Dogs are often seen rubbing their faces on walls, furniture, the ground, and other things. This behavior isn't always concerning and may be as simple as an itchy face but there are some reasons why a pet owner may need to address it.
Why Do Dogs Rub Their Faces?
If a dog is rubbing its face regularly on something, then it may have a problem. But if the rubbing is intermittent, then it may not be of concern. An annoyance such as wet or dirty fur, pain from a bad tooth or eye injury, irritation from fleas or allergies, or simply because it feels good are all potential reasons why a dog may rub its face on something.
Some dogs develop allergies that cause them to be itchy and rub their faces. Skin inflammation may lead to itchy skin or eyes and dogs may rub their faces in an attempt to scratch their itch. Allergies may be to a food or treat that a dog eats or household and environmental allergens such as dust mites, various grasses, or pollen. They can be constant or just seasonal. A dog with allergies will likely have other symptoms including itchy and/or malodorous ears, itchy paws and hind end, and other skin changes including redness, hives, and/or thickened skin.
Fleas, Mites, and Ticks
External parasites include fleas, mites such as Demodex and scabies, and ticks. All of these parasites can bite or burrow into the skin of a dog, however not all of them cause itchiness. Fleas and scabies are classically the itchiest and these kinds of infestations lead to itchiness all over, not just on the face. Routine preventative medications should be utilized to prevent common skin parasites and any dog who appears extremely itchy should be examined by a veterinarian.
New collars or collars that are too tight may cause a dog to rub its face and neck on the ground, furniture, or walls in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. If a dog has a new collar, it should be checked to make sure it isn't too tight or causing irritation on the dog's neck. Also, if a dog hasn't had its collar removed and washed in a while and/or has grown or gained weight, it could now be too tight or in need of adjustment or removal. You should be able to comfortably slip two fingers underneath your dog's collar.
Something On Its Face
Dogs that have food, dirt, or even water on their faces may rub them on something to wipe it off. This may be after a meal, playing outside in the yard, or after a bath or swim. If a dog is rubbing its face, for this reason, there is no cause for concern but the dog may need a little assistance in wiping its face off.
A bad tooth, other mouth pain, nose pain, or ear pain could cause a dog to rub its face on something in an effort to ease the pain. Dogs with dental pain may eat less, only want to eat soft food, or only chew on one side of their mouth. Bad breath, bloody saliva, and dropping food out of their mouths are other signs that may suggest a dental problem. Loose, broken, or diseased teeth can cause pain and infections and need to be extracted by a veterinarian. Ear pain can also cause dogs to rub their faces in an attempt to soothe their discomfort. Ear pain due to an infection is usually accompanied by a bad odor and redness within the ear. If you suspect pain to be the cause of your dog's face rubbing, you should have your dog examined by your veterinarian right away.
Brain tumors are a rare cause for a dog to rub its face on something. Brain tumors can put pressure on the brain and be painful or uncomfortable. Dogs with brain tumors may rub their heads because of this discomfort, however, there are many other symptoms that could accompany a brain tumor without signs of pain or discomfort. Seizures, behavioral changes, and changes in vision or hearing may also be signs of a brain tumor. If any of these symptoms are observed in your dog, it should be examined by a veterinarian.
An itchy or painful eye could occur if foreign material gets stuck in a dog's eye, if there is a scratch or ulcer on the cornea, or if the dog has dry eyes or environmental allergies. These things can all cause discomfort, leading a dog to rub its face and eyes. A dog with eye irritation will also often paw at their eye or hold it shut. If an eye problem is suspected, your dog should receive veterinary attention right away to relieve the irritation and to prevent the problems from becoming more serious.
Something Smells Good
Dogs have a very acute sense of smell so if they like how something smells they may just rub their entire face and body on it because they enjoy it so much. The item may not have a pleasant smell to us but to a dog, it could be great. One common example of such an item is a dead animal found outside in the yard. So if you notice your dog rolling around in a specific spot in the yard, you should investigate and remove anything that could be a health hazard such as wildlife droppings or carcasses.
Dogs can leave their scent on an item to mark their territories by urinating, defecating, or simply rubbing their face or body on it. This action leaves invisible pheromones behind on the furniture, carpet, or other items the dog is rubbing on. This can be normal behavior, and while humans cannot smell pheromones, other dogs can.
It Feels Good
Dogs are just like people when it comes to different fabrics and textures and sometimes rubbing their faces on things just simply feels good. If a dog owner has ruled out concerning reasons for why a dog may be rubbing its face on things, then this may be why the behavior continues.
Low Calcium Levels
Low calcium, or hypocalcemia, can also lead to facial itchiness and rubbing of the face. Low calcium can occur for a number of medical reasons and can include other signs such as twitching, seizures, restlessness, aggression, and/or excessive drinking or urinating. This condition must be diagnosed and monitored by a veterinarian so any dog with these clinical signs should be examined right away.