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What is Itching His Mouth?

If you have noticed your dog scratching at his mouth and rubbing his muzzle, you may need to do some investigation to discover why he is so itchy there. While he may scratch to relieve the itch, incessant scratching can cause trauma and secondary bacterial infections in the skin. Constant scratching and pawing can also result in patches of hair loss, sore and inflamed skin, and scaling and thickening of the skin. Reasons your dog may scratch at his mouth include:

  • Allergies
  • Contact irritant 
  • Dental problem
  • Trauma 
  • Infections
  • Skin condition
  • Indigestion

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Why Itching His Mouth Occurs in Dogs

There are many reasons why your dog may be pawing at his mouth. Often, there is an underlying skin or other health problem which is causing the discomfort. 

Allergies

There are many things that can cause an allergic reaction resulting in skin irritations, peeling, and itching. Your dog may have environmental allergies, such as to pollen or dust mites, or to chemicals, such as the detergent used in washing his bedding. Your dog can develop sensitivities to the plastic of his food or water dishes, or even to the food itself. Allergies to a food ingredient are common in diets that are fed continuously over a long period of time. 

Contact Irritant 

A dog’s skin can also become inflamed, itchy, and sore when it comes into direct contact with an irritant. This could be a poison, such as those found in cleaning products, or from ingestion of an irritating plant, such as poison ivy or hyacinths. With some irritants, only one exposure may be needed to cause a reaction. Often, a rash occurs which can leak fluid, develop into blisters, or change color.  

Dental Problem

Often, dental pain, abscesses, and periodontal disease can cause your dog to paw at his mouth, rub his muzzle after eating, or even try to get at his ears. Skin irritation can occur from the pawing and scratching, which can lead to a mistaken case of allergies. Tooth and gum problems also can cause changes in your dog’s eating habits, bad breath, drooling, and bleeding gums.  

Trauma 

Wounds and injuries to the mouth, tongue, cheeks, or lips can occur that can swell those sensitive tissues. The many foreign objects that dogs eat, such as twigs, can cause cuts and abrasions, or become lodged in the mouth. This will cause your dog to claw at his mouth, cough, or cry out. Even a tough bone can result in mouth and gum damage. If these types of trauma are not treated, they can result in abscesses or infections. Tumors in the mouth can also cause these reactions, and may affect your dog’s normal eating habits. 

Infections 

Infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites, such as mites or fleas. These types of infections could cause skin irritations that become itchy, causing your dog to scratch. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange caused by mites both result in severely itchy skin, scabbing, and hair loss. Fleas can cause your dog to scratch incessantly, and can become exacerbated if your dog has an allergy to flea bites. Bacterial infections are common in skin that is being damaged by trauma, such as scratching. 

Skin Condition

There are other conditions which can cause the skin to become irritated and itchy. Tumors, cysts and warts can cause your dog to paw at himself. Hormonal imbalances can induce skin reactions, diseases such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism may induce itchy skin. Cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or pemphigus, can also affect the skin. Dry skin and dandruff will cause itchy skin as well. 

Indigestion

Dogs with digestive problems, or those experiencing stress or anxiety, can be affected by heartburn or acid reflux disease. The unpleasant burning in the throat and chest can cause your dog to scratch under his jaw. Other symptoms may include an increase in drinking, panting, and eating, coughing, or eating grass.

What to do if your Dog is Itching His Mouth

If you have witnessed your dog pawing continuously at his mouth, do some investigating of the area. Look for signs of skin irritations and rashes, or look in his mouth for infections or blood. Your veterinarian will ask for your observations of any symptoms in your dog, so include changes in eating, elimination habits, and behavior. Your vet may also ask if your dog has been in contact with infected animals, if you have noticed fleas, if he has eaten something he shouldn’t have, or if there is something new in his environment, such as a new diet, shampoo, or cleaning product used in areas he frequents. 

After a physical examination, your vet may also perform a thorough dental exam to determine if there is a dental issue causing the scratching. Further testing can include blood, urine and fecal tests to look for infectious agents, X-rays or ultrasounds if there may be a tumor or tooth issue, skin scrapings, allergy testing, or an endoscopy to examine the esophagus. Once the cause has been determined, treatment follows as needed.

