PetMeds® Frequent Head Shaking in Dogs

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog
A common complaint of canine guardians is why does their dog shake their head all of the time.  The most accurate explanation of such a problem usually resides in some sort of underlying allergy. The allergies can be due to inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies. If the problem is seasonal, then allergens to molds, grasses, trees, dander, house dust, mites, etc are all possible. If the problem is non-seasonal, then we are usually thinking more of a food allergy. Seasonal allergens to molds, grasses, trees, dander, house dust, mites, etc are all possible causes of allergic reactions which can cause head shaking

Many times pets will develop secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the ear canals, which may appear as red, ulcerated ears with varying amounts of discharge or odor from the ears. Often pets will need prescription antibiotics such as Mometomax or Panalog.  On other occasions, great products like Zymox-Otic HC can help as well.  Since many of these pets have allergies, trials with various anthistamines such as Benadryl or Chlorphenirimine can be tried by an animal guardian to see if they may alleviate some of the head shaking that is so annoying to guardian and pet.


  1. Bobby Baker
    Posted March 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    How safe is an antibiotic otic solution normally for humans for use on an 8 month old lab mix. The solution is neomycin and polymyxin B sulfates w/hydrocortisone. Each mL contains neomycin sulfate equivalent to 3.5 mg neomycin base. Polymyxin B equivalent to 10,000 polymyxin B units and hydrocortisone 10 mg (1%). The vehicle contains potassium metabisulfate 0.1%. Glycerin, propylene glycol, hydrochloric acid and water.

    Would this work until we can afford to get him to a vet?

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted March 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    This is fine to try until vet exam and assessment. Also consider zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds.

  3. Tani
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    You don’t mention another very significant cause of head shaking — getting fox tails caught in ears, which are very costly to remove by a Vet.

    What measures to you recommend to dog owners to prevent fox tails from getting down into the ear canal or even the nose?

    How can we get fox tails out before they get down too deep?


  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I dont see many foxtails in my area but you do bring up excellent point of these getting caught in ears in areas where they are prominent. Avoiding exposure is the best prevention. There are probably some excellent articles on this on the internet which you can google. In cases where heavy exposure occurs, vet exams are most likely needed for safe and thorough removal.

  5. debbie
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    can i clean my dogs ears out with peroxide?

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    PEroxide is ok to use but I would prefer a commercial ear cleaner like epiotic from 1800petmeds.

  7. TAMEY
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for the information!!!!

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted April 24, 2013 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    You are very welcome.

    Posted May 25, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink


  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Not sure what you mean by bad human gentak. I would check with your local vet on whether you can use this topical antibiotic.

  11. margaret
    Posted June 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    is it ok if my dog eats my cats food and won’t eat her’s.

  12. Debbie Bergey
    Posted August 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I have an 8 yr. old Chihuahua, Paco, he shakes his head but there’s no signs of ear mites, no redness or discharge. Do you suggest the ear cleanser only at this point because my Vet has never told me he has ear mites. I read where you say it could be an allergy, how much Benadryl should I give him and how often? Paco weighs approximately 12 to 14 lbs. Thanks Doc

  13. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted August 12, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Try one teaspoon of liquid childens benadryl or 1/2 of a 25 mg tablet twice daily. If no help, see vet for evaluation.

  14. Joanna
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    My 11-year old rat terrier Rosie stated shaking her head today. It was sudden; i.e. no progression into the behaviour. Because her ear canals are small, I cannot see if her ears are reddened, however she has no discharge, and there is no bad odour. There are waxy-ish dander flakes in her outer ear. I don’t know how much of this is normal. Her ears must itch, as she appreciates deep ear rubs. Any ideas? Thank you in advance.

  15. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Could be allergies either inhalent/contact allergies and/or food allergies as underlying cause, which can lead to secondary yeast or bacterial infections. Best to have vet assessment to sort this out

  16. Kim
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Dym, my frenchie keeps shaking his head. He has had an ear infection a couple times since the end of last year. I’ve given him Posatex Otic Suspension twice a day for the past couple days. Should I I follow it up with Benadryl as well? (I have a vet appt scheduled for tomorrow)

  17. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kim. Sounds like a good plan. Also consider great topical ear medicine like zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds, which can help with allergic ear inflammation, as well as secondary bacterial or yeast infections of ear

  18. Jennifer Spry
    Posted July 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Will the over the counter female vaginal yeast infection medicine, like Monostat work to clear up a yeast infection in my 70lb pitbull?

  19. Jennifer Spry
    Posted July 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    in the ears….

  20. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted July 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I would not assume yeast infection. See vet for exam and evaluation of the area, as she could have bacterial or staph infection involved as well that needs to be addressed.

  21. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted July 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I would prefer you use zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds.

  22. Posted January 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    My dogs eye looks as if it has been hit with somthing , is thier
    anything i can do at home?
    I dont have the money to go to a vet!

  23. Posted February 4, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    My Beagle has allergies and has been getting treatment for all of the near 8 years we’ve had him.. We have gone through the head shaking which did lead us to believe he needed to see the vet for allergies.. He did test positive for many allergies .. since then We have been treating him with allergy shots and certainly will continue throughout his life.. My purpose for responding to this article is to say.. allergies in dogs are no different than in humans.. get your Dog and or Cats checked .. You will be glad you did in either case.. Positive or Negative..

    Good Luck, Gail Doyle

  24. Jessica
    Posted May 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    My vet prescribed Posatex for an ear infection for both of my dog dogs. One of them is very angry with it and gets very agressive. The other when I get it in her ears, the head shaking worsens I do not believe that it is helping at all. What should I do?

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