Dogs have many foibles.
One of the more surprising of these habits is chattering teeth.
If you’ve never seen a dog chatter its teeth before, it’s natural to ask what it means.
As an owner who loves their pooch, I’m always frightened when my dog does something that I don’t expect, and I often tend to panic and rush them to the vet.
How do you know if your dog’s chattering teeth are cause for concern or not?
Luckily, most of the reasons for dog chattering teeth are simple to remedy.
Why Is My Dog Chattering Its Teeth?
There are a variety of reasons dogs chatter their teeth.
Some of these are harmless, but others can be concerning.
Diagnosing the reason for your dog’s chattering teeth requires a thorough understanding of what’s normal for your dog and its medical history.
We’ll talk in more detail later about the many causes of teeth chattering in dogs.
But first, how concerned should you be about your dog’s new habit?
Are they in danger if their teeth suddenly start chattering?
Are a Dog’s Teeth Chattering a Cause for Concern?
There’s usually no reason to be concerned about a dog’s chattering teeth.
Many causes of this behavior are benign.
That said, chattering teeth can indicate an underlying illness, some of which can become serious if not treated right away.
So, when should you become worried, and just how concerned should you be?
Why Are Your Dog’s Teeth Chattering?
So, that’s what to look for when analyzing your dog’s teeth chattering habit.
But what exactly causes it?
We’ll start by talking about some of the more benign causes of dog chattering teeth.
One of the most common reasons for teeth chattering in dogs is that they are cold.
Some dogs, like Huskies, are genetically bred to handle inclement weather.
Other dogs can react adversely, especially if they suffer from alopecia.
Small dogs are particularly susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.
This includes breeds like:
- Smooth Dachshund
- Toy Poodle
- Basset Hounds
But as any cat owner can tell you, sometimes teeth chattering results from anticipation.
We notice it in indoor cats, usually when they want to eat the bird on the other side of the window.
While dogs don’t share much in common with cats, they similarly chatter their teeth to convey excitement.
Excitable chattering usually happens in response to:
- Playing fetch
Working Facial Muscles
It’s also possible that your dog chatters their teeth because they are working their facial muscles.
This could be involuntary if they are cold and shivering.
Other times it’s deliberate, such as when your dog needs to communicate with another dog.
While all of these mundane explanations are potential causes for teeth chattering, there are several more insidious possibilities behind dogs that chatter their teeth.
One of the most common health problems that cause dogs’ teeth to chatter is periodontal disease.
Unless you routinely brush your dog’s teeth, they probably have some stage of dental disease.
Certain breeds, like Dachshunds, are more susceptible to dental issues because of their elongated mouths.
Not only that, but many dogs resist teeth cleaning from their owners.
However, it’s important to keep on top of your dog’s oral hygiene because periodontal disease can mean more than plaque build-up.
It may require teeth to be pulled, and in extreme cases, can result in kidney or liver failure.
Another reason your dog may start chattering about their teeth is that they have a neurological issue.
There are a variety of illnesses that could affect your dog’s brain.
Some of the most relevant are:
- Shaker Syndrome
Both epilepsy and shaker syndrome have recognizable symptoms.
While epilepsy is heritable, any dog can develop shaker syndrome.
Some dogs chatter their teeth out of anxiety.
It’s a self-soothing behavior like grooming.
It also signals their distress to you.
Consider the context of your dog chattering its teeth.
Is the environment strange?
Are there strangers present?
Perhaps your dog is naturally anxious or suffers from trauma.
All of these things can result in teeth chattering.
It’s also possible that the explanation is displacement language.
This is a normal response from dogs that are feeling threatened.
The chattering distracts other dogs, and they stop socializing to find the origin of the noise.
It can also be a way for dogs to demonstrate aggression and warn off potential interactions.
You’ll have to decide at the moment if the social chattering is a threat or threat deflection.
Everyone has experienced an unanticipated click behind their ear, especially while chewing.
Dogs are no different.
If there is a problem with the temporomandibular joint, many dogs chatter their teeth.
Common TMJ illnesses associated with teeth chattering include:
- Jaw fractures
If the chattering is persistent, call your vet.
Gastrointestinal issues are another cause of teeth chattering.
Dogs with these problems also exhibit:
- Excessive drool
- Excessive lip-licking
- Excessive swallowing
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a dog chatters their teeth because of an ear infection.
Like people, the teeth, sinuses, and inner ear are closely related.
Consequently, some dogs experience ear infection symptoms in their jaws or teeth.
What to Do if Your Dog’s Teeth Are Chattering?
Those are some things that may cause a dog’s teeth to chatter.
What can you do about it?
Look for Associated Symptoms
Because there are so many possible causes for teeth chattering in dogs, the first thing you must do is look for other symptoms.
If you can’t find any, your dog is likely chattering its teeth for one of the more innocuous reasons on this list.
See the Vet
That said, if you notice any other symptoms, like vomiting or jaw clenching, it’s time to call the vet.
Since there’s an extensive collection of medical conditions that trigger teeth chattering, it’s best to rule out any dangerous conditions.
Be prepared for the vet to require x-rays and further exams to rule out potential causes.
How Can You Stop Teeth Chattering?
While calling the vet can be helpful, you may also want to know what you can do to treat your dog’s teeth chattering.
Remedies vary wildly depending on the reason for the behavior.
Address the Trigger
One thing you can do irrespective of the problem is to treat the disease, not the symptoms.
While teeth chattering may look uncomfortable, it may be the least of your dog’s worries.
Talk to your vet about the best way to tackle your dog’s illness, whether that involves pheromone therapy for anxiety or corticosteroids for more serious conditions.
Invest in a Dog Jacket
If your dog’s primary concern is cold weather, investing in a dog jacket can help solve the problem.
Dog jackets help lower the chances of your dog developing frostbite or hypothermia.
Dog boots and jackets give extra protection from the cold, and they stop your dog’s feet from coming into contact with ice salt, which contains antifreeze and is harmful to your dog.
Comfort Your Dog
For dogs who chatter their teeth to self-soothe, the best thing you can do is reassure them.
Synthetic pheromone dispensers may help as they increase the number of scent markers in your dog’s home.
Creating a safe space, like a crate or den for your dog to retreat also helps.
The best thing you can do is spend time with your dog.
Few things reassure canines as much as having a pack, and for many dogs, that’s their owner.
Follow the Vet’s Instructions
Finally, never underestimate the importance of following veterinary advice.
They can diagnose health problems best and will prescribe medication appropriately.
Ensure your dog fulfills the treatment requirements and tell the vet if symptoms persist.
There are many reasons why a dog’s teeth can chatter.
Some of these are benign.
Others are more concerning.
You’ll need to use your judgment to decide whether your dog needs veterinary care or not.
If you decide they do, ensure you follow the vet’s instructions thoroughly, and you will soon have a healthy, happy dog who doesn’t chatter their teeth—unless they’re keen on a treat.