As pet owners, we know our dogs can exhibit some quirky behaviors from time to time. One habit you may notice is your dog rubbing its face repeatedly on the carpet or rug.
This friction against the floor may seem like an odd thing for your dog to do. As professional carpet cleaners with over 15 years of experience, we’ve seen this behavior many times.
While it can look funny or cute, it can also signal potential health issues for your dog. We put this guide together to help you understand the top 10 reasons your dog may be rubbing its face on the carpet.
1. Itchy Skin or Allergies
One of the most common reasons dogs rub their faces is due to itchy skin or allergies. Just like humans, dogs can develop environmental or food allergies that cause skin irritation or inflammation.
Allergic reactions often lead to generalized itchiness. Your dog may resort to rubbing its face on the carpet seeking relief, especially around the eyes, mouth, ears, and muzzle. Seasonal allergies to pollen or mold are common triggers.
Food allergies could also be the culprit, with ingredients like dairy, wheat, chicken, or beef causing skin reactions in some dogs. See your vet to diagnose the specific allergy and provide medications or changes in diet to ease the itchiness prompting this behavior.
2. Bug Bites or Bee Stings
Another common source of facial itching is bug bites or bee stings. Mosquitos, flies, spiders, bees, wasps, and more can bite or sting exposed areas like your dog’s face and paws.
The venom or irritation from the bite leads to intense itching. Your dog may vigorously rub its face on the carpet trying to soothe the sensation.
Check for any swelling, lesions, or stingers still in the skin. Mild cases can be treated with anti-itch sprays and topical antihistamines. Seek immediate veterinary care if you notice signs of anaphylaxis including vomiting, difficulty breathing, or collapse.
3. Fleas or Ticks
Flea and tick infestations are extremely itchy for dogs. The parasites themselves along with potential flea allergy dermatitis can have your dog rubbing its face everywhere trying to relieve the irritation.
Fleas tend to congregate around your dog’s head, neck, tail, and paws, leading to a lot of face and muzzle rubbing. Check for any visible bugs crawling through the fur. Treat with fast-acting topical or oral flea prevention medications.
Ticks latch onto the skin and feed on blood, often causing significant itchiness and skin irritation around the bite. Inspect all areas of the body thoroughly and remove any attached ticks promptly. Ask your vet about tick control products to kill and repel them.
4. Ear Infections or Mites
Ear problems like infections, mites, and yeast overgrowth frequently make dogs rub their faces. The itching, inflammation, and pain inside the ear canals and ear flaps leads to head shaking and face rubbing on the floor.
Check inside your dog’s ears for redness, discharge, black debris, or a foul odor which indicates an infection. Ear mites lead to similar irritation and dark crumbly discharge. See your vet promptly if an ear issue is present to get proper treatment with medications and ear cleaners.
5. Dental Pain or Oral Injury
Dental problems like periodontal disease, tooth fractures, or oral tumors can cause significant mouth pain leading to face rubbing. The friction against the carpet may provide a mild distraction from the discomfort.
Look for signs like bad breath, bloody drool, loose or missing teeth, reduced appetite, or dropping food. Your vet will need to thoroughly examine the mouth, take x-rays, and likely perform an extraction or other treatment to resolve the underlying problem.
6. Eye Issues
Eye injuries, irritation, and infections can all make your dog rub its face. Issues like dry eye, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, and foreign material trapped under the eyelids are extremely uncomfortable. The instincts of a dog are to rub the irritated eye, with the carpet being a convenient alternative.
Redness, discharge, squinting, pawing at the eyes, or visible swelling signal a veterinary exam is needed urgently. Left untreated, eye issues lead to blindness, loss of the eye, and chronic pain.
7. Skin Fold Infections
Some breeds with excessive facial skin folds are prone to skin fold dermatitis or pyoderma. Moisture and debris trapped in the folds creates a perfect environment for bacterial and yeast overgrowth.
This becomes extremely itchy and uncomfortable, leading to frequent face rubbing. Keep skin folds clean and dry daily, but see your vet if redness, odor, or discharge develop so appropriate medications can be prescribed.
8. Foreign Material Stuck on the Face
Dogs can be prone to getting food, dirt, grass seeds, sticks, burrs, or other material stuck on their muzzles and faces. Naturally, they try to rub the irritant off against the carpet.
Carefully inspect your dog’s face and between the toes for any embedded material. Remove superficial debris with tweezers or rinse off with water. Seek prompt veterinary attention for anything stuck up the nose, in the eyes, or wedged tightly in the skin that requires sedation for safe removal.
9. Scent Marking
Dogs have scent glands around their faces, lips, and paws. One reason your dog may enthusiastically rub itself on surfaces is to spread its natural odors and pheromones. This deposits the dog’s smell around the house to mark its territory.
This behavior is harmless and a natural form of canine communication. Just keep in mind that vigorous rubbing can also signal other issues, so be alert for any other concerning symptoms. Cleaning up increased doggy odors around the house will be needed with enthusiastic scent markers!
10. Feels Good
Sometimes dogs simply enjoy the sensation of rubbing their faces on carpets and rugs. The soft, fuzzy texture likely feels pleasing against their skin as they roll around and nuzzle into the fibers.
This is often seen when dogs rub both their body and face all over a plush area rug or shaggy carpet. As long as your dog does not show signs of skin irritation or distress, this behavior is perfectly normal. Though your carpet may require more frequent cleaning from the increased dog hair and oils!
If you notice any signs of inflamed skin, pain, or other health issues, schedule a veterinary exam even if your dog is rubbing its face simply due to comfort and feel. But in many cases, this behavior just means your dog really enjoys the tactile sensation of a cozy rug or carpet.
When to See the Vet for Face Rubbing
While sometimes this behavior is harmless, frequent or vigorous face rubbing warrants a trip to the vet to identify the underlying cause. Contact your veterinarian if your dog shows any of these signs:
- Itchiness, redness, or hair loss on the face
- Swelling or lesion around the face and muzzle
- Discharge from eyes, nose, or ears
- Squinting, pawing at the eyes, or head shaking
- Drooling, bleeding from the mouth, or loss of appetite
- Visible parasites like fleas or ticks
- Repeated episodes of rubbing with no other discernible reason
Oftentimes, skin irritation, infections, dental issues, or eye problems end up being the culprit behind chronic face rubbing. Getting prompt treatment improves your dog’s quality of life and prevents worsening of these conditions.
When Face Rubbing Is Harmless
In many cases, dogs simply enjoy rubbing their faces on soft carpets and rugs. Signs it’s harmless behavior include:
- No accompanying symptoms of injury, infection, or illness
- Occurs when your dog seems relaxed and content
- Brief rubbing during play or rolling on back
- Spreads dog’s scent around as communication
- Cleans face after eating messy foods or meals
As long as your dog does not show distress and enjoys rubbing its face frequently, it is perfectly normal. Just keep an eye out for any worrying changes in behavior or skin and health issues cropping up.
Keep Your Carpets Clean for Your Pup
As professional cleaners, we’ve seen it all when it comes to puppy accidents and messy dogs! We’re here to help keep your home and carpets pristine, whether your dog is rubbing its face or traipsing in mud.
Reach out anytime to schedule service. We’ll evaluate your carpets, spot clean messes, do deep extraction cleans, and even offer stain protection treatments. That way your floors stay looking great and your dogs have soft, fresh-smelling carpets to rub to their heart’s content!