Is your dog shaking its head more than usual? This could be cause for concern. While it’s normal for dogs to shake their heads after being in the water, constant head shaking can signify pain or discomfort. Below, we’ll discuss why your dog behaves this way and when pet parents should start worrying.

Head shaking in dogs: Do I need to worry?

Head shaking is normal canine behavior. You’ll often see your dog making this motion, such as after going for a swim. Dogs shake their heads to rid their ears of things that shouldn’t be there, e.g., debris, water, or insects. Whenever your dog has itchiness in its ear canal, it’ll shake its head until it feels relief. Typically, a few quick shakes should do the trick.

However, a dog shaking its head constantly isn’t normal. Continuous shaking indicates there’s something stuck in your dog’s ear, or they’re suffering from an ear infection. Prolonged headshaking can result in your pup rupturing blood vessels in the ear. This causes extreme discomfort and pain. You need to take action at the first sign of this unusual behavior.

Why your dog keeps shaking his head

What are some of the causes of head shaking in dogs owners need to be aware of? As we know, it could be something as simple as having water in the ear. But, the cause of your dog shaking its head could be more alarming. Let’s discover why your dog may show signs of excessive head shaking.


A dog shaking its head could be a sign they’re suffering from allergies. Head shaking is common for dogs that are hypersensitive to different allergens, such as food ingredients or environmental allergens. Scratching at the ears, itchy skin, and rubbing the affected ear on surfaces accompany head shaking.

As part of pet wellness plans, your vet can carry out several allergen tests to diagnose what the trigger may be. For example, bloodwork tests can tell a vet if your dog is allergic to pollen, dust mites, and many other allergens.

Ear infection

In many cases, constant head shaking in dogs is caused by a bacteria or yeast infection. If a dog has an ear infection, they itch the area aggressively. Dogs with any ear infection also have discharge and inflammation. Look for redness, swelling, and a foul odor when checking for infections in your dog’s ear canal.

Ear infections in dogs are almost always caused by another condition or disorder. This could be due to foreign bodies, ear mites, allergens, trauma to the ear, excessive moisture, or autoimmune diseases. A vet can detect the cause of your dog’s ear infections.

Ear mites

Ear mites are another common cause of a dog shaking its head. Usually, you can tell if your dog has ear mites if they scratch until the point of bleeding. Additionally, a reddish-brown discharge will come from the ear, which may stick to their fur. Some dog owners may even spot white specks (e.g., the ear mites) in their dog’s ears.

Tumors or growths

In more severe cases, your dog’s head shaking could be a sign it has a tumor or growth in its ear canal. Ear canal tumors cause significant discomfort, foul-smelling ear discharge, and a painful ear. Depending on where the growth is, you may also notice that your dog is losing its balance often, tilting its head, or experiencing facial paralysis.

Any tumors or growths in the ear canal must be treated and will often require surgery. If you suspect a more serious reason for your dog’s head shaking, get them assessed by a vet as soon as possible.

When should I bring my dog to the vet?

The sooner you act when you notice persistent head shaking, the better. An early diagnosis can relieve any pain your pooch is experiencing and rule out other severe conditions. As with any illness or disease, never leave your dog in discomfort. It’s always better to book an emergency vet visit to assess any unusual behavior rather than leaving it up to chance.

Wagmo: Dog insurance with wellness plans

Many of the causes of head shaking in dogs can be easily treated. At Wagmo, our dog insurance with wellness plans supports pet parents when issues arise. When the unexpected happens, we’ll help you take care of your dog financially. Our dog insurance plan will cover 100% of emergency vet visits and other procedures once a deductible has been met.
Combining it with our pet wellness plans will cover your pet for routine vet check-ups, vaccines, grooming, and ear care. Take our dog insurance quiz to find a plan that suits you best.