Why Does My Dog Move His Head Side To Side?

Dogs often exhibit quirky behavior, so weird head movements aren’t new. For example, canines will shake, tilt, and bob their heads for a variety of reasons. But why does my dog move his head side to side? In this post, we will discuss this behavior, what causes it, and when you should worry.

As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our dogs are in good condition. So if you notice this behavior on your pet, you should check the points we discussed below.

NOTE: These points are only suggestions from pet owners. If you suspect that your dog has a serious health problem, you should call a veterinarian for professional advice.

Why does my dog move his head side to side?

If you noticed that your dog is moving its head side to side in an uncontrollable fashion, the following might be the reasons why:


why does my dog move his head side to side

Moving its head side to side might be your dog’s way of removing something that’s causing discomfort. Such movement will stop once the irritant has been removed. It’s worth checking what’s bothering your dog, so you can help get rid of it.

Under this potential cause, your dog will have full control over its head movement. If not, you should consider the next possible explanations.

🐶Ear infection

An ear infection will cause your dog to shake its head repeatedly. Some dogs will move their heads side to side in an effort to ease the discomfort on their ears.

Aside from head movement, canines with ear infections will scratch their ears incessantly. It’s also accompanied by a bad smell emanating from the ears as well as a dark discharge.

Crusting and scabs around the ear area may also form due to scratching and dryness. And if not treated right away, ear infections can cause ear damage and other health problems.

Ear infections are often due to trapped moisture. It can be triggered by haphazard grooming or failure to dry your dog after it plays on the sprinkler or rain. Allergies, endocrine disorders, and autoimmune disorders can also cause recurring ear infections in canines.

Overall, ear infections are easy to prevent and treat. A veterinarian can prescribe an ear cleaning solution that will help flush out dirt from your dog’s ears. Once the infection clears up, the side-to-side movement of your canine’s head should also stop.

🐶Vestibular disease

Vestibular disease is a non-progressive condition, but it’s also sudden and unexplained. As it’s called, this condition is often triggered by a problem in the canine’s vestibular system or its ears. This is also called canine vertigo due to the symptoms that the dog experiences.

Unlike ear infections alone, the vestibular disease won’t always have any signs of irritation. Instead, the condition will manifest as poor balance, incoordination, circling in a single direction, and side to side movements of the head. Some canines will also prefer sleeping on hard surfaces and will display rapid eye movement even when awake.

Moreover, the vestibular disease can be triggered by many potential reasons. Veterinarians point to tumors, physical trauma, perforated eardrum, and even ear infections itself.

Also, vets often diagnose this condition on older dogs. Breeds like Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds are at high risk of developing this problem later in life.

Fortunately, most cases of vestibular disease are not painful and not life-threatening. Some cases will clear up on their own in a few days. However, if the symptoms persist, it’s best to consult the veterinarian again.


Like humans, canines can also suffer from stroke. This can lead to loss of balance, side to side head movement, strange eye movements, and fainting. Moreover, dogs with this condition will also wander in circles and not respond to any commands.

Moreover, canine stroke often occurs in older dogs, though younger ones aren’t fully invincible. Aside from that, dogs with Cushing’s disease, kidney problems, hypertension, and bleeding disorders are more likely to suffer a stroke.

Your dog’s recovery from stroke highly depends on the extent of the condition and how fast treatment will be given. So if you notice any potential stroke symptoms on your dog, you should bring it to the vet right away.

Veterinarians will have to identify if the stroke is cardiac or neurologic in nature. This will affect the type of treatment your dog will receive.

Overall, the stroke itself can’t be prevented. It’s the underlying cause that you and the veterinarian have to deal with. Also, old dogs are more likely to experience recurring strokes due to their age and declining health. 

🐶Idiopathic head tremors (IHT)

why does my dog move his head side to side

If the veterinarian can’t find any reason for your dog’s side-to-side head movement, it might be ruled out as idiopathic head tremors (IHT). Idiopathic means that the cause of the condition is unknown. And since it can’t be diagnosed, no treatment can cure the condition.

The only consolation on this health problem is its benign nature. It’s not life-threatening or painful, but it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient for dogs. Unfortunately, it will also impede your dog’s good quality of life.

Each IHT episode can last for around 5 minutes. However, some canines can also experience episodes that can stretch for a whole hour. The good thing is that affected dogs remain alert, responsive, and conscious despite the tremor episodes.

Breeds like Bulldogs and Doberman Pinschers are observed to be at higher risk of IHT. Nonetheless, any dog can suffer from this health problem.

Unfortunately, no treatment is available for idiopathic head tremors. Vets can prescribe anticonvulsants to at least reduce the occurrence of head tremors. However, it won’t stop your dog from having tremor episodes.

Comforting your dog during the episodes will also help reduce the stress it brings. Vets also say that distracting your dog during tremors using food and toys can help reduce muscle spasms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do head tremors in dogs go away?

A: Dog tremors that are idiopathic in nature won’t go away on their own. Also, most canines with this condition won’t respond to any treatment. And since it’s idiopathic, veterinarians aren’t sure about the actual cause of the tremors or head tilting.

Q: Why does my dog shake its head upon waking up?

A: Canines will shake and stretch to loosen up their joints. Since their heads have been in a stationary position for long periods, a good shake can help awaken their muscles. This is completely normal and shouldn’t be a cause of concern.

Q: Why is my dog acting weird with head shaking?

A: Uncontrollable head shaking might be a sign of poisoning in canines. It can also be a symptom of kidney problems as well as a serious injury. If the head shaking is accompanied by limping, vomiting, and lethargy, it’s best to bring your dog to the veterinarian.

Q: Why is my dog acting weird all of a sudden?

A: Weird behavior like head moving side to side, disorientation, confusion, and limping are potential signs of neurological problems. It’s best to get your dog examined by a veterinarian if the symptoms aren’t going away.

Q: Why is my dog’s head wobbling and falling over?

A: A wobbly head can be a sign of various health problems in dogs. It can be a symptom of stroke, poisoning, infection, and physical trauma. This symptom must be taken seriously as delays in treatments can lead to a permanent disability in dogs.

Final words

Why does my dog move his head side to side? It can be anything from mild discomfort, ear infection, or vestibular disease. However, it can also be something serious like stroke or idiopathic head tremors. Whatever it is, you should consult the vet, so your dog will receive proper treatment as necessary.

Did any of these happen to your dog? Share your experience with us!

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