What Is Causing My Dog’s or Cat’s Head Shaking?

Often times pet owners will come in to inquire about their pet frequently shaking their head. By far the most common cause of this historical complaint is some sort of underlying ear inflammation and/or allergy. Allergies are most commonly due to inhalant/contact allergens such as:

  • Mold
  • Grass
  • Trees
  • Dander
  • House dust
  • Pollen
  • And possible food allergies
Frequent head shaking can be the result of ear infections including inflammation and potential allergies

Many times pets with 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 pets or pets that spend most of their time outside, ear mites may also 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.
For symptomatic treatment of head shaking, antihistamines such as Benadryl (dose of one mg per pound twice daily), and using cleaning agents like Zymox Otic may often help until a definitive diagnosis can be made and long term treatment plan instituted.

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  1. Jennifer ToledanoJuly 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

    My dog is a pitbull, germanshepard mix, chunky and short legs. For a couple of years she has complained of ears itching, shaking her head, I would clean them as much as she would allow me with alcohol and peroxide, used the earmits stuff. Now they are so sore she cries out in pain, even if I push her from the side and happen to be close to particularly the worse ear. I do not know what to do, if I go to the vet it will cost me about a grand and she will bite them and they will hurt her then I will step in. vet’s are not what they used to be.

  2. Jennifer ToledanoJuly 22, 2013 at 9:40 am

    please help

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 22, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Vet visit is still suggested to have possible ear culture of ear to see if resistant bacteria or yeast in ear, which can help guide therapy. An allergy workup may be needed at vet as well as a thyroid blood test to make sure no low thyroid. You could try zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds which I have seen help many problem ears.

  4. I have a shi-thzu shnauzzer mix. he has a terrible amount of ear wax. it seems to switch sides when I treat one ear it goes to the other. I know he’s in pain and I give in baby asprin. but I have taken him to 4 different vets 125.00 each one plus their pills that don’t work, I at my wits end and wallet. please help my best friend.

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMay 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Most of time this is due to underlying allergies which tend to be recurrent if they are environmental allergies known as atopy. Food allergies less likely but may be worth exploring. If f ear wax not bothering him much, I would control the signs with a great topical medicine like zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds.

  6. Jennifer Toledano! I do not even post comments on websites but, my heart broke for your dog and I screamed when the VET said NOTHING to you about PUTTING ALCOHOL in your dogs ears. Please, please NO, NO, NO! Put it in yours first to see if it’s o.k. then do it to them. Test yoursefl first.

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