Ask a vet online – ‘My dog keeps shaking his head and scratching his ears’

Question from Amanda Shaw

My dog keeps shaking his head and scratching his ears, they feel a little bit swollen but they are cleaned often so no mites he is lively and not off his food I’m at a loss.

Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS, online vet

Hi Amanda and thank you for your question about your dog’s ears. It is great that you are cleaning your dog’s ears regularly. I will discuss a list of possible causes for your dog to be shaking his head, scratching his ears and for the swelling followed by some treatment options.

Why is my dog shaking his head and scratching at his ears?

The symptoms you have described could be due to a foreign body e.g. a grass seed down the ear canal, bacterial or yeast infection, skin allergy, parasites e.g. ear mites, polyps or an aural haematoma (blood blister) all of which can be painful.

Grass seeds are a common finding down the ear canal of dogs that go for walks in the countryside. The shape of a dog’s ear canal has an upright tube (vertical canal) and then a 90 degree bend and a sideways tube (horizontal canal) at the end of this is the ear drum (tympanic membrane), this lends itself to getting things lodged inside. A foreign body like a grass seed can usually be seen by your vet with the help of an otoscope (hand held torch with a magnifying lens and a funnel). Grass seeds can usually be removed using a special pair of long grabbing forceps; some dogs will however need sedation or a general anaesthetic to allow the removal and examination to be carried out safely. We often send dogs home with antibiotic and pain relief after foreign body removal to combat any infection and pain.

Bacterial and yeast infections of the ear are conditions that affect the skin that lines the inside of the ear canals. The shape of the ear canal along with the ear flap (pinna) tends to funnel in moisture and trap germs. Dogs with a large floppy pinna such as Spaniels have the added feature of a closed lid over the ear canal all leading to a great environment for germs to breed. Infection may be present on other parts of the body and the whole animal may need treatment not just the ears. If the condition is only affecting the ears then ear cleaning solution and antibiotic drops can be a very effective treatment. If you are new to applying ear cleaner and ear drops then ask your vet or veterinary nurse to show you the best way to use them. If the condition is affecting other areas of skin then injectable or tablet medications may be given so that the drugs can travel in the blood stream to reach more areas of the body. When infections are not clearing up your vet might suggest taking swabs from the area. The swabs are sent to the laboratory for bacteriology and sensitivity. This tells us which bacteria and yeasts are present, and which drugs should be effective against them.

Skin allergy can affect the ears as the ear canals are lined by skin, diagnosis and treatment of skin allergy can involve swabs, biopsy samples and skin scrapes analysed at your vets or sent to a laboratory. Treatment of skin allergy can involve use of low allergy diets, shampoos, desensitisation vaccines, antibiotics, antihistamines and various immunosuppressant drugs.

Parasites including ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) and ticks (Ixodes varieties) can lead to irritation and then bacterial infection of the ears. Ticks are usually visible to the naked eye but ear mites are more easily seen under a microscope. Use of an appropriate antiparasitic treatment and removal of the parasites are the best method of treatment.

Aural haematoma, this is a blood blister usually found on the outer skin of the ear pinna, seen as a swollen area which often causes the ear to droop. The swelling is soft and fluid-filled, it is often the result of a trauma such as a dog fight or vigorous ear shaking. The haematoma develops as small blood vessels in the ear burst and the blood leaks under the skin, this separates into a pink tinged fluid and a thicker dark red clot. Some dogs are prone to recurrence of aural haematomas and repeat treatments may be needed. There are two main methods of treatment, draining via a needle or surgical drainage under a general anaesthetic. Antibiotics, steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs may also be given in the form of tablets, injections or directly into the ear.

Ear polyps are growths of different size that occur inside the ear canal, they are usually diagnosed on examination using an otoscope. Polyps are usually not cancerous but if there is any doubt then the polyp can be sent to a laboratory for analysis after removal. Small sized and numbers of polyps may not cause a problem to your dog but if there is irritation they can be removed surgically, in more serious cases removal of part or all of the ear canal may be an option.

In conclusion it is really important to have your dog’s ears examined by your vet so that a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be started. I hope that my answer has been helpful and that your dog has much more comfortable ears as soon as possible.

Shanika Winters VetMB MRCVS (online vet)

If your dog has a problem with its ears please book an appointment to see your vet, or use our online symptom checker

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173 thoughts on “Ask a vet online – ‘My dog keeps shaking his head and scratching his ears’

  1. My 1 1/2 year old Chihuahua started acting different today one of her ears is not right and she keeps shaking her head and walking funny I looked in it and can’t see anything but she walks funny she is still eating and drinking fine what could it be.

    1. Hi Sheila, without a proper examination using a scope it is impossible to say I’m afraid. The best thing is to pop them to the vets where they can have a good look and advise the best treatment.

  2. My 1 1/2 year old Chihuahua started acting different today one of her ears is not right and she keeps shaking her head and walking funny I looked in it and can’t see anything but she walks funny she is still eating and drinking fine what could it be.

    1. Hi Sheila, without a proper examination using a scope it is impossible to say I’m afraid. The best thing is to pop them to the vets where they can have a good look and advise the best treatment.

    2. My one month old puppy is behaving the same and I have tried everything. We couldn’t even sleep well in the night. But I think am taking him to the vet

  3. my dog has been shaking her head for over a month and scratches her ear every now and then. I was telling my daughter about it and her two dogs are doing the same they live in a different town but come visit about once or twice a month and bring dogs with. could this be something that is contagious. I looked in her ear it looks normal my dog is old english sheep dog, daughter has aussie and yorkie. any recomendations

    1. It is possible they could have picked up some ear mites, these best course of action is to take them to your vets so they can be examined properly and any treatment prescribed.

