When your four-legged comrade starts rubbing his head on the floor, it could just be his way of exchanging scents. But in some cases, head rubbing stems from an abnormality in the ear. Just to be safe, talk with your vet about his unusual behavior to figure out a cause.
Leaving His Mark
You’re probably already aware that Henry is fully capable of lifting his leg up to mark his turf. But this isn’t the only way dogs claim their territory. They also have scent glands on their paws and snouts. When yours is rubbing his muzzle in your carpet or even in the grass, he’s doing his best to leave a piece of him behind. This way all other canines know that he was there first.
Covering His Trace
If your floor smells like something desirable to Henry, he could rub his head all over it or roll around in the spot. Maybe there’s an old urine scent lingering around from another pooch or that spot is where the cat always sleeps. While the odor may not be pleasant to you, the theory behind the behavior is that he’s covering up his own signature perfume to mask himself before a big hunt, according to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Even though he doesn’t need to hunt for his dinner, the instinct is still encoded in his DNA from his canine ancestors.
Dealing with Mites
Henry could be suffering from an ear mite outbreak if he continuously rubs his head on the floor, focusing on his ears. Ear mites lead to severe itching in your pooch’s head; as he continues to scratch, he’ll just make the condition worse. Watch for pawing at the ears, head-shaking, scabbing or crusting around the ear flaps, dark waxy crumbles in his ears and hair loss around the ears. These warning signs let you know that your beloved fur ball may have unwanted pests lurking ground in his ears and he needs a trip to the vet.
Coping With an Ear Infection
Ear infections can stem from allergies, a ruptured eardrum, a polyp in the ear canal, or a yeast or bacterial infection. He’ll probably tilt his head frequently when he’s walking along, and stop to rub his head on the ground as much as possible. You might see him walk in circles or lose his balance easily, or witness a nasty scent coming from his ears, WebMD ways. Your veterinarian will want to take a culture of any unusual substances in your furry friend’s ears. Depending on the cause of the infection, Henry’s treatment could be as simple as applying a topical cream several times a day. But if it’s more severe, he may need prescription medication and possibly a full ear-cleaning.
If your beloved pal is suffering from some kind of neurological disorder or inner ear problem, which can be genetic or from an injury, he could constantly shake his head and rub it on the floor. Your veterinarian will do a thorough examination to see if something is out of the ordinary and could send you to a neurologist for a more in-depth evaluation. Sometimes a dog who rubs his face on the ground has nothing wrong with him, though. It's just a compulsive quirk that he does, much like you might tap your foot or fingers.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.