Allergies can be controlled with medications, such as antihistamines and steroids, a removal of the allergen which may require a change in diet, and possibly allergy shots that can help to desensitize the immune system. Dental problems may require oral surgery to remove teeth, treat abscesses, and clean the teeth and gums. Dental surgery may also be used to treat any trauma in the mouth or remove oral tumors. Antibiotics to treat or prevent infections, and pain medications, can be prescribed after such procedures. Parasites are often treated with specialized medications, and you may be given certain shampoos or lotions to apply to your dog to remove them. Bland, moist diets work well for dogs who suffer from heartburn, as do medications to reduce the production of stomach acid. 

For healing the skin itself and relieving the itch, many of the medications given for allergies can be used. Soothing shampoos and specialized lotions and creams can moisturize and heal the skin. Be sure to monitor your dog for any changes during recovery, and keep any irritants and allergens out of his reach.

Prevention of Itching His Mouth

Preventing an allergy from developing is impossible, but you can prevent an allergic reaction by reducing your dog’s contact with the allergen. Monitor your yard for possible irritating objects and remove them so that your dog cannot eat them. Routine dental care can be accomplished at home that can keep your dog’s mouth healthy, such as regular brushing. Routine examinations are essential to catching disease early and treating your dog before symptoms become too progressed.

Cost of Itching His Mouth

The cost to treat an itchy mouth in your dog can vary considerably, depending on the cause, and can range from $200 to $3000. The average cost for a tooth abscess can average around $1200, while gum disease can be as expensive as $2500. Treatments for infections such as mange can average $350. An acute case of contact dermatitis can be around $400, while pollen allergies can be as high to treat as $1200.

Itching His Mouth Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Tino
Chihuahua
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

itchy gums, rubbing and pawing

Hello,
My dog is pawing mouth. He had just dental job done as vet diagnosed that it's from his gingivitis. I spent $2000 and I'm devastated as the condition persists. He is ok on Apoquel which I was giving him for 2 weeks but I don't want to continue. He is 3 y old Chihuhua. He is a healthy dog but has itchy gums and rubbing a few times a day (not often) his mouth (gums) and someties chin.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
237 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without seeing Tino, it is hard for me to comment on what migt be going on with his mouth, whether it is mouth pain or allergies. he may be sore from his dental work that he just had done, and need pain medications. it would be best if you follow up with your regular veterinarian to find out what is going on with him and see what treatments he might need to be comfortable. I hope that he is okay.

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Bonnie
Chu-Weenie
3 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

My dog has been using her bed to itch her muzzle. It seems like she's trying to get something off her nose. This is the first time I've seen her go crazy, usually it's just a normal itch. Any clues?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1805 Recommendations
There are a few different causes for an itchy nose which may include foreign objects, allergies, polyps, dental issues among other causes; without examining Bonnie I cannot say for sure what the underlying cause is. A visit to your Veterinarian would be useful to examine the nose and mouth to look for any anomalies. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sofie
Jack russle terrior
8 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

My dog is been itching and scratching her skin and gums now she is chewing my comforter on my bed pulling out the stuffing in it. I know she has no fleas but got into poison ivy as I did. This been going on for a few months and more constant now also has an itchy vagina for at least 6 months or more. Don't have money to take her to the vet . Any solution I can try ?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1805 Recommendations
There are various causes for irritation to the mouth and may be caused by allergies, toxins, plants, chemical irritation as well as dental disorders; without examining Sofie’s mouth I cannot say what the cause is, she may have some dental issues or she may require her mouth to be rinsed out regularly. The vaginal itching may be caused by various causes including infections, urinary crystals, skin fold dermatitis and trauma; ideally you should have your Veterinarian take a look regardless of cost since different causes have different treatments. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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snowee
Askal Philippine Dog
8 to 10 months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

None

what to do if my dogs mouth is somewhat swollen because of sudden itching WHEN SHE ATE PORK WITH SOY SAUCE SUDDEN ITCHING IN MOUTH OCCURS.. IS IT OK ? OR WHAT WE WILL DO TO LESSEN THE ITCH....SHE IS LIVELY AND NO SIGNS OF ANYTHING MORE SERIOUS OTHER THAN THOSE SHE IS NOT HAVING HARD TIME BREATHING

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1805 Recommendations

Soy sauce is toxic to dogs due to the high salt content; also some brands of soy sauce may have other ingredients which may be poisonous for dogs which may cause swelling, organ failure or death. In a reaction this severe, it is important to induce vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide to make Snowee vomit and to wash out the mouth thoroughly; it would still be best to visit your Veterinarian and take the soy sauce bottle with you to show the ingredients list. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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