Why Does My Golden Retriever Keep Shaking His Head? 9 Causes & Solutions


Your dog moves a lot through the day, and you just can’t keep track of their every movement. We can’t even do that for our human children.

However, there are some things you notice them doing for the first time and then become worried or concerned – which is exactly what I was after I noticed that my golden was constantly shaking their head.

So, before jumping to any conclusion, I did some research. Here is what I found out.

Why does my golden retriever keep shaking his head? Your golden retriever might be shaking his head because something is itchy due to yeast infection, inflammation of the ear canal, allergies, bacterial infection, or skin irritation. It could also be that something is trapped in their ears such as insects, grass, or water.

These are just a few of the possible reasons if you want to learn further about why your dog is shaking his head, just keep on reading. 

9 Causes Why Your Golden is Shaking Their Head Constantly 

Golden retriever puppy to illustrate why does my golden retriever keep shaking his head

Here are the 9 possible reasons why your golden retriever could be shaking their head.

  1. Yeast or bacterial infection 
  2. Ear polyps 
  3. Parasites
  4. Hematomas 
  5. Skin allergies 
  6. Ear vasculitis 
  7. Otitis 
  8. Head trauma 
  9. Irritant trapped in the ear 

Let’s discuss each of these causes quickly and see how they could be affecting your dog in different ways that leads them to keep shaking their head and find out when you need to worry and when you really should take them to the vet.

Yeast or bacterial infection 

Yeast and bacterial infection are some of the most common conditions that dogs can have especially golden retrievers because of their floppy ears. You can learn more about your golden’s floppy ears here and what else they are prone to).

Bacterial infections such as Malassezia dermatitis and yeast dermatitis are caused by the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis, the yeast is found on the skin or in their ears and it can cause inflammation of the skin.

Symptoms of yeast and bacterial infections 

  • Vomiting 
  • Itchiness (which will make them shake their head)
  • Fever 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Lethargy 
  • Crusted skin on their ear flap
  • Yellow, brown, or bloody discharge 
  • Loss of balance 
  • Odor 
  • Loss of hair around the ear 
  • Loss of hearing 
  • Tilting or head shaking 
  • Redness 
  • They will walk in circles 
  • Swelling 
  • Abnormal eye movement 

If you see these symptoms, you should probably take them to the vet and have them check it out and they will probably give the dog something for it. They should stop shaking their heads when the medications start to kick in.

Ear polyps

Ear polyps are abnormal growth within their ear canal.

Most of the growths of the ear are attached to the lining of their ear canal by a stalk and it’s divided into two kinds of tumors.

It’s usually ceruminous gland adenomas which comes from the wax-producing glands in their ears.

Symptoms of ear polyps 

  • Itchiness 
  • Odor 
  • Redness in the ear
  • Head shaking 
  • Their ear will be extra waxy 
  • They will be in pain (and will not let you come close their ears or head)

If they scratch their head or shake it hard they can cause a blood blister or “ ear hematoma”.

Parasites

Parasites in your dog’s ears can also cause them to constantly shake their heads.

Parasites and ear mites live on the surface of their ears and usually can be found on their ear canal.

They are highly contagious and they can easily get it from another dog or any pet they come in close contact with.

Symptoms of parasites 

  • Vomiting 
  • Weight loss
  • Dull coat 
  • Scooting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Decreased activity 
  • Distended abdomen 

Hematomas

Hematomas is a localized mass of blood that is confined within an organ or tissues. In this case, it’s likely to be inside their ears.

Several things can cause it, and one of them is actually the head-shaking itself. Most likely they are caused by injury in the head or any trauma in their head.

Hematoma can be invisible because it can happen deep inside the body, it can be resolved by itself and overtime as the blood debris is removed and their blood vessel wall is repaired by the mechanism in their body. 

Symptoms of hematoma 

  • Swelling 
  • Ear scratching 
  • Pain 
  • Redness 
  • Head shaking 
  • Head tilt 
  • Irritated ear 

Skin allergies

If your dog ate or came close to something they are allergic to they will scratch because one of the side effects is itchiness and it will lead to lots of head shaking.

