It’s remarkably easy to assume that the behaviors you see in a dog are similar to those that you might see in another human. Unfortunately, not all behaviors track across species boundaries. If you see a human with chattering teeth, for example, you might assume that he or she is cold. If you see the same thing in a dog, though, you might be looking at a much more serious problem.
Yes, a dog’s teeth can chatter. It’s not exactly the most common behavior, but it is something that can happen. For the most part, though, it’s the kind of subtle thing that any dog owner can miss. If you do start to notice it, though, you need to stay alert. You owe it to your pet to investigate why this behavior has started to occur.
As with many types of dog behaviors, there are many types of underlying causes behind why your dog’s teeth might be chattering. Some of them are harmless, of course, while others are quite serious. What’s important, though, is that you spend some time observing your dog so that you can figure out why this kind of behavior has started. Once you know the possible causes of dog teeth chattering, you can make some choices that are better for your dog’s long-term health.
Chattering Teeth and Behavior
Some of the more common causes of teeth chattering are related to behavior rather than any kind of medical condition. Your dogs can express their feelings in many different ways, not all of which are easily controlled. As such, you should take some time to observe how your dog is doing, in general, to find out if his or her teeth chattering behavior is part of a larger behavioral trend.
Happiness and Excitement
The good news about teeth-chattering is that it can be a sign that your dog is really excited about something. Many dog owners notice this sound when they first walk through the door or when a favorite dog toy gets pulled out. If this is the case, you’re just looking at a dog who is having an involuntary excitement response.
Some dogs take this a little further and turn it into a general happiness response. They might start chattering while playing or even while waiting on a dog treat. You’re looking at a good thing here, so don’t feel like you need to take your dog to the vet to fix the ‘problem’.
Pain or Distress
At the same time, chattering is a sound that dogs can make if they feel hurt or if they are otherwise distress. If your dog’s teeth very suddenly start chattering while something new is happening, for example, you might be looking at a situation in which your dog is feeling scared. Likewise, it might be necessary to keep a close eye on your dog’s chattering if you think that he or she might be hurt, as the sound might be an expression of pain.
Of course, some of the most common chatterings come from emotional issues. If your dog is just generally having a bad day, the sound might be a good way for him or her to get out some negative emotions. It’s not pleasant to hear, but it is good for your dog.
In other cases, your dog’s chattering might have something to do with a physical reaction to a taste or even a smell that your dog has found. In fact, this might be one of those lovely bits of dog communication that has a greater purpose that tracks all the way back to when dogs lived in the wild.
The good news is that chattering isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your dog might be chattering because he or she tasted something that isn’t great, but he or she also might do so because he or she is super excited about a new smell. This isn’t really the kind of reaction that your dog can actually control, but rather a reflex. What’s important is that it’s not anything about which you need to worry about.
While you can’t always expect a dog’s behavior to be the same as a human’s when exposed to a given stimulus, sometimes a dog will react an awful lot like a human. Though there are many other reasons why a dog’s teeth might chatter, this can also happen because the dog is starting to get cold. This is very common among short-haired dogs and any dog that lives in a cold region but that wasn’t bred for those temperatures. If your dog has chattering teeth because of the cold, it might be a good idea to invest in a dog sweater for him or her.
A Displacement Reaction
In some cases, your dog might be utilizing what experts refer to as displacement language. In most cases, your dog is actually trying to communicate because he or she has identified a threat and is trying not to freak out. The noise that your dog is making is actually meant to confuse predators and lead them away from your dog, a lovely little bit of behavioral communication that is largely meant to help keep your dog safe. This is the same reason why your dog might start suddenly spinning in circles when introduced to another dog or a scary new person.
Health Issues and Chattering Teeth in Dogs
The big reason that you need to keep an eye on your dog when his or her teeth chatter is that chattering can (rarely) be a sign of a significant health issue. It’s vital that you learn how to look out for the other symptoms of these conditions, as some of them can be quite serious. If you notice that your dog’s teeth are chattering and you see any other symptoms, you should get your dog to the vet as soon as you can.
Unfortunately, your dog might be chattering his or her teeth because he or she is already dealing with some kind of advanced gum disease. This is not only a very painful condition but also one that can go on to cause huge problems. If you don’t act quickly, the bacteria that cause gum damage can hurt your dog’s teeth and eventually even their other body parts.
Why do your dogs chatter even though this behavior obviously hurts them? Simply put, your dogs are instinctively doing something that they can’t help. While your dog might want to show that he or she is in pain, doing so wouldn’t be great for survival in the wild. Instead, he or she has to fall back on an involuntary response.
How do you deal with this? Simply go get your dog checked out and make sure that his or her teeth are examined when he or she visits the vet. A good examination will always let you know if this condition is in its early stages and if you can do anything to slow its spread.
Epilepsy is much more common in dogs than it is in humans (1). It’s caused by any number of problems, but it generally presents as uncontrollable convulsions. As you might imagine, these convulsions will make your dog’s teeth chatter, while also often making him or her drool or foam at the mouth. This is something that can’t be ignored and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Most vets are able to figure out if the source of your dog’s seizures is epilepsy or another problem. Once you know the root of the cause, you can start looking for ways to help your dog to stay safe and healthy.
Multisystem Neuronal Degeneration
This condition is one that makes your dog constantly stay off-balance and tremble. It’s hereditary and common among certain breeds, with a special focus on breeds like Cocker Spaniels and Maltese. It is currently incurable but it is treatable with a number of different drugs and methods, which can allow your dog to live happily without most of the worst symptoms impacting his or her 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.
Focal Motor Seizures
This is a type of trembling that actually impacts your dog’s mouth and nothing else. It’s very hard to spot, but luckily you won’t have to worry about it very often. A relatively harmless condition when compared to some of the others discussed here, it’s a good idea to get it checked out if only to make sure that there are no other co-morbid conditions present.
Sadly, chattering can also be a sign that your dog is just starting to get old. Dogs tend to chatter more as they reach their later years, so don’t worry too much if you start to see this in an older dog. It’s simply something that will start to occur as your dog begins to age and you’ll see it across almost every breed. 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 we’ve discussed.
The good news is that you can get treatment for most of the health problems that cause chattering. If you pay attention and act quickly, you can actually thank this behavior for providing a clear sign that your dog needs health. Though it’s never a fun behavior to watch, it is one with which your dog can live.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is my dog chattering his teeth?
Your dog might be chattering his teeth for many reasons. They can range from expressions of joy or sorrow to a number of different serious health problems. If you see that your dog is chattering his or her teeth and exhibits any other health issues, you should get him or her to a vet.
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, or even cold.
3. Why is my dog’s jaw trembling?
Your dog’s jaw is trembling because his or her teeth are chattering. This can be attributed to a number of different behavioral or health issues, so keep a close eye on your dog.
4. Why does my dog chatter his teeth when he smells pee?
It’s likely because your dog either really likes or dislikes the smell. Chattering can be both a sign of joy and disgust, but it’s probably not anything about which you need to worry in this case.