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Dog Teeth Chattering: What It Means For Your Pet

Key Takeaways

  • Teeth chattering in dogs can be both a symptom of an underlying health issue such as dental pain, or a way of expressing emotions.
  • If teeth chattering is the sign of a health issue, it is important to talk to your vet right away to see what treatment options are available in order to make your dog as healthy and happy as possible.
  • Teeth chattering can also be a sign of old age, so if you have a senior dog, it is normal to see their teeth chatter. However, if they chatter too often, you need to consult your vet to rule out any possible health issue.

Dental pain or oral cavity pain is often the culprit for dog teeth chattering. Dental abscess, gingivitis, or broken teeth, are often painful for a dog and the result is uncontrolled chattering of the jaw and teeth. Other reasons for a dog to chatter its teeth include emotional expression, bodily response to temperature, as well as other health issues

There are many different behaviors that align between dogs and humans; but sometimes the causes for these behaviors are drastically different. If I was in a cold environment without the proper amount of warm clothing, my teeth would be chattering in order to heat up my internal body temperature. On the other hand, if my dog’s teeth were chattering, the cause of this behavior would be entirely based on their health, the weather, and their emotions. Chattering teeth can be a signal of stress and nervousness in dogs when they feel threatened by another dog, it can be warming up their body in a cold environment, or it could be the cause of a major health issue.

Dogs tend to chatter their teeth more as they age, and it isn’t always a problem that you need to talk to you vet about right away. Regardless, I advise you to stay alert since teeth chattering is a behavior that can often be missed by many pet parents. The quicker you notice it, the quicker you can figure out if there is a problem and how serious it is. All pet owners including myself owe it to our pets to learn more about this behavior and investigate it when it starts to occur. By spending time observing their behavior, you can figure out why this kind of behavior has started.

In order to learn more about the different causes of teeth chattering in dogs, I will take you through the different reasons behind this in order to help you make the best choices for your dog’s long-term health.

Chattering Teeth and Behavior

Although medical conditions are some of the primary contributors to teeth chattering, another common cause is related to how your dog feels in relation to the current situation they are in. Dogs express their feelings in many ways, but they often don’t have the ability to control the behaviors that come along with these feelings. As such, I advise you to take some time to observe how your dog reacts to different situations in order to find out if their teeth chattering behavior is part of a larger behavioral trend or not. 

Dog with a stick.

Happiness and Excitement

One positive reason for teeth chattering is that it can often mean that your dog is extremely happy or excited about something such as another dog, a delicious smell or food, or seeing their favorite toy. A lot of the time, dog owners notice the sound of teeth chattering occurring when they walk through the door to their home after a long day. In this case, do not be alarmed or worried, since this teeth chattering is an involuntary excitement response to their owner’s presence.

This behavior could happen in even more situations that they deem to be exciting or positive. This could occur during playtime, when they are waiting for a treat, and when waiting to go outside for a walk. This is just a positive response to everyday activities that piques your dog’s interest, so don’t feel like you need to take your dog to the vet to fix the ‘problem’. 

Pain or Distress

An emotional reason for teeth chattering could be that your dog has been injured or they are in major distress. Dogs can feel fear and anxiety like humans, so it is very possible for their teeth to suddenly start chattering when a new event is happening or when they are meeting a new person that they are cautious of. Chattering can also be the result of injury, so if your dog is doing this in a calm warm environment where not a lot of exciting events are occurring it would be a good idea to bring your dog to the vet to make sure that everything is okay. Another way to recognize if your dog’s teeth chattering is the result of an injury would be listening to the sound. The chattering can often sound more pained if your dog has been hurt in any way.

Sometimes, teeth chattering can also be the result of emotional distress. If your dog is frustrated or has a bad day, teeth chattering may be a way for them to calm down and get out some negative emotions. If this is the case, there is no problem that needs to be checked with the vet, so you should probably just let your furry friend blow off some steam for a while.

Physical Reactions

In other cases, teeth chattering might have something to do with a physical reaction to a taste or even a smell that your dog has found. When dogs lick or smell something they like, they often chatter their teeth due to an involuntary response known as the Flehmen response. This action helps to enhance the overall smell and taste of whatever your dog just encountered. This isn’t anything you need to worry about since it is just a reflex for dogs whenever they taste or smell something they enjoy or are excited about.


Although there are a lot of differences as to why dogs’ teeth chatter and why human’s teeth chatter, this reason is the same for both. If a dog is in a cold environment without enough fur or body heat to keep them warm, then their teeth may start to chatter as a way to increase their body temperature. This is very common among short-haired dogs and any dog that lives in a cold region but that wasn’t bred for that temperature. If your furry friend has chattering teeth because of the cold, then it is a good idea to get them some warm outfits or take them out for shorter walks during the winter season.