Skin allergies in dogs

  • Hives 
  • Swelling in their ears 
  • Vomiting 
  • Itchiness 
  • Redness and inflamed ears 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Sneezing  
  • Runny eyes 
  • Constant licking
  • Chronic ear infections  

Some golden retrievers are more sensitive to allergens than others, and some of them can be a bit sensitive to some things but not necessarily allergic to them. You can learn more about this in my post on golden retrievers sensitive skins here.

Ear vasculitis

This is an uncommon disorder but still can happen. They are lesions that consist of purpura, well-demarcated ulcers, sloughing of necrotic tissue, erythema, and crusts.

Their tail, footpads, and pinnae can be affected as well.

Symptoms of ear vasculitis 

  • Ringing in their ears 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness 
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Joint pain 
  • Poor balance 
  • Cramping 
  • Weight loss

Otitis 

Otitis is the most common disorder of the ear canal in dogs, it occurs when the layer of cells that line their external ear canal becomes inflamed.

Symptoms of otitis 

  • Odor
  • Redness
  • Scratching 
  • Scaly skin 
  • Increased discharge 
  • Headshaking 
  • Swelling 

Head trauma

Head traumas can make your golden retriever shake his head to relieve pain which will only make it worse but that won’t stop them from shaking their head.

If they had recently been injured in the head, experienced an inner ear infection, or a stroke, the chemicals or toxins can affect their nervous system and make their behavior abnormal. Some other symptoms may show such as temporary blindness.

Of course, if you noticed anything like that, you should contact your vet immediately. 

Symptoms of head trauma 

  • Loss of  consciousness 
  • Bleeding from ears 
  • Lethargy 
  • Rigid or flaccid limbs
  • Confusion
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Seizures 
  • Coordination problems 
  • Differences in pupil size 
  • Abnormal eye movements 
  • Walking difficulty 

Irritant trapped in the ear 

Golden retrievers, or any dog with floppy ears, can have troubles in their ears because things can more easily get trapped inside of them such as grass, water, dirt, ear mites, or really anything that’s small enough.

This will make their ear sore and can be painful for them and they will not let you touch their ears or their head because it hurts.

Symptoms 

  • Head shaking 
  • Pawing at their ears 
  • Redness 
  • Whining 
  • Brown or yellowish discharge 
  • Odor 

If you notice any or few of these symptoms, you need to contact their vet.

7 Ways To Help Your Dog

Here are 7 treatments to help your dog to stop shaking their head.

  1. Ear mite treatment 
  2. Surgery might be required 
  3. Prescribed antibiotics 
  4. Ear wash 
  5. Cleaning their ear canal ( it might be painful if they have a severe problem if they do not let you touch their ears or head, do not clean and take them to the vet instead)
  6. Prescribed anti-inflammatory tablets 
  7. Topical ear drops 

Why Does Your Dog Keep Twitching Their Head? 

Your dog might be suffering from bacterial or yeast infection, inflammation of their ear canal, skin allergies that made them itchy, or irritants trapped in their ears such as water, insects, and grass.

Related Questions 

Why does my dog keep shaking their head even though their ears are clean? 

Your dog could be shaking his head because of ear mites that might exist in their canal and you will not be able to see it or any other parasite, also it can be a hematoma, otitis, ear vasculitis, or allergies. 

Why does my dog keep shaking his head at night? 

Your dog might be shaking his head at night because of anxiety, if your dog is afraid of thunder, fireworks, or any loud noises then the night isn’t their favorite time of the day, they can react to things that scare them by shaking and shivering, you can contact your vet to work it out.

Why does my dog shake his head when he barks? 

If your dog shakes his head when he barks then he might be suffering from inner ear problems such as allergies, ear mites, and ear infections, some of them can be solved by cleaning their ear and the other will need medical care from their vet.

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Helpful Sources

Head Shaking in Dogs: When to Worry

My Dog Keeps Shaking His Head! What Does That Mean?

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