Itchy ears and head shaking in dogs

isolated dog


  • If your dog scratches their ears or shakes their head regularly, it could be a sign of an ear or skin problem.
  • Common causes include skin allergies, ear infections and ear mites.
  • Contact your vet as soon as possible if you notice your dog head shaking/scratching their ears – the sooner the problem is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat.

What causes itchy ears and head shaking in dogs?

Most dogs shake and scratch their ears from time to time, but if your dog does it regularly, it could indicate a problem with their ears or skin, such as:

For more information, read our articles on Ear Problems in Dogs and Skin Problems in Dogs.

When to contact your vet

If you’ve noticed your dog scratching their ears or shaking their head more regularly than usual, contact your vet as soon as possible. The sooner the problem is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. Let your vet know if you have noticed any other symptoms such as itchy skin or loss of balance.

Head tremors

It’s important to know the difference between a head shake and a head tremor. A head shake is when your dog shakes their head on purpose, usually because of pain, an itch, or some sort of irritation. A head tremor is a shake that your dog can’t control, usually caused by a problem with the nervous system or inner ear. If your dog develops a head tremor, contact your vet straight away.

Published: August 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.