Head shaking in dogs: Identifying the causes
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Head shaking in dogs: Identifying the causes

Dogs
Health & Safety

Everyone shakes their head from time to time without thinking about it-say, because you have a hair irritating your ear, an itch, or to dislodge something that is annoying you. The same is true for dogs, and because dogs have larger ears with larger openings, it is often done to deal with an itch in or around the ear. This is perfectly normal and something that you are likely to see your dog doing every day if you pay attention-but if your dog continually or repeatedly shakes their head or seems as if something is bothering them, this can indicate a potential problem.

Some causes of head shaking in dogs are minor and will go away on their own, while others may indicate a problem that needs veterinary attention-either a minor issue, or as a symptom of something more serious.

In this article, we will look at some of the common causes of head shaking in dogs in more detail, including how to identify a problem and what to do about it. Read on to learn more.

Identifying a problem

If your dog simply shakes their head from time to time, or the cause is immediate and obvious-such as coming in from the rain-this is not an issue. However, if you catch your dog shaking their head around multiple times per day, this indicates that something is amiss.

As well as head shaking itself, problems of all types usually come with other indications as well-such as your dog pawing at their ears repeatedly, on either one side or both, or trying to rub their head against furniture or your hand to relieve irritation or deal with another type of problem.

Muck, debris or creepy crawlies around and in the ears can of course, in combination with head shaking, indicate that something needs to be done.

What kind of issues might head shaking indicate?

One of the most likely reasons for head shaking is an infection in either one or both of the ears, such as a bacterial or even fungal infection. This may not be evident from observation, as the infection lay lie deep within the ear where it cannot be seen.

Ear mites too is high on the list of causes for head shaking, and ear mites can be present in significant numbers and not visible to the naked eye. Ear mites again may affect one ear but will quickly spread to the other, and will be very itchy and irritating for your dog until they are treated.

Popping ears affect people and dogs alike-this is the sensation that you may feel when taking off or landing in an aeroplane. This can lead to balance issues due to the way that the ears are connected to the general balance and orientation of the body, and can be caused by an infection or another secondary issue.

Head injuries too can cause head shaking, because there may be pain or something else that does not feel quite right to your dog and that may be bothering them. If your dog has attained a head injury or had an accident, you should always get them checked out by your vet, in case of other complications.

Foreign bodies in the ear-often tiny things like grass seeds-are another problem that commonly affects dogs, particularly those with large ear openings. This is more common in the spring than at other times of the year, and again, you may not know what the problem is until you get your vet to have a look.

Additionally, some conformation problems that can affect certain dog breeds may lead to an unusual structure to the ear, which may mean that your dog needs to tilt or shake their head in order to orient themselves, and home in on the direction of a sound.

Deafness that is developing slowly and becoming more progressive may also cause head shaking, as your dog attempts to hear more clearly.

What should you do?

If your dog shakes their head continually or regularly, it is wise to get them checked out by your vet, because there are so many potential reasons for this, and few of them are things that you can diagnose at home.

A great many of the problems listed above do of course pertain to the ears, and the ear canal is deep and dark, and hard to see without the benefit of specialist equipment.

Treating ear mites or infections can be challenging, but these are the most common causes of head shaking and other issues with the ears, and they are also apt to be very irritating for your dog and potentially painful as well.

If the head shaking has been going on for more than a couple of days and also, if you have any other concerns, book an appointment with your vet to see what can be done.

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