Ask a Vet: Why Are My Dog’s Teeth Chattering?

Three Minutes
Feb 22, 2023

Generally, teeth chattering in dogs occurs when they’re cold or nervous, but it may also be a symptom of pain or diseases. So what are some reasons dogs chatter their teeth and when should you be worried?

Behavioral Reasons for Dog Teeth Chattering

Much like how they wag their tails, dogs often chatter their teeth as an emotional response to the environment around them. Pay attention to when your dog’s teeth are chattering. Depending on the situation, you can generally determine the cause.

Your dog is cold

A dog chattering teeth is a natural response to feeling cold. If your dog has been outside in the winter weather for any extended period of time, then their shivering and chattering teeth are probably from that. Get them warmed up by heating up your home. You may want to consider buying your dog a coat or booties can help keep them warmer when you walk them in the snow or the cold.1

Your dog is anxious

What do thunderstorms, fireworks, and a vet appointment have in common? All of these things can be anxiety-inducing and may cause your pet to behave strangely, including teeth chattering. That said, the source of anxiety might not be a specific event. Separation anxiety or social anxiety can also cause dog teeth chattering if they feel abandoned or threatened. If you spot your dog chattering their teeth in high-stress situations, it’s likely they’re expressing their anxiety to you.2

Your dog is excited

Dog teeth chattering can be a physical reaction to excitement. If your dog’s teeth are chattering when you’ve just gotten home, are playing with them, or have given them a treat, you can likely chalk it up to pure joy.2

Your dog is smelling something

Some dogs will chatter their teeth after sniffing a dog of the opposite sex or something particularly good. Often this behavior is coupled with licking, lips curled back, and even foaming at the mouth. This is perfectly natural and called the Flehmen response. It’s thought to help dogs bring the scent into the vomeronasal system (or “scent organ”) on the roof of their mouth so they can smell it even better.2

Health Reasons for Dog Teeth Chattering

While teeth chattering in dogs is typically caused by cold, anxiety, or other behavioral reasons, sometimes it can be a sign of poor health. Your dog may have pain, seizures, or an upset stomach. Let’s dig into a few health concerns to watch out for if your dog’s teeth are chattering.

Your dog has oral pain

Your dog’s chattering teeth may be a sign of a dental disease or gum disease.3 They may have a cavity, a broken tooth, swollen/inflamed gums, or periodontal disease. All of these afflictions may cause bad breath, pain in and around the mouth, and sensitivity to chewing.

Periodontal disease treatment or any dental work can be expensive, painful, and traumatic for your pet. A good way to help prevent these troubles is to prioritize your dog’s oral health by brushing their teeth and taking them to regular dental cleanings.

Your dog has a problem with their temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

Chattering teeth can point to arthritis, a jaw fracture, or general pain in your dog’s temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint is the hinged part of the jaw that controls opening and closing it. Problems with the TMJ usually have similar symptoms as dental or gum disease. So if your dog’s mouth appears to be in pain, you may want to see a vet and they can help you determine the cause.3

Your dog has seizures

Neurological conditions like seizures can look like teeth chattering. If your dog is having a seizure, they may appear to space out and not respond if you call their name or clap at them. They may also have dilated pupils and pace or become clingy. Seizures and other neurological conditions can be detrimental to your dog’s health and may need to be analyzed by a vet.3

Your dog has an upset stomach

Teeth chattering can also be caused by gastrointestinal problems. If your dog is vomiting, nauseous, or has acid reflux, they may also chatter or grind their teeth. Drooling and lack of appetite accompanying chattering teeth might indicate an upset stomach.3

Other Symptoms To Watch Out For

While most teeth chattering isn’t cause for concern on its own, there could be a serious issue if you’re seeing other symptoms alongside it. Here are a few symptoms to watch out for: 3

  • Bleeding
  • Spacing out
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling in or around the mouth
  • Loss of appetite or eating slower than usual

Why you Might Consider Investing in Dog Insurance

The bottom line is that your dog’s teeth could be chattering for many reasons. If they only chatter their teeth in identifiable situations, it may be a behavioral response to things around them. But if they’re doing it often or without an identifiable reason, it may be time to take them to your local veterinarian.

Vet appointments can add up though, especially if the teeth chattering points to serious issues like dental diseases or seizures. This is where MetLife Pet’s dog insurance policies can help. Our policies can help cover injuries, illnesses, diagnostic testing, medications, and more.4 Get a free quote today.

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 Dr. Hunter Finn

Dr. Hunter Finn is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.

1 What Does it Mean When a Dog Chatters Their Teeth?” Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery

2 “My Dogs Teeth are Chattering: What Does it Mean,” Lincolnway Veterinary Clinic

3 “Dog Teeth Chattering: What You Need to Know,” PETMD

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