Pets offer a seemingly endless amount of cuteness, companionship, and love – and that is a FACT. However, there are certain things that they do that just immediately tug on your heart strings and sometimes make you cry out of sheer joy and appreciation. One of them is their tendency to tilt their head to one side, especially when you are talking to them – which results in squeals of happiness and laughter by everyone involved. While this head-tilting is usually harmless, it sometimes could be indicative of serious health problems.
So how do you know if your pet’s head tilt is cute or alarming? Well first of all, keep track of how often your pet is tilting their head. Sometimes it can just be a little quirk or reaction that they have when you both are looking at each other, and it can also just be completely random. If it is something that is happening noticeably regularly, then that is where you should start to worry. If your dog’s head is constantly tilted to one side, that is definitely a sign that something isn’t right.
What kind of problems could your dog possibly have? Well, to start with, they could have an ear infection – especially if the dog swims very often and/or the owner does not clear the dog’s ears very much. Floppy-eared dogs are more prone to ear infections because of dirt, liquid, and other things being trapped in the ear with no way of coming out. Even worse, there could be another kind of foreign body besides dirt, sand, water – meaning a small bug, bacteria, or some other life form (like mites) – that nestled in their ear and made a little home for themselves. This obviously would cause extreme discomfort in addition to huge problems that could occur if it isn’t dealt with in a timely matter. While this is a very uncomfortable affliction, it is very treatable and not life-threatening if dealt with properly by a vet.
It is extremely important to assess any ear issues early on, because if left untreated, the eardrum could possibly rupture or perforate as a result. An eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane) rupturing can lead to a host of other infection because it will let in the fungi and bacteria from the outer ear canal into the middle ear (the otitis media) and cause further infection. So yes, a ruptured eardrum can be caused BY an infection, and also CAUSE an infection. A ruptured eardrum can happen from any kind of ear trauma including loud noises, changes in atmospheric pressure, or an untreated infection. Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include discharge which is pus-like and also usually bloody. Fortunately, the ruptured eardrum can be treated and your pet can usually make a full recovery.
Another possible issue that could manifest is a vestibular disease, which is an inner-ear disorder that affects your pet’s balance. If you notice that they are almost always tilting their head, that is a good sign it could be a vestibular issue. Because of the feeling that they are off-balance, your pet is literally trying to balance themselves out by tilting their head to one side, as if the earth is spinning sideways on its axis. It is especially likely that a vestibular disorder is involved if your pet is walking in a weird way and/or falling down.
Basically, if you are noticing that your animal is tilting their head even a little bit, keep a close eye on them and make sure that they aren’t doing it too often. If they are having trouble walking and/or seem to have their head perpetually cocked to one side, definitely seek medical attention. The infection or problem that is present will only get worse with time, which will be extremely painful for your pet; and also very expensive to treat later down the line. While this behavior may be cute, the reality of the situation may not be so cute after all.