      1. My dog shakes for ears all the time but one ear in particular is the one that’s bothering her I’ve had this checked out numerous times they gave me some ear stuff to flush it out antibiotics and they told me that she has allergies and that’s what it’s called from but it comes and it goes..

        1. Hi Tracie. If your vet has diagnosed allergies, it may be worth talking to them further about special diets that may help to reduce any skin irritation. There are many hypo-allergenic diets which can help ease symptoms, which could help with the flare-ups you’re describing

  4. my dog has been shaking her head for over a month and scratches her ear every now and then. I was telling my daughter about it and her two dogs are doing the same they live in a different town but come visit about once or twice a month and bring dogs with. could this be something that is contagious. I looked in her ear it looks normal my dog is old english sheep dog, daughter has aussie and yorkie. any recomendations

    1. It is possible they could have picked up some ear mites, these best course of action is to take them to your vets so they can be examined properly and any treatment prescribed.

  5. My husband tried to clean out our chow chow’s ears with Epi-Otic solution. After doing this she is shaking her head constantly now for a couple of days. No smell or irritation. Will take her to the vet tomorrow if not better. Any other suggestions?

  6. My husband tried to clean out our chow chow’s ears with Epi-Otic solution. After doing this she is shaking her head constantly now for a couple of days. No smell or irritation. Will take her to the vet tomorrow if not better. Any other suggestions?

  7. My staffy has a graze on his head caused by scratching which he won’t leave alone it’s starting to look sore is there anything I can do too help prevent this

    1. Hi Paul, it’s probably best if you chat to your vet – has he got a cone to help stop him reaching the area, if the graze has been made by scratching, do you know the cause? A check over with your vet is a good idea.

  8. My staffy has a graze on his head caused by scratching which he won’t leave alone it’s starting to look sore is there anything I can do too help prevent this

    1. Hi Paul, it’s probably best if you chat to your vet – has he got a cone to help stop him reaching the area, if the graze has been made by scratching, do you know the cause? A check over with your vet is a good idea.

  9. My 16 month old mixed breed dog has been treated for 2 ear infections and I’m having the Vet clean her ears every 6 weeks. We were there on Jan. 24th and they did a microscopic check and cleaned her ears (which were not dirty). No problems found.

    In the last week we’ve had several salespeople bang on the front door and she has started to bark. For a short, but 50 lb dog, she has a HUGE and deep bark. After every bark, she shakes her head. The minute she stops barking, she no longer shakes her ears.

    My car’s in the shop and the vet is 22 miles one way. I won’t have the car back until late next week. Should I be concerned or could this be a tickle?

    She’s supposedly half Australian Shepherd and 1/2 American Bulldog. She has slightly folded ears, curled tail, half her body has long hair and half is short and tufts of fur sticking out of her chin. She’s a funny looking gal!

    1. Hi, as I’m sure you can appreciate it is very difficult to give an accurate answer due to being online. It is possible that it’s a tickle – you don’t say whether she was anaesthetised for the procedures. Only by having a proper look inside the ear with a scope, can tell whether there is hair causing a tickle further down the canal, or if there is another problem in the ear canal.

  10. My 16 month old mixed breed dog has been treated for 2 ear infections and I’m having the Vet clean her ears every 6 weeks. We were there on Jan. 24th and they did a microscopic check and cleaned her ears (which were not dirty). No problems found.

    In the last week we’ve had several salespeople bang on the front door and she has started to bark. For a short, but 50 lb dog, she has a HUGE and deep bark. After every bark, she shakes her head. The minute she stops barking, she no longer shakes her ears.

    My car’s in the shop and the vet is 22 miles one way. I won’t have the car back until late next week. Should I be concerned or could this be a tickle?

    She’s supposedly half Australian Shepherd and 1/2 American Bulldog. She has slightly folded ears, curled tail, half her body has long hair and half is short and tufts of fur sticking out of her chin. She’s a funny looking gal!

    1. Hi, as I’m sure you can appreciate it is very difficult to give an accurate answer due to being online. It is possible that it’s a tickle – you don’t say whether she was anaesthetised for the procedures. Only by having a proper look inside the ear with a scope, can tell whether there is hair causing a tickle further down the canal, or if there is another problem in the ear canal.

  11. hi , my 7wks old german shephard puppy has been scratching her ear and shaking her head and wines when doing so she gets anxious and moves around I am super concern about it and would like a diagnosis thank you

    1. Hi Alma, without a proper veterinary examination it is impossible to give a diagnosis – we strongly suggest you take your pup to your vet and they will be able to help.

  12. hi , my 7wks old german shephard puppy has been scratching her ear and shaking her head and wines when doing so she gets anxious and moves around I am super concern about it and would like a diagnosis thank you

    1. Hi Alma, without a proper veterinary examination it is impossible to give a diagnosis – we strongly suggest you take your pup to your vet and they will be able to help.

  13. Hiya.
    our staffy has recently started to close his eyes. They don’t appear to be wheeping or look swollen. I have bathed them using optrex but no improvement. Later today he seems to lose his appetite and isnt drinking a lot. A dog nearby usingthe same park has become uunwell except he doesn’t have the eye problem. Can it be an eye infection/hayfever? ?

  14. Hiya.
    our staffy has recently started to close his eyes. They don’t appear to be wheeping or look swollen. I have bathed them using optrex but no improvement. Later today he seems to lose his appetite and isnt drinking a lot. A dog nearby usingthe same park has become uunwell except he doesn’t have the eye problem. Can it be an eye infection/hayfever? ?

