Home » Dog Care Tips » Dog Scratching Ear And Shaking Head At Night? (Vet Answers)

Dog Scratching Ear And Shaking Head At Night? (Vet Answers)

Pawscessories is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

If you’ve noticed your dog scratching their ears and shaking their head, specifically at night, you’ve come to the right place.

I did some digging online to find the possible reasons for this behavior at night. 

I also spoke with my father, Dr. Littlejohn, the previous owner of the Kennedy Road Vet Hospital to see what his thoughts were. This post contains everything I found.

In this post you’ll discover:

  • 9 reasons dogs scratch their ears and shake their head at night
  • Tips for helping your dog reduce their itchy ears at night
  • The only 3 things you need to do to prevent future ear problems
dog scratching ear and shaking head at night

Why Dogs Scratch Their Ears & Shake Their Head At Night

Why a dog may shake their head or scratch their ears comes down to a number of things.

However, when they are specifically doing this at night a few of these reasons may be more likely than others.

Here is a list of 9 reasons your dog may be scratching their ear and shaking their head at night:

1) Ear Mites 

An ear mite is a small insect that can live in your dog’s ear canal. They are kind of like mini vampires that suck your dog’s blood.

If your dog is scratching their ear and it’s just at night ear mite may be the culprit.

Ear mites are most active at night so throughout the day your pup may not notice them.

A good indication of ear mites is head shaking and ear scratching, but it can be hard to fully diagnose on your own.

You may notice some black waxy material from the ear, this is blood.

The best solution to this problem is to go to your vet, however, you can also try some at home remedies.

Since mites are most active at night you want to treat them before bed.

Here’s how you can use olive oil for ear mites:

You can put olive oil in your dog’s ear every other night for 6 weeks. 

I cannot tell you an exact amount you will need since dog ears are different shapes and sizes.

It has to be enough to drown the mites. Make sure all of the inside of the ear is coated. You do not want to use an excessive amount.

The idea is to drown the mites. Your first treatment should kill the adult mites.

New mites will hatch over the next 6 weeks so this is why you continue to treat their ears with olive oil.

After 6 week they should all be gone (so long as you follow the instructions).

2) Bacterial Or Yeast Infection

These are ear conditions that can be quite irritating to your dog.

Bacterial and yeast infections of the ear affect the skin inside the ear of the canal.

Since a dog’s ear canal is in the shape of an “L” moisture and bacteria can get stuck down there.

This is especially true for breeds with big floppy ears.

Now why would an infection bother them more at night?

Ear infections actually worsen at night. This is true for children and the same goes for dogs. At night the pressure in the ear is at its greatest.

So a dog scratches their ears and shakes their head much more at night because of this.

If you lift up your dog’s ear and see redness and swelling, or discharge, it’s likely an infection.

Just remember, an infection can be deep in a dog’s ears so it’s not always as easy to diagnose.

That’s why it’s always best to see your vet to make sure.

3) Itchiness Due To Allergies

Dog ear inflammation

Dogs get allergies that can cause itchiness in their ears, infections, head shaking etc. 

In fact, the reason your dog may be scratching their ears at night could be because their allergies get worse then.

Perhaps something where they sleep is triggering an allergy at night which is causing their discomfort.

They may have an allergy to their bed, or something around their sleeping area. If your dog has a skin allergy whatever they’re laying on it might be irritating them at night.

You can also try changing out their bed, using a different detergent on your bed (if they sleep with you), etc.

You may need to experiment to see if something in the environment is triggering something.

Also it might not even be from the environment, it could also be from their food.

Food allergies can cause a dog to scratch their ears and shake their head at night.

A few dog owners on mumsnet.com discussed this exact problem where their dogs scratch their ears and shake their heads but only at night.

Here is part of the conversation:

“My springer dog is shaking her head at night like something is irritating her. She also drags her head on our carpet. Has anyone else experienced this? “


“Our boxer shakes his head at night…but he has a yeast allergy & even when it’s kept well on top of, his ears sometimes irritate him (mainly at night) & he starts flapping about like crazy. Have you tried diet?”


So ask your vet about possible allergies as they can be the main reason a dog will get itchy at night.

