltrated your dog's ear. When they do this, these parasites can cause serious discomfort and itchiness and can even lead to a skin infection. 

Two hands from off frame hold up the floppy ears of a frenchie puppy while it looks off frame.

Can Head Shaking be an Indicator of a Serious Condition? 

While none of the reasons we listed for head shaking should be taken lightly, some are more serious than others. It's also possible that you think your dog is shaking their head, but they're actually suffering from tremors caused by a neurological disorder. 

Other conditions that can cause excessive head shaking include hypothyroidism, anatomical issues, or recurring infections because of an immune disorder. Excessive head shaking from these conditions can cause other ear issues such as hematomas or infections. Therefore, it’s important to stay on top of your dogs' health and notice when they're shaking their head and scratching more often than usual. 

A fluffy brown and tan dog with one floppy ear runs in a suburban backyard with a neon ball in it's mouth.

When to Call a Vet 

Because of the many serious conditions associated with excessive head shaking, you should contact a vet immediately. Whether the cause of the head shaking is an infection, a disorder, an injury, or an allergy, they will require a veterinarian visit for diagnosis and treatment. Nothing good will come from delaying, and waiting could make the condition worse or lead to another issue entirely. 

Posted on 6, October

Fact checked by Veterinarian

Dr. Paula Simons

Dr. Paula Simons is an Emergency and Critical Care veterinary resident on her way to becoming a veterinary criticalist. She is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and completed her veterinary training in Ontario, Canada, at Ontario Veterinary College. Dr. Paula Simons has a particular interest in critical care nutrition, trauma, and pain management. She enjoys the management of surgical patients and troubleshooting complex cases. Additionally, she is a huge advocate for her patients and ensuring their comfort. She has two cats named Moo and Kal, whom she loves dearly. More About Us

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