Why does my Labrador keep shaking his head?


If you spend quality time with your four-legged friend, you can quickly detect and differentiate between simple ear-flapping and persistent head shaking. Well, apart from signaling “no” to their beloved masters and the casual headshake after being in the water, the Labrador retrievers may shake their head to relieve themselves from minor irritations, itching or stings. Without fingers to rub away the offenders, there is very little that your poor pooch can do to ease the itch.

However, constant shaking of the head is a cause for alarm, and you might just need to take your furry, feathered friend for a visit to the veterinary. Continuous head shaking means that there could be something bothering his ears and bringing him discomfort and probably pain.

Why are Labradors prone to ear infections?

As cute, agile and chubby they may seem, Labrador Retrievers and other dog breeds with flaps that cover their ear canals are somewhat prone to ear problems than dogs with pricked up ears. There is simple reasoning associated with this–since the floppy ears create a warm, darker and challenging-to-clean habitat where germs and other unwanted foreigners can grow and flourish.

Individual Labradors with very hairy and narrow ear canals may also fall under a particular disadvantage. Generally, Labradors are prone to various ear challenges including allergies, but if your lab is up and well, you don’t need to panic.

That doesn’t mean that yours will be infected of course. There are a number of distinct possibilities that could be the prime reason for your Labrador’s constant head shaking.

By the way, if you’re wondering when your Labrador will be fully grown – check out the article (opens in a new tab).

Dirty Ears

Did it ever hit you that your beloved pet could just be calling for some good time shower? Maybe not, because dogs do not like showering anyway, and in as much as they don’t like it, they just find themselves letting out by shaking their dirty heads and ears continuously.

Additionally, some dogs know and feel it when they are dirty, and since they cannot pick some earbuds and toss them inside their ears, they will simply let you know by flapping and shaking their heads regularly. Wax build-up mainly makes your hound very agitated and uncomfortable.

A simple way to do this is to flush the ears using vegetable oil, but if you don’t like your doggy getting all oiled up, you can directly purchase a commercial ear cleaner which will arguably do the job.

Ear Mites

Why are Labradors prone to ear infections?

This is one of the biggest culprits, but the good news is that you can quickly tell when your pooch has ear mites. When ear mites attack dogs, they don’t just flap and shake their head; they also try to scratch their ears with their paws (sometimes too fiercely that it causes bleeding).

Although mites have a short life span of three weeks, they reproduce in multiples, and their offsprings continue to propagate in your canine’s ears and if left untreated, may pass it other pets mostly cats.

These nasty little pests are typically dangerous to dogs and can take over your dog’s inner and outer ear canal and may lead to severe damage if left untreated. If you suspect your lab is shaking his/her head too much or trying to scratch his ears, consider taking him to the vet, and your pet will thank you for it. Alternatively, you can get an over the counter remedy to treat the pooch yourself.

Otitis

Otitis is a chronic inflammation on your dog’s external ear canal. It is primarily caused by parasites, food allergies, foreign bodies, drug reactions, dead skin build-up, accumulation of hair or bacteria and fungi infections. Otitis is more common in Labrador retrievers and other floppy-eared dog breeds than other small-eared dogs.

Otitis is usually characterized by constant shaking of the head, bad odor, and scratching, and when you look closely, you may notice some swelling and redness of the external ear canal or an obstruction of the ear canal and scaling skin.

If your dog is used to playing, you may notice him moaning with relief once you rub him around the ears or yet yelp away in pain from a slight touch. Another red flag to alert you about your canine’s present condition is the discharge in the ears—a nasty smell wafting from inside the ear canal.

Otitis is treatable, and this heavily depends on your dog’s condition. The veterinary may conduct various tests like hearing evaluation, inflammation, mites, color discharge and the discharge odor, to come up with the right treatment.