  15. Hi,
    My 2 year old japanese spitz male dog has been continuously shaking his head and itching his left ear like there is something inside his ear since the last 12 hours. I clean his ears regularly and the vet also examined him with otoscope and everything seems normal. The vet gave him anti-allergic pills and vaccine but even after 12 hours, my dog is still shaking his head badly. I am really scared. Can you kindly please suggest me what I need to do next? I am really very worried and cannot see him in so much discomfort. He is eating, barking and seems normal otherwise. When he is sleeping, he seems relaxed but once he wakes up, he starts doing that. I have him vaccinated and de-wormed regularly. What could be the possible causes other than what has been mentioned in this article? I would be very grateful to any suggestions.

  16. Hi,
    My 2 year old japanese spitz male dog has been continuously shaking his head and itching his left ear like there is something inside his ear since the last 12 hours. I clean his ears regularly and the vet also examined him with otoscope and everything seems normal. The vet gave him anti-allergic pills and vaccine but even after 12 hours, my dog is still shaking his head badly. I am really scared. Can you kindly please suggest me what I need to do next? I am really very worried and cannot see him in so much discomfort. He is eating, barking and seems normal otherwise. When he is sleeping, he seems relaxed but once he wakes up, he starts doing that. I have him vaccinated and de-wormed regularly. What could be the possible causes other than what has been mentioned in this article? I would be very grateful to any suggestions.

  17. Why does my Chihuahua keeps going fast sideways along his gate he also won’t respond to my commands I thubj

  18. Why does my Chihuahua keeps going fast sideways along his gate he also won’t respond to my commands I thubj

  19. My shih tzu has a cut on the inside of her ear, she won’t stop scratching it and shaking her head. What is wrong with her?

    1. HI, the cut is almost certainly the issue – it could be irritating her, or she could have made it scratching if her ear has a problem (ear mites, infection etc) – It is best to get her checked out with your vet.

  20. My shih tzu has a cut on the inside of her ear, she won’t stop scratching it and shaking her head. What is wrong with her?

    1. HI, the cut is almost certainly the issue – it could be irritating her, or she could have made it scratching if her ear has a problem (ear mites, infection etc) – It is best to get her checked out with your vet.

  21. Hi,
    My Pomeranian keeps shaking her head and has a drooping ear. I’ve had her ear checked by a vet and it’s fine. She had a tick near her eye, which we thought was the cause. She was given the expensive tablet for flea and tick treatment a week ago, but the head shaking and the drooping ear hasn’t improved. How long does it take for the flea/tick treatment to have an effect?

  22. Hi,
    My Pomeranian keeps shaking her head and has a drooping ear. I’ve had her ear checked by a vet and it’s fine. She had a tick near her eye, which we thought was the cause. She was given the expensive tablet for flea and tick treatment a week ago, but the head shaking and the drooping ear hasn’t improved. How long does it take for the flea/tick treatment to have an effect?

  23. My puppies ear has changed shape, the one ear now no longer lies the same as the other, I can position it as the other but it falls out of shape easily, there is no swelling or change in behavior at all, nor is the puppy shaking his head as in irritated. His ears were fine and now they aren’t, di I need to be worried?

    1. Hello, we wouldn’t be too worried, like humans things come in all shapes and sizes! Would only be concerned if there seem to be a swelling, or he was really scratching it it will shaking his head.

  24. My puppies ear has changed shape, the one ear now no longer lies the same as the other, I can position it as the other but it falls out of shape easily, there is no swelling or change in behavior at all, nor is the puppy shaking his head as in irritated. His ears were fine and now they aren’t, di I need to be worried?

    1. Hello, we wouldn’t be too worried, like humans things come in all shapes and sizes! Would only be concerned if there seem to be a swelling, or he was really scratching it it will shaking his head.

  25. I have a Austrlian Shepard she scratches ears and shakes head. Scratches all over. Took her to the vet and they said to give her bendryl . No ear mites they could find nothing wrong.?????What to do.

  26. I have a Austrlian Shepard she scratches ears and shakes head. Scratches all over. Took her to the vet and they said to give her bendryl . No ear mites they could find nothing wrong.?????What to do.

  27. My puppy is shaking his head everytime volmit and he smell of blood, I only saw once blood coming out of his anal. Does it mean he dying or just sick?

    1. Hi Jason, you puppy needs to see a vet as soon as possible. There could be a few reasons that he is showing these signs, but he needs to be seen. Please contact them now. Dave Vet Help Direct.

  28. My puppy is shaking his head everytime volmit and he smell of blood, I only saw once blood coming out of his anal. Does it mean he dying or just sick?

    1. Hi Jason, you puppy needs to see a vet as soon as possible. There could be a few reasons that he is showing these signs, but he needs to be seen. Please contact them now. Dave Vet Help Direct.

  29. My dog got in a fight with a dog last night, and she was really shaken up all night. Today, she keeps shaking her head randomly and is lethargic and whines if pressure is applied to her head/ear area. My wife thinks it may be her ear, but I’m not entirely sure. Maybe some form of head trauma?

    1. Hi Jordan, it could be, but it will be impossible and unfair to say so without a proper examination of the area. Which strongly advise get them checked with your own vet, they may need medication etc. which only your vet can prescribe.

  30. My dog got in a fight with a dog last night, and she was really shaken up all night. Today, she keeps shaking her head randomly and is lethargic and whines if pressure is applied to her head/ear area. My wife thinks it may be her ear, but I’m not entirely sure. Maybe some form of head trauma?

    1. Hi Jordan, it could be, but it will be impossible and unfair to say so without a proper examination of the area. Which strongly advise get them checked with your own vet, they may need medication etc. which only your vet can prescribe.

