Managing Head Shaking Symptoms in Pets

Head shaking is a common symptom of ear inflammation which could be caused by allergies or an ear infection Head shaking is a very common concern I receive from pet owners with various size pets. In many cases, the cause of this historical complaint is due to some sort of underlying ear inflammation and/or allergy.  Allergies are most commonly due to inhalant/contact allergens such as molds, grasses, trees, dander, house dust, pollen, as well as possible food allergies.

Many times underlying allergies may lead to secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections of the ears, which often result in excessive wax or discharge and thus secondary head shaking.  In younger or outdoor pets, ear mites may be an underlying cause of head shaking, and these need to be ruled out by veterinary exam and/or evaluation of discharge under the microscope.

To help treat the symptoms of head shaking in your dog or cat, I recommend antihistamines such as Benadryl (dose of one mg per pound twice daily) and using cleaning agents like Zymox Otic which may help until a definitive diagnosis can be made and long term treatment plan instituted with your pet’s veterinarian.

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31 Comments

  1. Hi,

    My dog is 3 years old. He started with head shaking last year. Our vet suggested us to take distemper test which was negative. He suggests that he might be having seizures and we are giving him a dose of Prolepsy. However, I do not think that he has any seizure problem, because, the head shake comes randomly and just last for 2-3 days. I read your post and I think he has some kind of allergy, but the cause is not known. Furthermore when his head shakes happens he starts salivating and tries to bite its tail / groin region.

    I am not understanding the cause. Any help / suggestion will be really appreciated. Thanks in Advance.

    Regards,

    Hitesh

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 9, 2014 at 3:55 am

    It would seem that a competent local vet should be able to distinguish between allergy symptoms and seizure symptoms. If you are in doubt, I would have a second opinion from another local vet in your area, or you should video the symptoms you have observed to show to you your local vet, so that way he or she can make determination whether behavior you see is allergic or seizure related.

  3. We have a 7 yr old black lab. 95lbs. He has been to the vet several xs for ear problems. He shakes his head, whines, runs around the house all crazy, licks his feet & wipes his ears, rubs his ears on the furniture so hard he moves our recliners & love seat. The vet gave us medicated drops, cleaning drops, oral meds & put some kind of packing stuff in each ear that eventually comes out. We just keep taking him back & the ear problems do not go away. We even switched to grain free food & $18 a bag Salmon treats. All that did was make his stool like water & he was miserable. We switched his food & the stool problem went away but we can’t fix his ears. Please help!!!!!

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I would see a veterinary dermatologist as most labs with chronic ear issues usually have some sort of underlying inhalent/contact allergies which is called atopy. Unless these underlying allergies addressed, the problem will recur. Blood and/or skin testing many be an option to identify these allergens. There are drugs like apoquel and atopica which also may help treat underlying allergies. A hydrolyzed protein diet may help such as Royal Canine HP diet.

  5. My dog has ear mites it is 2:46 in the morning. I have medicine from the vet, but she told us to clean it out first.
    We have no stores that are open to pick up anything. Is
    there anything I can use to clean the ears first?

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    A 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water is fine to use in the ears for cleansing.

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