My Pug Keeps Shaking Its Head: Should I Be Concerned?

Pugs are very charming and is a breed with lots of charisma. Each individual pug will develop their own personality and will have nuances that only their owners will recognize. With that said, if your pug is acting strangely, you need to be able to pick up on these behaviors. For example, a pug suddenly shaking their head regularly can indicate a problem.

A pug may shake its head to relieve an itch in their ears. It’s considered to be normal behavior, unless it happens frequently and vigorously. This can be an indication of a more serious problem with their head or ears, and will usually require a veterinary diagnosis and medical treatment.

Owners need to be observant and recognise any unusual behaviors immediately. A pug shaking its head should trigger you to check for issues. Some conditions can be severe and may bring complications to your pet later if left untreated. It’s also important to understand how you can prevent these health issues altogether.

Possible Health Conditions Causing A Pug To Shake Its Head Constantly

As mentioned earlier, if your pug constantly shakes their head, there are reasons to be concerned. Usually, it’s a reaction to an itch or some sort of irritation. They shake their head as a way to relieve this, as they can’t use their paws to scratch it themselves. Below are some of the possible health conditions that they may be suffering from.

1. Ear Damage or Blockage

For pugs that are regularly outdoors, especially those that play and roll around the grass, foreign bodies like grass seeds can easily be lodged inside of a dog’s ears. Pugs have an upright ear canal with a horizontal bend that leads to the eardrum. This makes it easy for foreign objects to enter their ears, thus causing a blockage.

These foreign bodies may also contain allergens that can cause irritation and excessive wax production that block the ears. Sometimes, flies may also bite their ears, making them sore and irritated. If it results in wounds developing, then that might also block the ears.

2. Otitis

Otitis is one of the leading causes of head shaking in pugs. It is characterized by inflammation of the external ear due to grass seeds, mites, or wax (Fuller, 2012). Other symptoms of ear otitis include redness, swollen ears, ear scratching, discharge, and an unpleasant odor. It may also make the pug’s ears sensitive when touched.

Pugs that have experienced otitis are at risk of re-infection, and if left unattended, it can lead to permanent damage of the ears. The hearing ability of your pug may also be affected. It’s crucial that you take your dog to the vet as soon as these sympotoms are noticed.

3. Ear Vasculitis

Ear vasculitis is the inflammation of blood vessels in a dog’s ear flaps. Some of the causes of ear vasculitis are fly bites, specific food allergies, frostbite, tick-related illnesses, medicinal drugs, immunity diseases, and other environmental factors.

Ear vasculitis is characterized by red or purple spots in the ears, swelling of legs, hair loss, and itchiness to the affected areas. If a fluid-filled cysts forms, it can break when the pug shakes its head. This condition isn’t very noticeable and can be hard to spot without a veterinary eye. Therefore, you have to be very observant to identify these symptoms.

4. Hematomas

Sometimes the vigorous head shaking can lead to the formation of a hematoma in the ear. Usually, this will be the result of leaving the underlying condition untreated. The constant head shaking will cause trauma to the ears, which leads to a number of blisters forming in the ear flaps. Hematomas can also be caused by a pug overly scratching itself.

These blisters can easily rupture when a pug flaps its ears against their skull. This can be very irritating and painful for your poor dog. Hematomas can heal on its own, as long as the underlying reason for the head shaking is treated. Therefore, ensure your pug is correctly diagnosed by a vet and administered with an effective medication to make it stop shaking its head.

5. Skin Allergies

The ear canal is made up of skin lining. Therefore, when the skin is affected by specific allergens in foods or environmental triggers, the lining of the ears is no exception. Allergies will bring about discomfort in the pug’s ears, making it shake its head vigorously. Common symptoms of allergies include itchy skin, hair loss, and recurrent infection of the ears. It can sometimes be seen in addition to feet chewing and face rubbing.

6. Bacterial & Yeast Ear Infection

Bacterial and yeast infections that form in the ears can make your pug shake its head vigorously. Ear infections are itchy, and they bring about inflammation. They also make the ears produce excessive discharge, which is uncomfortable for your pug. Therefore, the pug will naturally shake its head in an attempt to get rid of the discomfort. Ear infections typically occur in pugs with long and fur-filled ears. Your pug is also at risk of ear infections if it spends a lot of time swimming. Moist areas are perfect for the growth of yeast.