  31. Cleaned the pup’s ears and he keeps scratching and shaking his head. He still plays and eat normally. What can it be? His ears are clean. There are no cuts or scabs from scratching. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Connie,

      It is possible that although his ears are clean , further down he might have something going on – ear mites etc. It would be a good idea to have them checked at your surgery.

  32. Cleaned the pup’s ears and he keeps scratching and shaking his head. He still plays and eat normally. What can it be? His ears are clean. There are no cuts or scabs from scratching. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Connie,

      It is possible that although his ears are clean , further down he might have something going on – ear mites etc. It would be a good idea to have them checked at your surgery.

  33. I have a 1 yr old dwarf American Brittany Spaniel who has been taken to the vet twice last week for not eating. The first visit I thought he had worms but never saw them. Vet said no worms and no fever. So he sent him home with 2 medicines for upset stomach. 3 days later he started vomiting dark green bile but still no food just water intake. So went back to the vet and they did blood work. His white blood count was 27000 with no fever and no other symptoms just not eating. So he was sent home with 3 antibiotics. He eat a little that night and a little the next day. Yesterday and today nothing to eat. He has been shaking some but will eat on a chew rawhide. What could be going on? We need help.

    1. Hi Andrea, poor little chap… we’d suggest that he may need an abdominal xray to see if there is a problem in that area – it can help rule out certain issues such as a blockage in the bowel etc.

  34. I have a 1 yr old dwarf American Brittany Spaniel who has been taken to the vet twice last week for not eating. The first visit I thought he had worms but never saw them. Vet said no worms and no fever. So he sent him home with 2 medicines for upset stomach. 3 days later he started vomiting dark green bile but still no food just water intake. So went back to the vet and they did blood work. His white blood count was 27000 with no fever and no other symptoms just not eating. So he was sent home with 3 antibiotics. He eat a little that night and a little the next day. Yesterday and today nothing to eat. He has been shaking some but will eat on a chew rawhide. What could be going on? We need help.

    1. Hi Andrea, poor little chap… we’d suggest that he may need an abdominal xray to see if there is a problem in that area – it can help rule out certain issues such as a blockage in the bowel etc.

  35. My 6yr old cockapoo yelps when he shakes his head or his ear is touched just right. He lets me scratch him there and I can gently apply pressure all over the floppy part and jaw area and hes fine with that, no redness or lumps or abrasions. Buddy has been to the vet and she didn’t find anything, but he still yelps when he shakes his head or if we touch him just so. Can he have a sprain?

    1. It seems like you might need to take them back to the vet for another check over, just to be sure – you can always ask for a second opinion if you are very worried.

  36. My 6yr old cockapoo yelps when he shakes his head or his ear is touched just right. He lets me scratch him there and I can gently apply pressure all over the floppy part and jaw area and hes fine with that, no redness or lumps or abrasions. Buddy has been to the vet and she didn’t find anything, but he still yelps when he shakes his head or if we touch him just so. Can he have a sprain?

    1. It seems like you might need to take them back to the vet for another check over, just to be sure – you can always ask for a second opinion if you are very worried.

  37. Please help my male chihuahua has a cut near his eye I would say on the bottom eye lid I don’t no how he done it but it was bleeding I stopped the bleeding but I’m still worried please help whay is the best thing to do i don’t have money for vets but if that’s what is advised I will have to

    1. Hi April, thanks for getting in touch. Try not to panic. A vet can examine the cut and decide if sutures (stitches) or antibiotics etc are required, therefore this is likely to be the best course of action. I wonder if you have friends or family that can help with the finances or if there’s a local charity that might be able to help. Best wishes

  38. Please help my male chihuahua has a cut near his eye I would say on the bottom eye lid I don’t no how he done it but it was bleeding I stopped the bleeding but I’m still worried please help whay is the best thing to do i don’t have money for vets but if that’s what is advised I will have to

    1. Hi April, thanks for getting in touch. Try not to panic. A vet can examine the cut and decide if sutures (stitches) or antibiotics etc are required, therefore this is likely to be the best course of action. I wonder if you have friends or family that can help with the finances or if there’s a local charity that might be able to help. Best wishes

  39. Our Lab is constantly itching his ears and shaking – regular vet check ups show little though he did have a course of antibiotics to be on the safe side as one ear was quite dirty far down – due to lots of swimming. Last summer due to all the swimming and then shaking he developed an blood blister which needed draining. Since then we are constantly on pins that he could well get another due to the itching/shaking – he shakes so hard.

    Is there any way in which to control the itching/shaking – or at least minimise it? Obviously, after swimming dogs need to shake – so maybe less swimming is called for – though it is only a summer treat for him.

    Any advice please warmly welcomed.

    1. Hi Valerie,

      The ear flap filling with blood is a worry. Do you use ear cleaner on him at all or any product that tackles earmites? Sometimes, especially if a dog is prone to ear problems, the treatment can be a long road. We’d suggest speaking to vet again for a closer look in the ears, even hairs can irritate! Swimming can definitely make the problem worse…

  40. Our Lab is constantly itching his ears and shaking – regular vet check ups show little though he did have a course of antibiotics to be on the safe side as one ear was quite dirty far down – due to lots of swimming. Last summer due to all the swimming and then shaking he developed an blood blister which needed draining. Since then we are constantly on pins that he could well get another due to the itching/shaking – he shakes so hard.

    Is there any way in which to control the itching/shaking – or at least minimise it? Obviously, after swimming dogs need to shake – so maybe less swimming is called for – though it is only a summer treat for him.

    Any advice please warmly welcomed.

