If your lucky (?) dog has just had a bath or swim, head shaking can be completely normal. But should you be concerned about those time when your pup isn’t simply doing the ‘doggo shake’ (official medical term) post-bath?

The simple answer… yes.

These are the some of the more common reasons dogs shake their heads:

  1. Foreign body is lodged within the ear canal (e.g- Grass seed)
  2. Ear infection
  3. Allergies (this could be bacterial or environmental)

Why should I be concerned?

Well apart from potentially being painful and aggravating (seriously, could you imagine having itchy or irritated ears and no fingers to itch them?), a dog that is continuously head shaking can lead to some serious damage to the ears which may result in irreversible damage (e.g-Aural Haematoma, Chronic narrowing of ear canals). You may also notice it may be affecting your dogs ability to hear, which may result in behavioral changes (e.g Bumping into objects).

Aural Haematoma

Reddening and Ear Discharge


What should you do?

For owners, it can be very difficult to determine the cause of head shaking. However, there are a few ways you can assess your dogs ears and determine if you need veterinary attention by examining your dogs ears visually and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the skin appear red or inflamed?
  2. Do they feel warm?
  3. Is there any buildup/ discharge?
  4. Do they have an unpleasant odour? (Us vets love to have a good sniff)

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, it is highly recommended that you see your Veterinarian to seek a diagnosis and treatment. As the external parts of the ear may help to identify disease, it is sometimes only the tip of the iceberg due to the complex anatomy of the canine ears. If is this reason, your Veterinarian will need to examine your dogs ear and perform diagnostics to identify the cause of the head shaking.

Important: Just because you may not be able to pick up any of these signs, it does NOT meant there isn’t any disease and/or injury present. Always consult a Veterinarian for expert advice to be safe.

What outcome should I expect with treatment?

Like any condition or problem, the earlier the issue is identified the sooner treatment can be administered and the better the outcome. Depending on the exciting causes, your Veterinarian may offer treatment/s such as:

  • Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory tablets
  • Topical ear drops/ medication
  • Ear wash/ flush
  • Parasite treatment
  • Diet modification / trials
  • An anaesthetic to thoroughly clean out the ear canal (it can be too painful to do awake)
  • Occasionally surgery (In chronic ear diseases – Total Ear Canal Ablation)

If you found this post helpful, please let me know! I love feedback!

Dr Ian