Jump to section

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

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Rubbing His Face Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Miniature dachshund

dog-age-icon

Ten Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Rubbing The Fur Off Just Below His Eyes On His Nose

Rubbing the fur off just below his eyes on his nose. He just started this about a week ago. First it was one side now it is both. I don’t believe he has gotten into anything. When we take him out he is on a leash. His food hasn’t changed nor his treats.

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Rubbing and hair loss in dogs can be caused by many things, including bacterial infections, parasites, or allergies. If this is something that does not seem to be getting better, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at him, see what might be going on, and get him the best treatment. I hope that everything goes well for him.

Aug. 1, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Border Collie/ australian shepard

dog-age-icon

Eight Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing/ Dry Heaving

My dog is dry heaving maybe once every couple of days. He also had a night where he threw up but only once. He's since then have dry heaved twice probably one time a day 2 days of 4 since he threw up. He was chewing a bone and we think he may have got a piece stuck in his throat but he didn't have anything that we could see and he stopped shortly after we checked. I am a first time dog owner and am a little worried.

July 30, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Ellen M. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear that your dog is coughing! Without examining your dog and listening to his heart and lungs, it's very hard for me to know for sure what might be going on. It's possible that the bone irritated his throat and is causing this as you suggested. It's also possible that he could have kennel cough, or another viral illness. Other things that can cause throat irritation would be vomiting, reflux, eating something he shouldn't have, etc. If this continues for another 24 hours or if he vomits again, I recommend having him examined by his veterinarian just to make sure this is nothing to worry about. Hopefully he starts feeling better soon!

July 30, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Mylo

dog-breed-icon

Westie-Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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

June 26, 2018

Mylo's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 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.

June 26, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

hiya

dog-breed-icon

Rat Terrier

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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.

April 8, 2018

hiya's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 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

April 8, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Scrappy

dog-breed-icon

chihuahua mixed

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes
Itchy Eyes
Raw Skin

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.

March 17, 2018

Scrappy's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 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

March 17, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Minkhaella

dog-breed-icon

Wolfdog w/ dwarfism

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Rubbing Face

My dog started doing this at a young age. I took her to countless veterinaries and she's each day healthier and healthier. My last diagnosis is that this is pure (and luckily) just a behavior issue. She did one day maybe to scratch her face and I thought it was cute and scratched for her, giving her the though of "if I want to be pet, I'll do this, maybe it's a sign". She's in perfect and healthy shape plus any conditions, still does it and only stops when I scratch any part of her body or if I pet her. As I stop she starts again and as I talk with a playful tone, she starts doing even more, gets her tail wiggling in a joyful way, and if I take too long, she shows her belly as a sign of submission because she really just want a rub. It's completely inoffensive in her case, and the last veterinarian said this was taught and she's fine.

dog-name-icon

Izzy

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy
Rubbing Face
Face Pawing
Nawing

I need help my dog a 3 year old chihuahua izzy has been nawing and rubbing her snout and eyes until they bleed. She screams in pain and we have taken her to the vet several times but they have not been able to help. We treated her for mites, fleas, pretty much all the above. There has been no help With the vet i need help to make her feel better she is in misery.

dog-name-icon

Peri

dog-breed-icon

Poodle

dog-age-icon

16 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Pawing At Face

We have a small toy poodle is 16 years old and doctors believe is in the end stages of canine cognitive dysfunction. About two years ago he started to paw relentlessly at his face, often causing him to fall backwards onto the floor. He has no teeth (they were all removed) and he has been examined by an eye specialist to ensure he didn't have an eye condition, dry age, allergies, or pressure building. He has about 60 percent of his vision - his age is playing a role. He has always had anxiety problems and suffered from general seizures about once a month when he was young. We now have him on Trazodone. His behavior has very much changed and he does not engage affectionately with anyone (he was also very affectionate with me as we snuggled into bed at night). We know the CCD is taking a toll, but we have never been able to determine the pawing at the face. His doctors suppose that it may have to do with his brain not processing the images to his eyes and him trying to "wipe" away what he sees as in front of his eyes, but we just don't know and have never been able to determine for sure. Has something similar been experienced by anyone else whose dog has CCD? Thank you.

dog-name-icon

Pennilyn

dog-breed-icon

Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

8 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Anxious
Face Pawing
Face Rubbing

I have a new golden retriever puppy. She is 8 weeks. I have noticed recently that she will paw at her face when laying down. She will do it a few times and then just lay there. If she is awake she may do it again in another few minutes. She doesn’t appear, to me, to have an inflimation. My vet checked her for flees a week ago and she was completely clear. I’m a broke college student so I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth the trip to the vet. She has been anxious a lot recently and resting a lot but I’m pretty sure they are unrelated.

How can we help your pet?