    1. Hi Valerie,

      The ear flap filling with blood is a worry. Do you use ear cleaner on him at all or any product that tackles earmites? Sometimes, especially if a dog is prone to ear problems, the treatment can be a long road. We’d suggest speaking to vet again for a closer look in the ears, even hairs can irritate! Swimming can definitely make the problem worse…

  41. HI. My Chihuahua is about 5yrs & out of a sudden started tilting his head to the left side , able to walk slowly, no itching on ears, when to turn his head facing the right side.,started crying, did feel a lump underneath the ear flaps( right side )took him to vet hospital had x-rays done and didn’t find nothing? Any suggestions, should I be worried?

    1. Hi Jean, we’re sorry to hear about your little Chihuahua. There are a number of reasons your dog might be experiencing a head-tilt, one possible cause is something called vestibular syndrome. The vestibular system helps mammals maintain a sense of balance and there is a whole host of things that can disrupt this system including ear infection, polyps and some sort of trauma, so getting to the cause is the tricky part. As I said before, there are many other reasons your dog might be tilting his head. The point really is that you know your dog and you know when something isn’t right. If the symptoms haven’t gone then further examination and diagnostics would be a sensible idea. I’d suggest you take him back to your vet and talk through the options or seek a second opinion. We wish you all the best

  42. HI. My Chihuahua is about 5yrs & out of a sudden started tilting his head to the left side , able to walk slowly, no itching on ears, when to turn his head facing the right side.,started crying, did feel a lump underneath the ear flaps( right side )took him to vet hospital had x-rays done and didn’t find nothing? Any suggestions, should I be worried?

    1. Hi Jean, we’re sorry to hear about your little Chihuahua. There are a number of reasons your dog might be experiencing a head-tilt, one possible cause is something called vestibular syndrome. The vestibular system helps mammals maintain a sense of balance and there is a whole host of things that can disrupt this system including ear infection, polyps and some sort of trauma, so getting to the cause is the tricky part. As I said before, there are many other reasons your dog might be tilting his head. The point really is that you know your dog and you know when something isn’t right. If the symptoms haven’t gone then further examination and diagnostics would be a sensible idea. I’d suggest you take him back to your vet and talk through the options or seek a second opinion. We wish you all the best

  43. Hi. my 17 year old Chihuahua’s left ear is tilting down and he is shaking is head. he has had two fits today but he is eating and walking around as normal. what could be the reason for this?
    what could i give him to relieve the pain?

    1. Hi Patricia, please take your dog to be examined by a vet. I don’t know if he usually suffers with fits, for example, due to epilepsy however, any of these symptoms warrant having him examined. There are many reasons his ear might be affected including, but not restricted to a foreign body, mites or an allergy. It is likely to be uncomfortable for him and further, more serious damage may ensue. Fitting is another reason I recommend examination by a vet. Your vet will help you manage the pain however treating the cause is of key importance. Best wishes

  44. Hi. my 17 year old Chihuahua’s left ear is tilting down and he is shaking is head. he has had two fits today but he is eating and walking around as normal. what could be the reason for this?
    what could i give him to relieve the pain?

    1. Hi Patricia, please take your dog to be examined by a vet. I don’t know if he usually suffers with fits, for example, due to epilepsy however, any of these symptoms warrant having him examined. There are many reasons his ear might be affected including, but not restricted to a foreign body, mites or an allergy. It is likely to be uncomfortable for him and further, more serious damage may ensue. Fitting is another reason I recommend examination by a vet. Your vet will help you manage the pain however treating the cause is of key importance. Best wishes

    1. Hi jenny, there are many reasons your dog could be shaking her head including but not limited to, allergies, parasites, grass seeds and aural haematoma. Something is obviously bothering her, making her uncomfortable and there is the potential for serious harm to result, depending on the cause. Therefore, I recommend you take her to be examined by your vet. Best wishes.

    1. Hi jenny, there are many reasons your dog could be shaking her head including but not limited to, allergies, parasites, grass seeds and aural haematoma. Something is obviously bothering her, making her uncomfortable and there is the potential for serious harm to result, depending on the cause. Therefore, I recommend you take her to be examined by your vet. Best wishes.

    1. There are a number of potential causes including but not limited to allergies, parasites, bacterial infection and polyps. I recommend taking him to be examined by a vet as it is likely to be uncomfortable for him and depending on the cause, serious damage could ensue. Best wishes

    1. There are a number of potential causes including but not limited to allergies, parasites, bacterial infection and polyps. I recommend taking him to be examined by a vet as it is likely to be uncomfortable for him and depending on the cause, serious damage could ensue. Best wishes

  45. My dog started scratching at his ears and shaking them periodically. My vet gave me ADL ear drops and within a couple of hours my dog won’t stop shaking his head. Like they are irritated even worse. Is this normal?

    1. Hi Jaime, it sounds as if you should get back in touch with your vet again since they know your dog’s history. If the medication hasn’t had the desired effect or indeed if it has made it worse then they are best placed to advise you. Many thanks.

  46. My dog started scratching at his ears and shaking them periodically. My vet gave me ADL ear drops and within a couple of hours my dog won’t stop shaking his head. Like they are irritated even worse. Is this normal?

    1. Hi Jaime, it sounds as if you should get back in touch with your vet again since they know your dog’s history. If the medication hasn’t had the desired effect or indeed if it has made it worse then they are best placed to advise you. Many thanks.

  47. Hi my 4 month old Chihuahua is shaking his head, and scratching his left ear so much it’s bleeding, we have been advised to do benedryl and ear cleanings. He has an appointment coming up but, we are extremely nervous about the way he’s scratching his ear. Is there anyway to relieve him?

