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My Dog Has an Itchy Face: 4 Reasons Why & What to Do

Dogs have itchy faces because of dermatitis, allergies, external parasites, or insect bites. The most common symptoms of these conditions are red and inflamed skin, intense scratching, head shaking, pawing, rubbing, hair loss (sometimes), and others. Contact your vet if your dog is experiencing one or more of these symptoms.

If you see your dog rubbing its face against the carpet, or shaking its head continuously, it may have a skin problem.

There are many causes that lead to an itchy face in dogs. If they are diagnosed and treated in time, they are harmless. If no action is taken, infections can develop, causing even more itching and discomfort.

It is important to take your dog to the vet as soon as you see it scratching its face.

But how can you tell in time? In this article, you will learn the causes of an itchy face, what you can do, and more.

Why Is My Dog’s Face Itching?

An itchy face occurs for many reasons. The most common are external parasites, infections, dry skin, allergies, and insect bites. Dogs that itch around the face usually shake and rub their heads against the carpet or other objects. Other symptoms may include flaky skin, hair loss, and wounds.

When your dog scratches its face, rubs it against the furniture or carpet, and/or shakes its head, it is possible it has a skin condition. 

The most important thing in this situation is to keep calm and take your dog to the vet. The vet will examine your dog, give it a diagnosis, and proper treatment.

Here are the most common symptoms experienced by dogs with skin conditions:

  • Scratching their face against the carpet or surrounding objects
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at the face
  • Hair loss on the face
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Crusts and scabs
  • Bloody lesions
  • The presence of external parasites
  • Otitis

The most common causes that lead to an itchy face in dogs are:

  1. Insect bites
  2. Dermatitis
  3. Dry skin
  4. External parasites

1. Insect bites

Insect bites on dogs

Insects mostly feed in hairless areas in the face, such as the muzzle, inner side of the ears, and abdomen. Dogs are frequently bitten by insects on their faces because it is an exposed area. 

Most of the time, insect bites are harmless and only experience local reactions:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Red, raised bumps

These bites usually resolve on their own in a few days without complications.

When dogs are bitten by bees, wasps, scorpions, or spiders (insects and arthropods that can cause generalized allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock) their face begins to swell. Their throat also swells up, causing pressure on the trachea and potential suffocation.[1]

Other symptoms include the following:

  • Intense excitability
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures

Identify the insect and take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

2. Dermatitis

Flea Allergy Dermatitis Prevention
Image Source

Dermatitis is an allergic reaction to certain substances that cause allergies in dogs. The inflammation of the skin occurs under many scenarios:[2]

  • Dogs come into contact with irritating substances or plants.
  • Bacteria or fungi develop excessively.
  • Dogs are sensitive to certain food ingredients, flea saliva, pollen, mold, dust mites, or other environmental substances.

This skin condition causes itching, inflammation, overgrooming, and red bumps on the skin. The signs of the disease usually appear in dogs aged between one and six years, but they can occur in dogs of all ages.

Some areas of the body are more affected by dermatitis than others:

  • Face, especially around the eyes
  • Ears
  • Feet
  • Stomach
  • Base of the tail
  • Armpit

As dogs of certain ages are more affected by dermatitis, so are some breeds:

  • Golden retriever
  • Poodle
  • Shih Tzu
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Bulldog

For a correct diagnosis, you must take your dog to the vet. The vet can do a physical examination, pinpointing the issue and whether it’s a seasonal allergy or not. 

The veterinarian can also perform additional tests, such as allergological tests.

If your dog suffers from a mild form of dermatitis, it can be treated in a few days with the help of appropriate treatment. In more severe cases, the treatment may last several months.

To prevent dermatitis in dogs, educate yourself about potential allergens.

3. Dry skin

Dry skin on dogs

Dry skin in dogs occurs due to humidity and other environmental factors, overproduction of sebum in the sebaceous glands, or medical causes.[3]

Excess oil can irritate the skin, dry it out and cause it to flake as skin cells are replaced faster than usual. In this case, dandruff also appears.

Dogs with dry skin will have inflamed, or irritated skin. White scales (dandruff) will also appear.

Dry skin leads to itching, scratching, and hair loss (in some cases).

As it has multiple causes, it is recommended to contact the veterinarian if your dog has dry skin and scratches intensely.

4. External Parasites

Engorged Ticks

External parasites can cause itching on dogs’ faces and bodies in two ways:

  • When walking through dogs’ fur
  • When they feed and inject saliva

The most common external parasites that cause itching in dogs are:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Mites


Fleas, in addition to intense itching and scratching, can also cause allergic dermatitis to flea bites.


Ticks are among the most dangerous external parasites as they can transmit deadly diseases to dogs. Their saliva is irritating to dogs’ bodies and produces a local reaction.

In other cases, ticks can attach to the skin in the ear canal, which will cause dogs’ to shake their heads violently and scratch intensely to detach them.


There are several species of mites that cause itching on the face and body:

  • Demodex spp.
  • Sarcoptes scabiei
  • Cheyletiella spp.
  • Sarcoptes scabiei
  • Trombicula autumnalis
  • Otodectes cynotis

Symptoms vary depending on the mite species.

It should be noted that sarcoptic mange is extremely contagious and can be transmitted to humans. Take your dog to the vet for diagnosis and treatment when you see lesions on its skin and intense scratching.


Why Does My Dog’s Face Itch After Eating?

Your dog can be allergic to its food if it has an itchy face after eating. Food allergies usually appear after a long period in which dogs have consumed the same food. All this time, food allergens sensitized the dog’s immune system. Food allergy is nothing but an exaggerated response of the immune system to food ingredients.

Why Does My Dog Have an Itchy Face and Paws?

An itchy face and paws usually occur when dogs suffer from a skin infection (bacterial or fungal). Dogs with skin infections scratch until they bleed and their hair falls out. They will chew and lick their paws constantly and shake their heads excessively. Contact the vet if your dog shows these symptoms.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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