Ear Hematomas

Sometimes that head-shaking thing can create other problems. Constant head shaking allows the tender ears to slap against the skull of your pooch which causing the blood vessels within the pinna to break open forming a pocket of blood. This pocket of blood is known as the hematoma. Hematoma may not be painful and will most often gear more head shaking.

In other cases, the hematoma may be caused by insect bites such as mosquito bites or tick bites. Regardless of the cause, the feeling irritates the dog and makes him shake his head more often. The harder and more frequent the shaking, the more severe and aggravative the situation becomes and at this juncture, only your veterinary can save your domestic carnivore friend.

That’s the reason why you need to look after and pay a lot of attention to your pet’s behavioral changes—that’s if you don’t want to end up seeing your four-legged all-time friend in a hospital theatre. If your pooch is shaking his head more frequently than usual, book an appointment for him to be checked as early as possible to prevent any chances of developing the head shake into a hematoma.

Vasculitis

Labrador retrievers are often susceptible to ear vasculitis—an inflammation of the ear vessels in the pinna or the ear flap. This condition can be triggered by many things including insect bites, environmental factors, immune disorders and other conditions associated with lifestyle. The problem manifests itself at the thick outer margins of the ears, which later become ulcerated and eventually crust over. Dogs with these lesions often shake their heads to get rid of pain, irritation or discomfort causing the scabs to break open and bleed.

Allergies

Why are Labradors prone to ear infections?

Just like we human beings, dogs also have allergies. It could be from your new perfume, the food you give them, cold water, hot water, dander or debris, neck peg, dust, or even weather. Sometimes your pet may just be battling a new allergy which can cause extreme itchiness and discomfort making him shake his head and scratch to relieve it.

Additionally, pets are susceptible to their environment, and if abruptly switched from their usual habitats, they may develop allergies. For example, if you move from the countryside and settle in the city, your dog might take some time to adjust to the new environment. The city’s loud music may not go well with your Labrador who was used to a quiet environment. He may react in different ways among them headshaking.

Yeast or fungal infection

Infections caused by fungi or yeast are common in Labradors since their floppy low hanging ears provide room and the necessary environment for yeast and fungi to thrive. Yeast or fungi proliferate where there are warmth and darkness. They also appreciate it more if the host is particularly allergic to them.

A study conducted in 2002 showed that dogs with an allergy to trees, mold or cultivated plants were in higher risks of suffering from ear and skin yeast infection than those who did not have allergies at all. Although yeast infections are treatable, they can be a pain in the neck to your beloved pet. You know how destructive a yeast infection can be, it won’t allow you to enjoy playing comfortably with your pet because of that unpleasant and unwelcoming smell coming from the ears.

Foreign matter in the ear

If your pet is the life of the party in your home, he may want to shed off some energy and try new adventures like running in woody places with tall wooded grass, ponds, and creeks or dog parks. There’s always a chance he or she may pick some foreign substance which may cause him or her to shake his head more than usual.

This could be bits of leaves, pollen grains, dirty water or sand. When this matter finds their way in your dog’s ear and go unnoticed, they may cause some discomfort to your tyke, and the longer it stays, the higher the chances of turning into an infection.

Be keen enough to check your pet’s ears after some good time of rigorous rolling and playing outside, for these foreign materials before they can become a severe problem for your pooch.

Hormonal imbalance

Why are Labradors prone to ear infections?

Scientists have discovered that hormonal imbalance can actually cause head shaking in dogs. This could be an issue with the increase or decrease in testosterone and estrogen, the thyroid gland or the increase and decrease in insulin. Your dog may show signs of hormonal imbalance through blackhead, darkened skin, soft or dry brittle fur, and itching.

Our communication systems with our pets may be entirely different and solely depends on how much time we spend with them and how affectionate we are towards them. Since they do not speak, it’s up to us to observe any unusual behavior, such behaviors like the persistent shaking of the head may turn out to be a severe problem and if detected and treated early may save your pet.

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences and those of my family and friends .

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