    1. Hi Deinyell, we really feel for your little dog and feel that this is too complicated a condition to advise greatly over the internet. Considering his age, he is rather vulnerable and ear conditions are better sorted sooner rather than later to prevent further damage. Depending upon the problem, cleaning the ear might be aggravating it further. It would be sensible to bring your vet appointment forward if you can. Best wishes.

  48. Hi my 4 month old Chihuahua is shaking his head, and scratching his left ear so much it’s bleeding, we have been advised to do benedryl and ear cleanings. He has an appointment coming up but, we are extremely nervous about the way he’s scratching his ear. Is there anyway to relieve him?

    1. Hi Deinyell, we really feel for your little dog and feel that this is too complicated a condition to advise greatly over the internet. Considering his age, he is rather vulnerable and ear conditions are better sorted sooner rather than later to prevent further damage. Depending upon the problem, cleaning the ear might be aggravating it further. It would be sensible to bring your vet appointment forward if you can. Best wishes.

    1. Hi Andrew, head shaking and unbalanced walking is definitely cause to be examined by a vet ASAP. It can be indicative of a number of causes including but not limited to vestibular syndrome and ear mites. Not quite sure what you mean by ‘and also has big balls’ but I’d suggest you have this checked out too.

    1. Hi Andrew, head shaking and unbalanced walking is definitely cause to be examined by a vet ASAP. It can be indicative of a number of causes including but not limited to vestibular syndrome and ear mites. Not quite sure what you mean by ‘and also has big balls’ but I’d suggest you have this checked out too.

  49. Hi Guys, I need help i have a jack russel about 4 years old he had a bump on his head under the skin now that the bump is almost gone his ears are swollen shut and he scratches non stop and he cannot hear me at all and he also shakes his head

    1. Hi Lynette. You’ll need to take your dog along for a check-up with your vet, as it sounds as though he has a problem with his skin, which will commonly also display as ear problems. He needs some treatment as soon as possible as this will be very uncomfortable for him, and your vet will be best-placed to find out what’s causing this problem and treat it accordingly.

  50. Hi I have a black lab mix she is about 8 yrs old I’m not sure what could be wrong she when she shakes her head she will do it real slow or try not to do it at all she also yelps when we touch her left ear what could be wrong with her? Thank you for any help you can give

    1. Hi Melinda. It could be that she has something stuck in her ear, or that she’s got something like an ear infection – both can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. You’ll need to pop her along to your vet so that they’re able to examine down her ear fully, make a diagnosis and give her the appropriate treatment. Hope she feels better soon.

  51. Hi I have a 6 week old yorkie poo and I was laying with him and all of a sudden he starts shaking his head and like puffing his air out from his nose like if he had something in there and then while he was shaking his head like saliva/foam started coming out of his mouth! And then he went to the carpet and started dragging his nose on the carpet please help!

    1. Hi Alex. It sounds as though something has irritated his nose for some reason, and that can be more common at this time of year with seasonal allergies etc. If he still seems to be suffering with his nose or seems unwell in any way, I’d recommend popping him along to your vet for a check-up as there could be a number of things which could cause him to have this reaction, so your vet will need to examine his nose and mouth/throat to make a diagnosis and see if any treatment is needed.

    1. Hi Stan. If it’s not healing up by itself, I’d recommend taking your Springer along to your vet for a quick check-up to ensure there’s no infection present or any particular reason for it not healing.

  52. Hi my dog is shaking her body a lot, itching a lot, till now she had a sore and got infected , the vets just treated the wound nothing else, she paces a lot and when relaxed shoots up like if something biting her… Haven’t noticed any fleas plus only flea her 2wks ago… I can’t bare to see her like this any idea

    1. Hi Geraint. This must be awful for you to see, we know what it’s like to see your pet in discomfort and not know the real cause. It could be something like a flea problem – so just make sure she’s treated with a vet-recommended flea treatment (these have been tested and are proven to be effective against fleas, whereas many over-the-counter products aren’t so effective). It’s also worth treating your house for fleas, as fleas will hide away in soft furnishings and then jump back onto your pet and bite. So use a household spray to treat carpets, sofas etc, paying particular attention to areas your dog spends the most time. Also wash all of her bedding on a hot wash, vacuum thoroughly etc, and make sure her worming is also up-to-date. If there are other pets in the household, make sure their flea treatment is up-to-date too. If you find she’s still having a problem, I’d recommend going back to your vet for a further check-up – they may need to do some skin tests to find out exactly what is causing her problem.

  53. Hi I have a Chocolate American Pitbull. He has been shaking his head and scratching his ears. He’s been doing a lot more shaking of his head lately more than usual? He also has allergies. Is it something in my house that’s making him shake he’s head more. Can you please help me?

    1. Hi Sharon. There are many things that can cause allergies, and you will typically see problems with ears, anal glands, feet etc in a dog with skin allergies. It’s possible that it could be an allergen within the house that’s causing him problems – some dogs are allergic to house dust mites, for example. Some dogs require a special diet to reduce allergies. I’d recommend speaking to your vet and getting him checked over – they may want to try something like an elimination diet trial to find out if it’s a food allergy, or they may recommend allergy testing to get to the bottom of the cause.

  54. My dog shakes his head every time he picks up something to eat. He puts it in his mouth.. either pauses with it in his mouth for a while then shakes his head.. then chews.. He is over 17 years old now. 🙁 Could it be his teeth or ear mites or something else please? Thanks.

    1. Hi Talia, we’d strongly advise getting him checked by a vet as soon as possible. This sounds like a dental pain and could even be an abscess. Please make an appointment to see your vet.