7. Head Injuries

If your pug suffers an injury related to the head, it may experience discomfort, making it shake their head continuously as a response. While minor injuries may heal without being treated, it is advisable to let the vet examine the injury to determine its seriousness. Severe head injuries need to be treated to prevent future complications.

8. Ear Polyps

Polyps are growths that occur inside the ear, which can only be observed by using an otoscope. These are not necessarily cancerous, and they may not pose a significant danger to the pug. If they overgrow, they may then cause complications. When this happens, look at getting them surgically removed by a veterinarian.

How To Treat Conditions That Cause Pugs To Shake Its Head

If your pug is constantly shaking its head, there are many ways in which a veterinarian can treat the underlying conditions that’s causing this reaction.

  • Ear Blockages – First of all, if your pug is shaking its head due to ear blockages, the vet will examine its ears to see if there are foreign bodies lodged inside. If a foreign body is observed, an ear flush will be performed to get rid of it so that the pug does not experience further discomfort.
  • Inflammation – If there is only mild inflammation within the ears, you might be advised to use an ear cleaner that soothes the irritation. It is a slippery liquid that has hydrocortisone as an ingredient that has a soothing effect. After some time, you will notice that your pug will shake its head less and less, and even stop, once the irritation is reduced.
  • Ear Infections – If your pug has an ear infection, the doctor might treat it using anti-bacterial, anti-yeast, and an antiseptic which are applied topically. The ears will also undergo a thorough cleansing. In some instances, the vet may advise you to use a steroid in conjunction with oral antibiotics to help reduce the swelling.
  • Allergies – Sometimes, if the causes of an ear infection stems from certain allergies, you will be advised to change the lifestyle of your pug. For example, it can be as simple as changing the shampoo you use to bathe your pug. Medication to suppress the immune system may also be administered if the primary cause for the allergic reaction is due to diseases of the immune system. Antihistamines might also be of great help.

In some case where you pug needs emergency treatment, injectable medication will be administered. Injectable medication is suitable because it travels in the bloodstream to all parts of the body faster, making your pug heal quickly. Your pug may also be given an Elizabeth collar. This Elizabeth Collar is a collar of shame that prevents your pug from scratching itself and causing further damage.

Prevention Methods & Proper Care

Ear infections and related issues are bothersome, but most of them are easily preventable if you take good care of your pug’s ears. Grooming is part of their overall care, and I can’t understate just how important it is for their health.

You can minimize the risk of ear infections by shaving the excessive fur that grows around your pug’s ears using a unique cleanser and a clean pair of scissors. You can choose to do this once a week, or at a frequency you are comfortable with, depending on how fast your pug’s fur grows. However, make sure that you do it regularly. You might also consider getting the vet’s advice on trimming the fur carefully without causing injuries.

If your pug swims, ensure that their ears are cleaned thoroughly and dry after swimming sessions. That’s because pugs have floppy ears that trap moisture if left unattended. Moist regions are a suitable place for fungus growth, which may affect your pug’s ears after some time.

For dogs that get taken out for walks at parks, ensure that you check their ears for any particles after the walk. Grass seeds and other foreign objects can enter your pug’s ears, making it very uncomfortable for them. When this happens, you might find your pug shaking its head to get rid of the seeds leading to further complications.

Despite the cause of your pug shaking its head, you should always be concerned. When the action is constantly and vigorously repeated, it usually indicates that there is a severe problem with the ears or head. It’s advised that you treat it accordingly, so that it doesn’t escalate into a more serious issue. Additionally, maintaining proper ear hygiene for your pug, like trimming excessive fur around the ears and drying off excess water after swimming, will help prevent future ear infections.

Related Questions

Is there a home remedy for dog ear infection? Yes, mix one part apple cider vinegar with one part water, e.g. 1 tablespoon each. You can also use coconut oil as a home remedy. Dip a cotton bud in the solution and wipe it inside your dog’s infected ears. Repeat 3 times per day for about a week or until the infection clears up. These natural ingredients should be as raw, natural, and organic as possible. They contain anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

What does a dog ear infection look like? The affected area will show signs of redness and swelling. There will usually be discharge, excessive earwax, and an unpleasant odor that forms. It may also make the pug’s ears sensitive when touched.

Why is my dog shaking its head and licking their paws? This combination is usually the result of skin allergies. Symptoms of allergies include itchy skin, hair loss, and recurrent infection of the ears.


Fuller, M., 2012. Why Does My Dog… Shake His Head All of the Time?.

Winters, S., 2013. Ask a vet online – ‘My dog keeps shaking his head and scratching his ears’.

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