My Dog Is Rubbing Their Face on the Carpet
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If your dog keeps rubbing their face on the carpet, the reasons for the behavior will depend on the context. If they are happily rolling on the ground and having a good time, it will be in contrast to a dog which appears to be rubbing their nose in distress. A dog's nose is very sensitive, meaning they often feel the need to protect it. Rubbing their face against the carpet can seem counterintuitive since the fibers of a carpeted floor can be abrasive to the soft tissue of the dog's nose. It is possible the abrasiveness of the surface will help us to understand why a dog rubs their face on the floor, but we need to consider all possibilities.
AnimalWised discovers these possible reasons why my dog is rubbing their face on the carpet. In doing so, we can best determine when this is a problem which needs addressing and when it is merely natural dog behavior.
Despite millennia of domestication, dogs remain territorial animals. When we take them for a walk, we will see them urinate periodically over various objects in their path. This is a way to notify other dogs of their presence. While it is a behavior which is most common in sexually intact males, it can also occur in neutered males and females.
Although urination is their most effective method of scent marking, dogs have various scent glands on their body. This includes their face. By rubbing their face against a surface such as a carpeted floor, they are infusing said surface with their distinct odor. This means other dogs will pick up on their presence if they sniff the floor. We see this with other behaviors such as when a dog rolls on the ground.
Rubbing their face in this way is natural canine behavior and does not usually require intervention from a guardian.
Cleaning their face
The soft textile of a carpet can act similar to that of a towel. When a dog feels they have something on their face, they cannot always get it off by licking or using their paws. A dog's dexterity is limited, so rubbing their face on the carpet allows them to reach places which they cannot otherwise get to.
A dog's breed can impact how they are able to address their own hygiene. For example, dog breeds such as the Dachshund have short legs which cannot easily reach their face. Rubbing on the carpet may be the best way to clean their face. A carpet is often also more absorbent than other floored surfaces. If there was a towel or similar softer material, they may prefer to use these instead.
Scratching an itch
When a dog needs to clean their nose, they can feel the foreign material on their skin. Sometimes they may have the feeling of something on their skin, but they are actually feeling an itching sensation. This sensation is known as pruritus and has many different causes.
An itchy face in dogs is often idiopathic, meaning there is no apparent cause. A tingling sensation appears on the skin and the dog rubs their face on the carpet to relieve it. Once this happens, the pruritus leaves and the dog gets on with their day. However, there are some causes of itching which can be more prolonged and serious.
An allergic reaction is an exaggerated response from a dog's immune system to a various allergens in their environment. These allergens are types of matter which do not cause such a response in other animals, but can have serious repercussions in dogs that have a sensitivity (known as an allergy).
The results of an allergic reaction in dogs can vary considerably. The symptoms may include:
- Broken skin
- Mucus buildup
- Eye tearing
- Skin inflammation
- Hair loss
Since itching is a common result of skin allergies, the dog may rub their face for relief. This is especially so when the dog cannot easily reach their face with their paws. When a dog has either a serious reaction or continued exposure to an allergen, it can cause the dog to scratch so much that it breaks the skin. This can result in secondary bacterial infections and other complications.
A severe reaction can also cause the dog to go into anaphylactic shock. This will be considered a veterinary emergency. In other cases, the allergic reaction will be less severe, but we still need to take them to a veterinarian to determine their allergy. This way we can provide medication if needed and remove the specific allergen from their environment.
External parasites in dogs irritate their skin. Similar to allergies, we can see them scratching with their paws to relieve the frustration. When the parasites are on their face, you can see the dog may keep scratching their nose to relieve the itching they cause. When they are unable to do this, they may rub their face on the carpet for the same reasons. The most common types of external parasites in dogs include the following:
Treatment of this problem is the use of antiparasitic drugs which can kill the parasites. Bathing with medicated shampoo is also usually advised, but the best treatment is prevention. This is one of the reasons it is so important to establish a suitable deworming schedule with your veterinarian.
Although it may seem that our dog is rubbing their face on the carpet, it might be they are actually trying to rub their ear. Ear infections are a common reason why dogs are taken to the veterinarian. Certain breeds are more predisposed to ear infections than others. This includes dogs with long ears such as the Bloodhound, as well as dogs generally prone to skin infections such as the Shar Pei.