  55. Hi my dog has just had a operation on his rib, he has come around and is constantly whining which I think is normal but he keeps staring at my wall which I find is rather odd? Any idea why he is doing this

    1. Hi Lisa. It could be a slight after-effect of the anaesthetic if he’s feeling a little disorientated. I hope he’s doing much better now? If you’re still worried though and he’s showing any strange behaviour, I’d have a chat with your vet as they may want to see him for a check-up.

    1. Hi Nancy, we wouldn’t recommend using any home remedy for ears as it could cause more issues with the ears pH, among other things. Head shaking usually means a further problem, ear mites is the number one suspect. These can also cause secondary infections, so really you dog needs to be seen by a vet, for treatment.

  56. Hi my dog is epileptic but he is on medication for it but recently he has been shaking his head but only like 2 shakes every other 10 mins I’ve checked inside his ears and they look fine just wondering what it could be?

    1. Hi Leah,
      You would be best getting him back to the vet, they can check deeper in the ears and may also have to adjust his medication. Dave RVN

    1. The first step would probably be to very gently clean the area with salty water. If the skin underneath looks healthy and unbroken, then it’s probably just a crust of dirt and oils from the skin. Assuming that it’s not a simple scab from a small scratch (in which case it should fall off revealing healthy skin in a few days), if the crust is tightly attached to the skin, or the skin looks damaged underneath, it’s probably best to get it checked over.

  57. I have just come across your site and live in Brisbane, Australia and wondered if i could ask you a question my mother who is 88 hasyr old cav king charles and was given dermotic for mites so she was told being on a budget she wants me to obtain some from  the internet  from your comments it would appear he may have yeast infection would you be able to tell me what  would be the best medication to use and something that I would be able to buy off the internet making life a little cheaper.  I do hope I have not been a nuisance in asking you for your advice in this matter.  I will keep a note of your site and visit it more often as I to have a dog and a cat and the ifromation I have received from you has been very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Ear disease is really complicated in dogs, and there’s very rarely only one cause. Usually, there are predisposing causes (e.g. conformation), precipitating causes (e.g. ear mites) and then perpetuating causes (e.g. yeast infections). I think the most responsible approach would be to get a firm diagnosis of the exact disease process from your vet, and then go from there!

  58. I have a puggle, who is a rescue. He is “staining”, a small amount of drainage, from his anus only when snuggling me. Why does he do this when he is laying on me?

    1. The most likely explanation is excitement and/or anxiety; however, it could be a low-grade diarrhoea problem too. Is he passing normal faeces the rest of the time?

  59. I’m at my wits end. I have 2 female shorkies that are 3 months old. When I brought them to the vet for their well ck within the 10 days of getting them, they both received their booster distemper shots I didn’t notice before hand but noticed soon after the shots my Luna was scratching her ear and wining and shaking her head. I took them for their last distemper booster 4 weeks later with complaints of both my pups Luna and Nova scratching their ears and a bit of the body and shaking their heads. The vet checked their ears said they looked good gave them some cream he inserted in each of their ears. Along with that last shot pulled hair out of ears to clean and still 2 weeks later the same. Brought them back and he gave them a shot which made them a bit tired but still no change. Mine you their itching and shaking of head is not something constant but I know it’s a bother, it would bother me if every so often I was doing that. The doc gave me prednisone 1 mg for them to take every day for 30 days. After looking at the side effects I decided against it. I have spent 600. And can’t spend any more. What can I do?

    1. Unfortunately, it depends exactly what’s going on in there. This could be a sign of an underlying skin disease such as allergies; alternatively, it could be due to the conformation of their ears. There are anti-allergy drugs that have fewer side effects than steroids, but they are usually less effective and more expensive. I think you need to have a chat with your vet about what’s actually going on down there and what else you can do. I can’t recommend any specific treatments as I haven’t examined them and I don’t know what your vet’s diagnosis is.

    1. There are sadly loads of different causes! It could be an ear infection (as the blog discusses), or something like vestibular syndrome, or even a stroke. I think a chat with your vet might be a good idea.

    1. Although this could be a symptom of a health problem (ear disease or even a seizure), it could also be a bad dream! If ti keeps happening, or she shows any other symptoms, get her checked by your vet, but as a one-off I wouldn’t worry too much.

  60. My 3 month old Yorkie is have these weird little episodes, where he starts shaking his head really fast and he starts spitting a lot and his nose gets stuffy. What could it be ?

    1. There are a number of possibilities, but towards the top of my list would be either a foreign body up his nose (e.g. a grass blade or similar) or some kind of seizure. I think a vet checkup would be a good idea, to be honest.

  61. After spraying my dogs kennel… after some time it started vomiting white foam n shakin its head and being weirdly low… what might be the problem

    1. That sounds like poisoning, potentially from licking the spray – seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

  62. My german shepherd gets dirty ears and scabs on his back only in the winter what can I do. He doesnt have this problem in the summer. I clean his ears and wash him with oatmeal soap.

    1. The seasonal pattern would suggest an allergic condition – many skin allergies show up as ear problems. I’m afraid I think that’s going to need veterinary attention, as skin allergies can be really hard to get to the bottom of without professional diagnostics.

  63. Hello

    I have a mixed breed dog
    She lives outside not in the house
    But this winter we let her in
    She has about 6 years at top
    I noticed that she scratches her ears hard and she starts Whines loud It reminds me of people when their ear’s itching But can’t scratch
    So I looked it up and saw nothing, ears totally clear and fine
    She has low ears but no fur irritating And I tried to clear her ears but when I touch her inside she begin to scratch like mad. What is wrong with her ears ? ?

