Head Tilting in Dogs
Is a normal movement but if it becomes excessive it has passed the normal stage

Head tilting in dogs can be a simple sign of curiosity or a playful act on the part of your dog, or it can be a sign that there is something very seriously wrong with your pet.

If it is just an occasional sign there is nothing at all to worry about.


However, it could be the first sign that you will see that something is wrong with your dog’s vestibular system.

If it persists, it can over time, be the cause of your dog falling, rolling, or beginning to circle for no explained reason.

If it becomes serious, it may even cause what is referred to as nystagmus, which is a very strange jerky movement of the eyes.

A persistent head tilting in dogs or the turning of their head from one side to the other is usually an indication that your pet’s vestibular system has been affected.

The vestibular system in your dog serves the body functions of both balance and equilibrium.

It accomplishes this task by automatically assessing the head and the body movement relative to their position in space.

It than generates a neural code with this information and distributes it to several sites along your dog’s central nervous system.

These functions in most every case are largely done by reflex and are considered unconscious functions until they are disrupted.

The major part of this system is located in your dog’s inner ear and it is a very delicate sense organ that is entirely surrounded by hard bone that is located at the base of your pet’s skull.

It acts as the main connection between the brain and the auditory and vestibular nerves.

The inner ear is also very closely associated with the middle and external ear.

It is usually an infection of some type of the inner or the middle ear that will cause a disruption in this natural process and cause head tilting in dogs.

However, there are is another potentially dangerous cause that may show up in the symptoms.


Head tilting in dogs can be the first actual symptom that you may see of a very serious underlying medical condition, other than just an inner or middle ear infection.

There are also several different symptoms that you can watch for that your dog is developing this condition.

In most cases, the symptoms will start out very slow and increase in their gravity, but like coughing in dogs, the symptoms may also develop very rapidly.

DobermansEar infections are not the only cause of head tilting in dogs

The first set of symptoms that you will see with head tilting in dogs will be an obvious tilt of your pets head from one side or the other.

But this will not be a normal tilt that is playful or curious in nature. As the tilting becomes persistent, they may than start to fall, circle, or roll.

Most all of these actions will be in the same direction as the head tilt.

If this does start to happen, very quickly check your dog’s ears for redness as well as for any type of pain.

If the actual cause is from an ear infection, touching your dog’s ears will be very painful to them.

The next set of symptoms that usually surface are both nausea and vomiting caused by the lack of balance that your dog is now suffering from.

However, there are two other symptoms that may also develop and they may give some insight into other possible causes of the head tilting.

The first will be mild to severe pain in your dog when trying to chew anything or simply in opening their mouth.

The second is a condition known as nystagmus, which is a rhythmic and oscillating movement of the eyes.

This can be a very frightening experience for any owner and equally as frightening for your dog.

This to-and-from motion is an involuntary action that will occur in vertical movements. However, although not nearly as common, these movements may also be horizontal.

This symptom can look like your dog is possessed by something as it can be that frightening.

Although it not always associated with serious brain damage that is one of the major causes of this terrifying symptom and it can appear very rapidly after the initial head tilting in your dog.


Vestibular symptoms that are causing this head tilting in dogs to occur will have two major causes: the inner or middle ear, or the brain.

For this reason, it will be very important to document the occurrences as well as the frequency in assisting your veterinarian in quickly identifying the actual problem.

If it is a brain disease of some type, time is of the essence.

The most common cause is an infection of your dog’s middle or inner ear as the result of bacterial infections or by ear mites.

Although ear mites are more common in cats, they also affect dogs and they spread very rapidly form direct contact with another infected dog.

They can cause inflammatory symptoms much like bacterial or yeast infections, and will cause intense itching in your dog.

However, there is one other cause that a lot of owners are not aware of; grass seed.

As all owners can attest to, your dog loves to roll in the grass. If you have recently seeded your lawn and your dog suddenly develops head tilting, this may be the cause.

The next major cause of head tilting in dogs is from Geriatric Canine Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome and this affects older dogs.

It is referred to as idiopathic simply because in most cases there is no ear infection, no brain problems, and as a result, no actual known cause known, adding to its mystic.

It may have no cause, but it still is a very painful ordeal for your dog.Ototoxicity, which is a reaction to a drug or a chemical, may also be the potential cause.

If your dog has been given a new medication for whatever reason, and they suddenly start to tilt their heads, bring this to your veterinarian’s attention as quickly as possible.

Encephalitis, which is the inflammation of your dog’s brain, usually caused by a viral infection or a hypersensitivity to a virus, may also be the cause.

Some of the diseases that may be the underlying cause include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Blastomycosis, and Coccidiomycosis.

However, the underlying cause may also be a tumor or a developing cancer that is affecting your dog’s ears or their brain.


Head tilting in dogs is something that all owners will see in and is nothing alarming and can actually be cute, unless it becomes obvious that it is not just a gesture.

Once it starts to persist and your dog shows any of the symptoms, time may be of the essence for your dog, especially if they develop rapid and frightening eye movements.

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