Do Pets Have Tickle Spots?

My Pekingese loves to have his belly scratched. We often find "tickle spots" as we scratch him (he'll make a silly face and thump his...


My Pekingese loves to have his belly scratched. We
often find “tickle spots” as we scratch him
(he’ll make a silly face and thump his hind leg).

He seems to enjoy being tickled–he’ll
sometimes move so we’ll hit a tickle spot. Some
days he’ll be more ticklish than other days. I
don’t remember my Dachshund ever having a
ticklish tummy.

What’s going on? Are they really ticklish spots,
why do they vary, and are they normal?


San Francisco / East Bay, CA

I have known plenty of dogs (and a few cats) who thumped their hind legs when they were scratched in the right place. There is no doubt that they enjoy being scratched in these places. Animals instinctively try to escape from unpleasant stimuli. I have never seen a pet try to get away from someone who was scratching the right spot. I suspect that they enjoy this activity in the same way that we enjoy having unreachable areas of our backs scratched.

I do not know the neurological mechanism that causes pets to thump their hind legs when they are scratched. However, I do know that in most cases it is harmless.

Unfortunately, there are exceptions. Animals suffering from skin conditions that cause itching may suddenly develop “tickle spots” in troubled areas. For instance, flea allergies often cause sensitization of the skin near the tail. Dogs with flea allergies are more likely to thump their hind legs when scratched at the base of the tail. Cats may lick the air or gnaw on their front legs or chest (although plenty of perfectly healthy cats do this too).

If your pet suddenly develops a sensitive area, I’d recommend a checkup. If he does not seem excessively itchy, and if his “tickle spots” have been consistent over time, I’ll bet nothing’s wrong.

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