A Displacement Reaction

Another reason for teeth chattering is your dog using displacement language—a normal behavior that is occurring out of its usual context. In most cases, your dog is actually trying to communicate because they have identified another dog that they feel threatened by and they’re trying to not freak out. If your dog is in this situation, then they are chattering their teeth in order to confuse the dog they feel threatened by and lead them away. This behavioral communication thus keeps your dog safe and helps them to calm down in that stressful situation. This is also why your dog might suddenly start spinning in circles when introduced to another dog or a new person they deem scary. If you observe your dog chattering their teeth in these kinds of situations, you do not need to worry since this is a natural response to a stressful or anxiety-producing situation.

Health Issues and Chattering Teeth in Dogs

Although a lot of the reasons for teeth chattering are caused by strong emotions such as fear or happiness, it is still important to keep an eye out for any possible health issues. Although it is a minor symptom for the health issues I will talk about, it is still important to pay attention to other symptoms that occur with it as some of them can be quite serious. If teeth chattering is accompanied by other symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. 

Periodontal Disease

One health issue that can contribute to chattering teeth is a form of advanced gum problem known as periodontal disease. This condition can cause a lot of oral pain since it causes bacteria to slowly deteriorate your dog’s teeth and facial bones, leading to other major health issues. If you don’t act quickly, the bacteria that cause gum damage and can move on to other parts of your dog’s body, causing major damage to muscle tissues and bones.

The behavior in this case is instinctive because of the dental pain—it could be an involuntary call for help.

Bulldog underbite.

If you notice any of the symptoms of periodontal disease, you should get your dog checked out and make sure that their teeth are examined during the visit. If you can get this kind of examination in the early stages of the disease, your vet can guide you in treating your dog’s oral pain and how you can slow the spread of the disease throughout the rest of your dog’s body.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease include:

  • Bleeding/inflamed gums
  • Discolored, loose, or missing teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling or bloody drool
  • Difficulty eating or weight loss


Epilepsy is much more common in dogs than it is in humans. It’s caused by a number of problems, but it generally presents as uncontrollable convulsions which will most likely cause your dog’s teeth to chatter. This can also result in your dog being unresponsive to you as well as excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth. If you see this happening, make sure to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible in order to get proper diagnosis and treatment.

Most vets are able to figure out if the source of your dog’s seizures is epilepsy or another issue. Seizures can occur due to a variety of reasons such as exposure to a toxin or problems with metabolism. Experts suggest that certain ingredients like glutamate in some dog food can trigger seizures in pets. Once you know the root cause, you can talk to your veterinarian in order to start looking for ways to help your dog to stay safe and healthy. 

Symptoms of Epilepsy

  • Collapsing, jerking, or stiffening
  • Muscle twitching
  • Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Foaming at the mouth or excessive drooling
  • Tongue chewing

Multi-system Neuronal Degeneration

This condition is a hereditary health issue that results in your dog constantly trembling and being off-balance. It’s highly common among certain breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Maltese, and although it is currently incurable, it is still manageable with a number of different drugs. Since teeth chattering is just one of the symptoms, make sure you watch your dog for any other unusual behavior that may point to Multi-system Neuronal Degeneration. The sooner you can recognize an issue present, the faster you can talk to your vet about ways to help your furry friend live normally without most of the worst symptoms impacting their life. If you’re unsure about your dog’s genetics, it may be worth picking up a dog DNA test to see if they are predisposed to these conditions.

Symptoms of Multi-system Neuronal Degeneration

  • Walking abnormalities and eventual difficulty walking
  • Head or fully body tremors

Focal Motor Seizures

This condition occurs in only half of a dog’s brain, but only in a certain portion of that half, thus resulting in only tiny trembles in certain body areas. One area that can be impacted is your dog’s mouth, which can make it difficult to spot. However, if you do spot this kind of behavior as well as other signs that are correlated with this condition, make an appointment with your vet to see how problematic the seizures are. From here you can take the next steps to make sure that your dog can live the happiest and healthiest life they possibly can.

Symptoms of Focal Motor Seizures

  • Hallucinations
  • Signs of vision/hearing changes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Balance problems and involuntary movements
  • Fur standing up


Teeth chattering can also be a sign that your dog is starting to get older. Although many people including myself don’t know why, dogs tend to chatter more as they reach an older age, so you don’t need to worry if you start to see this in an older dog. The only real thing to do here is to pay attention so that you can be sure that your dog’s chattering is just due to age and not one of the other problems that have been discussed above.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my dog chattering his teeth? 

There are many reasons why your dog is chattering their teeth. They can range from expressions of joy, stress, or pain to a number of different health issues. In order to determine the main reason behind the chattering, pay attention to how your dog is behaving in different situations to see if they are expressing their emotions or if they are showing symptoms of a health issue. If the reason is the latter, try to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible to figure out what the next steps should be.

2. What is teeth chattering a symptom of?

Teeth chattering can be a symptom of epilepsy, periodontal disease, multisystem neuronal degeneration, focal motor seizures, or even aging. It can also be a sign that your dog is happy, sad, stressed, cold, or in pain.  

3. Why does my dog chatter his teeth when he smells pee?

Your dog most likely chatters their teeth in this situation because he is either excited or disgusted by the smell. Since chattering can be both a sign of joy and disgust, it’s not anything that you need to worry about in this case.

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