    1. There are lots of possible causes, but major possibilities would be war mites, allergies, or possibly mange on the ear flaps. I think a vet check is needed I’m afraid!

  64. My 10 year old terrier cross has been shaking his head and scratching his ears intermittently for about a year. The vet check his ears when’s this first started and found nothing ,prescribed some ear cleaner but that didn’t help. Subsequently the vet suggested giving him antihistamine when the problem occurs which does seem to help once it kicks in after 20mibs or so. He can be fine fro hours on end and then the itching/scratching starts again maybe once a day, occasionally 2 or three times a day but not constantly. Totally at a loss to know what to do as I’d rather find a cure than just treat the problem. Could it be an allergy?? If so, how do I get to the bottom of the problem. Thanks

    1. That does sound consistent with an allergy – unfortunately, skin allergies are quite common, and often affect the ears worst of all. There are a wide range of options, depending on how far you want to go. The “gold standard” approach would involve skin and possibly blood tests to confirm the allergens, and then medication to either control the allergy (much more effective products are now available than antihistamines which don’t really work terribly well in dogs) or even desensitise his immune system to the underlying causes (immunotherapy).
      Of course, this is likely to be expensive, so your vet will also be able to go through alternative options with you, such as “therapeutic trials” (using medication first to see if it works), or trying a dietary exclusion, etc etc.
      This does of course presume that it IS an allergic disease and not something else – from what you’ve said it sounds like your vet has ruled out other causes such as infections or mites, but it might be worth double checking with them.
      I think the most important thing is to have a chat with your vet about this and say that you’d like more workup or more aggressive treatment; this may be something they can do in the clinic, or they may need to refer you to a veterinary dermatologist, but if it’s making him miserable then I agree you’ve got to do something for him.
      Hope that helps!

  65. Ok so need help. I have a 14 year old Boston terrier for the past week she yelps when she gets off the couch. She won’t eat unless I spoon feed her and it’s only soft food. She won’t shake her head at all . She doesn’t play all she wants to do is lay around

    1. I think she needs a vet check as soon as possible – a dramatic change in behaviour and clear signs of pain mean she needs veterinary attention.

  66. hello so i have a 1 year old dog and for about a month and a half he has been scratching his ears vigorously to the point were it looks like hes hurting himself and causing red marks on himself.hes also been shaking his head alot too n i noticed that as time went on he continued to scratch and started having hair loss on the tips of his ears and the base.i took him to get seen by a vet and they said there is nothing wrong with him and that there is no really cure for what they think it is.i was wondering if anyone has some advice or any kind of cream or lotion to help sooth his itchy ness

    1. If he’s self-traumatising then there must be an underlying problem. It might be an infection, or skin allergies (which often cause itchy ears), or parasites (such as ear mites or mange), or even (very rarely) a brain injury making him think it itches. In any case, it needs a proper diagnosis. I suggest you either go bakc and say you want more tests done to determine the cause, or that you seek a second opinion from another veterinarian.

    1. There’s clearly something wrong, whether it’s ear disease or something else – call your vet for advice.

    1. There are lots of different possibilities, behavioural, hormonal and others, but ear infections are still quite likely! Give your vet a ring for advice. Many ear medications are best avoided during pregnancy, so this is time for a conversation with your vet.

  67. My dog seems very lethargic and the last couple of days as a sudden head shake like a shudder. Is this something I should worry about, she is 11 years old lhasa rapso/bischon. Is it something to do with her brain?

    1. It may be, or a severe ear infection, or any one of a number of other causes. I think she needs a vet check as soon as you can, to determine what the cause is, as lethargy + another symptom usually indicates a more severe condition.

  68. My dog has had recurrent ear infections in the past which goes away with oral ABs Amoxicillin and ear cleansers. However recently after being sent to the vets she was given 1 course of ABs Amoxicillin but it was unresoved, prescibed another ABs Cephalexin still she was the sane after a week. She is eating, drinking well. Still active and herself. But the shakes are what worries me. Could it be something else?! I have taken her to the vets 3x already. Ear is clean, no discharge, no smell. I have nit fed her chicken since cause I thought it might be allergies. My dog is a 9yo female english lab.

    1. Allergies are a the most likely possibility, but food allergies are quite uncommon. Your vet will be able to do a skin work up to look for other signs of allergic skin disease, which often present in the ears first of all.
      Alternative explanations would include ear mites, or deeper infection or damage to the middle ear; definitely time to go back to the vet and say “it’s not working, we need to look for something else”.

  69. My chihuahua/Boston terrier mix has just been to the vet a couple days ago. They check his ears and they didn’t see anything. He still proceeds to shake his head and scratch at his ears. What could this be?

    1. There are a number of possibilities, including skin allergies (which often cause itchy ears for no obvious reason, especially in the early stages), or something rarer such as neurological or jaw hinge problems. I think if it’s not resolving, a follow up conversation with your vet is needed.

  70. Why is my Pitbull puppy of about 3 1/2 months severely scared to be completely on her back and head faced to the sky as well? Also, while in this position it seems to be a lot worse for her if her belly is rubbed at the same time. She acts like she’s going to die, she try’s to force her head to at least be turned side ways parallel to the floor. She just can’t seem to handle it, I tested it to try and figure out why for a second and she literally was so scared a little poop came out. I felt horrible, and really want to know why it’s such a big fear for her. It’s odd to me because she rolls to her belly all the time and receives belly rubs. Makes no sense to me. Does anyone have any idea what the problem is?

    1. It’s a very vulnerable position; plus, many dogs find it more difficult to breathe in that position. If she’s that nervous, though, a behavioural consult might be a good idea with a good qualified force-free canine behaviourist.

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