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What is Rubbing His Face?

A dog may rub his face if he has an occasional itch or discomfort, and this is nothing to be concerned about. He may also rub his face if he is finished eating or drinking, as if to be grooming himself. However, if a dog is rubbing his face repeatedly, or suddenly begins to paw at his face as if something caused intense pain, then a veterinarian visit is warranted. When a dog rubs his face he may use both of his paws or just one paw and consistently rub it to ease any pain he may be having. He may also rub his face against the carpet or on a piece of furniture over and over again.

There are several different reasons why your dog may be rubbing his face. This behavior is typically not a result of a serious health condition, except in a few cases. This is not to be confused with “head pressing” which can be more of a concern. Reasons why your dog may be doing this behavior are:

  • Allergy
  • Mites or fleas
  • Blepharitis
  • Trauma
  • Dental condition
  • Ear or eye irritation
  • Cleaning

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Why Rubbing His Face Occurs in Dogs

There are several different reasons why your dog may be rubbing his face, either with his paws or against the carpet. Causes may include:

Allergy

If your dog has an allergy of some sort, like to specific medications he may be taking or to a plant he was nosing around in while outside, he may have facial swelling leading to a need to rub the face. 

Mites or Fleas

Mites and fleas can cause irritation if your dog has a large number of them on his face. He may be scratching his face repeatedly or several times a day, and his face may swell causing him to rub it. 

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eye, namely the outer skin and eyelids. It can cause your dog to paw at his eye or eyes repeatedly. Make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible if your dog shows signs of any eye inflammation.

Trauma

Bee stings or snake bites can cause itching, burning, and swelling of the face. If your dog has pain or irritation of the face due to a sting or other trauma, he may need a visit to the clinic.

Dental Condition

Just like humans, if your dog has an infected tooth or gum area, he may have facial swelling on one side. In some cases, swelling may not be evident but rubbing of the face is a symptom of the pain. A tooth abscess can be very painful and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Ear or Eye Irritation

If your dog has an ear infection or eye irritation (or infection) he may paw at his face repeatedly. He will most likely be experiencing discomfort, and pawing at his face will be a way to help him ease the pain. There are many different causes of these irritations, and most eye and ear irritations can be cleared up with the proper examination and medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

What to do if your Dog is Rubbing His Face

If your dog is rubbing his face, contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will want to know as much information about your dog’s face rubbing. He will want to know how often he does this and for how long he has been doing it. 

He will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog. He will look very closely at his face and see if he can find any clues as to what is making him want to rub it. He may also look at his paws to see if perhaps his paws are irritated and is just using his face to ease the discomfort on them. 

If he doesn’t find anything on his face or in his mouth that could be causing pain, he may decide to do other testing, such as blood work, a urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile to check for underlying health conditions. He may also closely look at his eyes to see if he suspects an irritation and over his body to check for either fleas or ticks.

Based on his findings, your veterinarian will outline a mode of treatment for your companion so he may become well and cease pawing at his face.

Prevention of Rubbing His Face

In order to prevent face rubbing, check your dog for allergies. These may be the cause for discomfort, either within his eyes (he may be rubbing his itchy, red eyes) or on the skin of his face. Another action you can take to prevent your dog from rubbing his face is to be sure he is protected against fleas and ticks by using a flea and tick solution recommended by your veterinarian. Observe your dog’s teeth and gums to be sure he is not getting an abscess or infection. Regular, routine veterinary checkups will check for conditions that may cause your dog to paw at his face.

Cost of Rubbing His Face

The cost for an ear infection can be approximately $300. An examination and medication should clear up the problem. The cost to eradicate a flea and tick infestation on your dog may be $350.

Rubbing His Face Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

hiya
Rat Terrier
7 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Pawing and skinnier face

My rat terrier Hiya has been pawing at her face more than usual she also rubs the side of her head on the floor. She also usually sneezes afterward I’m not sure if that has anything to do with anything. Her face has also been looking a little skinnier. When she rubs her face it’s not for a long extended amount of time.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
There are various causes for a dog to be rubbing and pawing at the face which normally indicates some form of irritation or pain which may be due to dental disorders, contact irritation, nasal blockage among other causes; I cannot really say what the cause is without examining Hiya but I would suggest looking inside the mouth for any signs of dental or oral pain and seeing what happens before a rubbing or pawing episode. If you don’t find a cause, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Mylo
Westie-Pomeranian
11 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Face pawing

My dog always seems to be rubbing the side of her face against the wall, and she also always paws at her face, but the thing is even though she does this often (literally every day), she seems to be doing it in a playful manner so I am unsure if this is a serious condition or not as she wags her tail very happily while doing it as if it’s fun to her

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Mylo may just really enjoy how her face feels when she rubs it, but she may also have a dental problem or an allergy, among other things. Since I can't see her or look at her face, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they will be able to examine her and determine if anything is wrong.

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Scrappy
chihuahua mixed
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

itchy eyes
raw skin
Watery eyes

Medication Used

Apoquel

My dog continues to scratch both eyes. His lower eyes are becoming raw-like. He already rubbed off a layer of skin and scratched off both pairs of Supraorbital whiskers. I took him to the vet about a month ago and they prescribed him "Apoquel" for 14days. They believe it was allergies. the medicine helped a little but he is obviously still has something going on with his eyes.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
Without examining Scrappy I cannot say what the specific cause of the irritation is, allergies are common causes for irritation but exposure to chemicals or other irritants may also cause similar symptoms. You need to think if anything changed in your home before these symptoms presented and think about eliminating them from the environment. You should return to your Veterinarian for another examination; sometimes the irritation from all the scratching may cause further scratching so it may be useful to place a cone on him to prevent further injury. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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