Causes and Solutions for Dog Head Shaking
My Dog Keeps Shaking Its Head!
If your canine displays "dog shaking head syndrome," it typically means one thing: There is something bothering his ears, causing him discomfort and possibly pain. If you know what to look for, you can diagnose the problem rather quickly and even treat it yourself.
We've outlined the most common reasons why a dog would shake its head vigorously and repeatedly. Some causes are serious, others less so. Find out what you can do to help ease his discomfort and keep it from recurring!
Can Head-Shaking Hurt My Dog?
If your dog continues to shake his head, he might be able to burst a blood vessel in his ear. This allows blood to accumulate and a hematoma may develop. Below is a photo of my dog Lucy and her aural hematoma. It's on the top part of the rear. Oddly enough, she did not have an ear infection, and I didn't ever notice her shaking her head. However, the vet explained that it could be from shaking her head too much.
It's hard to tell in the pic, but it's a firm-yet-spongy "mass" (which is the blood) that can cover a dog's entire ear. We had it drained, but it came back within a few hours. The vet said that the blood will eventually calcify and be partially absorbed back into her body. Her ear will be semi-deformed as a result.
What Makes a Dog Shake His Head Repeatedly?
This is obviously the most serious condition. If the shaking is persistent, call your vet immediately. Be prepared to take him straight in for a visit.
Seizures can cause serious damage to a dog's brain and can even be fatal. It's essential that you get the dog in for treatment as soon as you suspect this is happening. Luckily, seizures are quite rare, and dog shaking head syndrome is usually caused by much less serious conditions.
You can usually tell when a dog has ear mites. If he shakes his head and also scratches at his ears (even to the point of causing bleeding), he probably has mites. As the photo shows, mite discharge is reddish-brown or deep brown. It is much darker than typical earwax. If you look hard enough, you might even be able to detect white spots moving. These are the actual mites. They are particularly dangerous to dogs, as they can cause severe damage to the ear canal if left untreated.
If this is your first time dealing with this, you might want to see your vet for guidance. Typically though, mites can be treated at home with an over-the-counter remedy.
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If your dog only shakes his head every now and again, he may simply have dirty ears. If the debris you see inside the ears is mostly light-to-medium tan in color, he may have a buildup of ear wax mixed with dirt. A simple ear wash is what's needed.
A natural way to clean the dog's ears is to flush them with any type of vegetable oil. This can be quite messy and oily! I prefer to use a commercial ear cleaner, as it's easier and less likely to interact with any sort of other treatment I may be using (like for mites).
If my dog shakes her head only periodically, I know that wax build-up is to blame. I rely on this product because it cleans without harsh chemicals and it's made so as not to interfere with any other products I may be applying.
I use this ear wash about 12 hours before treating for ear mites. I make sure the ear canal is thoroughly dry before applying any medication. It can be used once a week to keep their ears clean.
How to Clean a Dog's Ears
- Hold the dog's ear with one hand and the cleaner with the other. Lift up the ear and lightly squeeze the cleaner into canal. Take care to get the ear wash as far into the canal as possible as debris can live past where the eye can see.
- Let the dog's ear lay flat (or fold it over) and gently message in the solution for 30-60 seconds. You should hear a squishy sound. The dog's ear should serve as a buffer between your fingers and the ear. Allow your pet to shake out any excess when you are done.
- Use a cotton ball to remove any excess solution. If the dog has a lot of ear wax, use a fresh cotton ball with every swipe to ensure that you are not pushing any debris further into the ear.