Ear infections can be caused by poor hygiene, foreign bodies, ear mites or even trauma to the ear. These infections result in otitis in dogs, an inflammation of the ear which can affect the external and/or internal parts of their ear. The infection can cause dizziness, head shaking, pain and itchiness. For this reason, the dog might rub their face against the carpet to relieve their symptoms.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the infection, but bacterial infections require antibiotic administration to kill the pathogens. If the original infection is caused by mites, antiparasitic drugs will be required.
As we have mentioned, ear infections can be caused by foreign bodies entering the ear canal. These foreign bodies can be in many forms, including natural material or manmade objects around the home. They can be relatively large such as the case with sticks or other plant matter, but they can also be relatively small. For example, various types of particulate can be blown into the ear and cause problems.
It is not only the ear in which foreign bodies can cause problems. The nostrils and the eyes are also sensitive areas into which foreign objects or matter can enter. These can be particularly distressing for the dog, resulting in them rubbing their face on the carpet or floor. They do so in an effort to both relieve the symptoms and to remove the matter.
Unless it is obvious the object can be removed easily, we should take the dog to a veterinarian. Trying to remove the matter ourselves can be problematic and result in damage to soft and sensitive tissues. The veterinarian can use specialized tools and their own experience to ensure the dog is not damaged.
Other eye problems
In addition to having a foreign body, there are various eye problems which can cause the dog to rub their face on the carpet. These can include primary infections of the eye, but it may also be a secondary problem from another infectious disease. Parvovirus or canine distemper are just two viral diseases which can cause eye irritation when symptoms advance.
There may also be problems with the eye itself caused by hereditary diseases. Brachycephalic dog breeds often have bulging eyes and other eye problems which are caused by their skull conformation. The dog rubbing their face on the carpet may be caused by irritation from these problems. Additionally, trauma to the eye socket can cause pain or a feeling of discomfort, even if we cannot observe the problem externally.
Dogs are also subject to oral health problems which can affect their teeth and gums. When they have the buildup of plaque and tartar, it can result in the tooth itself becoming damaged. This can lead to infections which cause serious pain and discomfort. Rubbing their face on the floor may be a way to help them relieve this discomfort. Abscesses can also poison the blood, something which is potentially life threatening.
Other common dental problems in dogs include a tooth breaking due to trauma or gingivitis. Mouth lesions can also be caused by chewing on sharp objects, something which can be painful. Treatment of these problems requires going to the veterinarian to check their teeth. Not all vets will have the right experience and may refer you to someone with specific canine dentist.
Although they can occur at any stage during a dog's life, neurological disorders are most common in older dogs. This is often due to the deterioration which can be a result of advanced age. These disorders often cause confusion in the dog, making them scared and resulting in various behavioral symptoms. Although not the most common, they can cause a dog to rub their face on the floor because they are struggling to control themselves.
These types of neurological problems can be loosely correlated to Alzheimer's disease in humans. As it is degenerative, there is no cure. We can help manage the animal's symptoms, but it is also possible the dog's quality of life will be too low. If the dog is rubbing their face on the floor, it is likely the problem is advanced and euthanasia may be the most humane option.
Stress or anxiety
Similar to neurological disorders, stress can result in behaviors which seem out of place. When a dog is stressed or anxious, they can start to carry out behaviors known as stereotypies. These are behaviors which have no obvious purpose, but which the dog carries out repetitiously. These behaviors can be almost anything, such as the dog repetitively licking metal or running around in circles.
Causes of stress in dogs are often related to changes in their routine, but trauma, poor education, lack of care and many other factors can result in a dog being anxious. If the reason why a dog rubs their face on the floor is due to stress, then it is likely a severe psychological issue. After speaking to a veterinarian, we should contact a canine ethologist who can assess our individual dog's needs and provide some specific education to address them.
They enjoy it
Our final reason why dogs rub their face on the carpet is due to their enjoyment of doing so. If we have ruled out any of the above reasons which require specific treatment, it could be that this is a completely benign behavior. It might be part of their play behavior or simply a way to help them release built-up energy.
This is why it is important to look at the context. If a dog is repetitiously rubbing their face on the floor and shows symptoms such as pain or is anxious when doing so, this behavior is problematic and needs treatment. If they are doing it while happy and playing, it may simply be a way this particular dog shows signs of being happy. It might be similar to FRAPS or zoomies, common behaviors in younger dogs which allow them to release energy.
Now we know why a dog rubs their face on the floor, we can look at an issue at the other end of the spectrum with our article on why is my dog rubbing their butt on the carpet?
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Is Rubbing Their Face on the Carpet, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.