Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What does it mean when a dog’s teeth chatter? The answer is concerning

Did you know that dogs and humans have similar brain structures? Just like us, dogs experience emotions like happiness, anger, excitement, love, and disgust. However, a dog’s brain is more similar to that of a toddler than that of an adult, meaning their range of emotions is somewhat limited. Your dog’s expressions can run the gamut from a playful smile to an aggravated sneer, but have you ever wondered what dog teeth chattering means? There are several causes of dog jaw chattering. Some are simple and easily remedied, and others require a trip to the vet. Here’s what it means if your dog’s teeth are chattering. 

Shallow focus of a brown and white pointer.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why do dogs chatter their teeth? 

As a pet parent, you get to know your dog’s personality quirks inside and out. You know what his favorite toy is, his preferred type of food, and his go-to place to sleep. It’s understandable that you’ll feel alarmed if you notice your pup exhibits a behavior he’s never shown before now, especially one as unexpected as chattering teeth. Here are a few perfectly benign reasons your pup may be chattering his teeth. 

It’s cold outside

Just because your pooch is wearing a fur coat doesn’t mean he’s toasty and warm. Similar to our response to cold weather, a dog’s teeth may begin to chatter when the temperature dips. Try not to leave your dog outside all day while you’re at work once it gets cold out. If you absolutely have to leave your dog out during the day, make sure he has access to a heated dog house so he can warm himself up.

Your pup is excited about something

Have you ever seen a cat’s teeth chatter? It often happens when a frisky feline spots a bird or a lizard through a window, and it’s usually accompanied by a chirping sound. While this behavioral quirk is less common in dogs, some pups can work themselves up into such a state that they can’t stop their teeth from chattering with excitement. If your dog’s teeth are chattering immediately after playtime, don’t be alarmed. Your pooch is fine; he just can’t contain his excitement. 

Your dog is tracking a scent

Your dog’s olfactory system is a powerhouse, but did you know your pooch has a secondary scent-collection system? This system is located in your pup’s mouth. Your dog’s teeth may chatter when this secondary scent-collection system is activated, and he’ll most likely drool a lot too. 

A woman petting a tan dog with his tongue hanging out.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is teeth chattering a sign of?

In many instances, your dog’s teeth chattering is nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately, not all reasons are benign. Some are concerning and require a trip to the vet as soon as possible. Chattering teeth may be a symptom of the following health problems:

Abscessed tooth

If your pooch has an abscessed tooth, he may chatter his teeth to relieve some of the pressure caused by infection and inflammation. Other symptoms to look out for include facial swelling, increased drooling, loss of appetite, and bad breath. 

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease, a progressive disease caused by the buildup of bacteria along the gum line, affects almost 90% of all dogs by the time they reach two years of age. Bloody gums, drooling, loss of appetite, and teeth chattering may indicate that your pup is suffering from periodontal disease.

Anxiety

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from anxiety. Incessant barking, pacing, panting, teeth chattering, and chewing on household items are all good indicators that your dog may have anxiety. Speak to your vet about the possibility of using behavioral training or medication to help alleviate your dog’s symptoms. 

Seizure disorder

Some neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, cause dogs to chatter their teeth during seizures. In fact, epilepsy is much more common in dogs than it is in humans. Another possibility is focal motor seizures, which are centered in your dog’s mouth and ultimately won’t cause your pup much trouble. 

Canine multiple system degeneration

In the beginning stages of canine multiple system degeneration, your dog’s teeth may chatter. The disease is progressive and may cause difficulty standing and walking in later stages. While there is no cure for this disorder, your vet can prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms. 

A Golden Retriever smiling and showing his teeth.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Always consult your vet

While many causes for your dog’s chattering teeth are harmless, others require veterinary intervention. If your pup isn’t cold and you haven’t finished an epic play session in the backyard, we recommend taking your pup to the vet at the first sign of teeth chattering. Your dog’s health is your top priority, and most cases of teeth chattering can be treated easily with prompt, attention.

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Contributor
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
Why do dogs cough? What you need to know
The reasons behind your coughing pooch
A small brown dog lying on the back of a sofa in mid-yawn

As a dog owner, it can be easy to worry whenever your furry friend starts exhibiting symptoms of ill health. From reverse sneezing to a loss of appetite, just about any new change could make a pet parent keep an eye out. We all want the best for our furry friends, of course, but we don't always know what it means when a new symptom comes up.
For example, you may be asking yourself, 'Why is my dog coughing?' It's no secret that there are lots of causes behind canine coughing (not to be confused with reverse sneezing), but it's not always clear what to look for. Fortunately, we're here to explain several of the most common causes of dog coughing and what each case may look like. Hopefully, you'll have more answers soon!

Why is my dog coughing like something is stuck in his throat?
If your dog's persistent cough sounds dry and hacking, or even like a spasm or wheeze, your pooch might be suffering from tracheal collapse. This happens when a dog's trachea, or windpipe, becomes "soft and floppy." It's more common among flat-faced dog breeds like boxers, Shih Tzus, and pugs, but it can also occur in dogs who are overweight or who suffer from allergies. It worsens in hot temperatures or during exercise,

Read more
Why do cats hate dogs? The answer isn’t all that simple
This is why your dog and cat may not be best friends
A cat and Yorkie playing

"They’re fighting like cats and dogs" is a euphemism often used to describe sibling rivalries, marital strife, or disagreements among company executives. However, it stems from the idea that two of the world’s most popular companion animals, dogs and cats, prefer to feud with one another over forming friendships.

For folks who are distinctly "dog people," "cat people," or "not-into-either people," whether this idea is accurate or not is irrelevant. For those who love — or have — both dogs and cats, it’s essential to determine: Why do cats hate dogs? Better question: Do cats truly hate dogs, or is this cliche a rumor?

Read more
Why do dogs’ anal glands fill up? Here’s what to know
How often you may need to take your pup to the vet to relieve this issue
A small dog sits on the table at a vet office

In pet ownership, as in all life, you run into hurdles. Some dogs never have an issue with their anal glands, but they can come as a surprise to even veteran owners who suddenly see or smell something off. Unfortunately, you'll quickly discover how difficult (and gross) these little sacs can be. But dogs with particularly tricky bathroom issues will require a little maintenance and extra attention to the butt area.
What are anal glands?
There's no delicate way to say this: They're two smallish glands on either side of your pet's butthole. From an evolutionary perspective, the anal glands give off a unique scent, and the idea is that it acts as a canine's signature. Anal glands aren't analogous to anything we have as humans, so definitely don't worry about your own body expressing anything like this. However, many pups wind up having issues in this department and find themselves unable to empty them on their own.
Why do dogs' anal glands fill up?
Certain underlying problems, like obesity and poor diet, might make a dog more susceptible to gland issues. Smaller breeds also tend to struggle a bit more since their whole area is more compact. You may find your pooch expressing their own glands, licking the area, or scooting. That means it's time for an inspection.

How do you prevent anal gland issues?
Talk to your vet about what could be causing Fido's difficulties, as it can vary, but generally, you'll want to look at how much food and exercise they're getting. Additionally, a supplement, like a probiotic, will frequently take care of the issue. This works mostly by firming up the poop but can also introduce good bacteria to his gut.

Read more