4) Irritant Trapped In Ear 

Grass seed, water, or Insects are a few examples of irritants that can be trapped in your dog’s ears.

The reason this would bother them more at night might be due to the discomfort when trying to sleep.

During the day they might be distracted and since they are moving around a lot more the irritant isn’t noticed.

At night when they are trying to sleep for an extended period of time it might be more noticable for them.

5) Inflammation Of Ear Canal

If your dog is scratching its ear and shaking his head at night, they may have an inflamed ear canal.

Inflammation can be caused by a number of things such as, overproduction of earwax, infection, allergies, mites, trauma (hitting their ear on something), etc.

This might be bugging your dog more at night because it hurts for them to lay on their ear.

Plus, as mentioned in the section on infections, at night pressure can increase in the ear, making it more uncomfortable than throughout the day.

Your vet will often prescribe topical drops to put in their ear, an oral antibiotic or an antifungal if needed. 

6) Aural Hematoma

If your dog has been scratching their ear and shaking their head at night they might have given themself an aural haematoma.

A aural hematoma is a collection of blood built up in the cartilage of your dog’s ear and skin. 

It usually happens from self-inflicted injury from scratching and shaking.

This is usually a secondary effect that developed due to another ear problem that caused your dog to do this to themselves.

It can happen from dog fights, or other forms of trauma as well.

An aural hematoma will make the scratching and head shaking worse at night.

There are two types of treatment, the first involves surgical drainage or needle draining under general anesthetic.

The second is with antibiotics, steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs.

8) Other Ear Problems

dog tick causing irritation

At this point, most of the most common things that cause a dog’s scratching and shaking are covered.

However, there are a few other things that may bother your dog’s ears.

Here is a list of them:

  • Too much ear wax
  • Hairy ear flap
  • Ear polyps
  • Ticks 
  • Fleas
  • Seborrhea

9) Habit

Some dogs may do this out of habit and for no reason other than that.

They have gotten used to scratching and shaking their head before bed.

You can never know for sure if this is the case until you have taken them for a full examination and exhausted all other options.

Important Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice regarding dogs. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you’re concerned about your dog scratching their ear and shaking their head at night, contact a veterinarian online today to get your questions answered.

dog shaking head at night

How To Properly Prevent Future Ear Problems

Your dog probably hates their ear irritation as much as you hate dealing with it.

The best solution to this is prevention!

Most problems that occur in dogs ears can be prevented with proper care of your dogs ears.

Here are some easy steps you can follow to prevent your dog from having ear issues and continue to scratch and shake their head at night:

1) Trim Your Dog’s Ear Regularly

Excess fur around your dog’s ears can be a trap for bacteria.

If there is too much hair in and around your dog’s ears, look to trim it down.

This becomes even more of a problem if your dog loves playing in dirt, swimming etc.

The excess hair can become moist with bacteria and drip into their ear canal.

2) Use Proper Ear Cleaner & Clean Regularly

cleaning dogs ears

When you clean your dog’s ears make sure you are using the proper cleaning solution and steps so you don’t make things worse.

I wrote an entire article on how to clean a dog’s ears, check it out here.

Make sure you have a routine for cleaning their ears at least once every other week. You may have to clean them more often if your pup is prone to infections.

3) Check Ears Often & Especially After Adventures

If you take your dog out on adventures swimming, hiking, etc. make sure to check their ears after.

Especially after swimming. Make sure to clean out your dog’s ears and use cotton balls to soak up some of the moisture that might be trapped in their ears.

After things like hikes look for dirt and debris in their ears that might need cleaning.

Adventuring can often lead to bacteria buildup in dog ears but even if you don’t go on adventures you should check your dog’s ears weekly to prevent issues.

Other posts you may find interesting:

4 Reasons Dogs Have Pink & Black Paws + Why They Change

Dried Dead Tick On Dog? What You Need To Do (Vet Answers)

12 Reasons Dogs Lick & Chew Their Paws + Prevention Tips


Ear Infection

Head Shaking In Dogs: When To Worry

Ask A Vet Online – ‘my Dog Keeps Shaking His Head And Scratching His Ears’