It can be alarming to see your dog chattering its teeth for the first time. The extremely rapid clicking produces a unique sound, almost as if it were produced by a vibration. While it can sometimes be a sign of medical issues, the most likely cause for your dog’s teeth rattling is excitement or overwhelm.
Dogs’ teeth chatter for several reasons, including stress, excitement, fear, temperature, oral pain, or medical conditions. Usually, teeth chattering is a normal response to overstimulation. But it can also be a sign of a medical condition that needs treatment.
Should you be worried if your dog is chattering its teeth? Knowing all of the reasons dogs chatter can help you determine whether your dog is just excited, anxious, cold, or whether they need to visit the vet. Let’s take a look at what causes a dog’s teeth to chatter.
Emotional and Physical Causes of Teeth Chattering
Stress and Anxiety
Sometimes, when dogs are stressed or anxious, they will chatter their teeth. Teeth chattering can be a normal, involuntary adrenaline response in dogs. When dogs get too much adrenaline, they can get jittery, just like humans. When stress and anxiety cause your dog to shiver or chatter its teeth, it is just expressing its worry in a healthy response.
Usually, you can tell whether stress is causing a dog’s teeth to chatter by helping them calm down. If the chattering stops after a few scratches and pets, then your dog’s chattering is probably just a healthy stress response.
Some dogs chatter their teeth as a response to a fearful situation like meeting a stranger or entering an unfamiliar environment. Again, this is an involuntary expression of their emotional state.
When trying to determine if the cause of your dog’s teeth chattering is fear, keep in mind that while many situations seem like obvious reasons for a dog to be fearful, some are not. Try to see things from your dog’s perspective and why they might be afraid. For instance, sometimes something as simple as an overturned garbage can on their walk will appear strange, foreboding, and unusual to them and elicit a fear response.
When a dog is excited, they might chatter their teeth. Just like in humans, dogs can get overstimulated, causing them to have a lot of energy. Teeth chattering is a healthy way to cope with that burst of energy. So, there is no need to worry if your dog is just chattering their teeth when they are excited by treats, toys, people, or other dogs.
Sniffing and Smelling
Dogs are also much more sensitive to smell than humans, and strong smells or new tastes can sometimes make your dog’s teeth chatter. Smelling many other dogs, intense fragrances, or even the garbage can sometimes set a dog’s teeth off.
If your dog chatters its teeth when exposed to many new smells or tastes, your dog is probably just a bit overwhelmed by the scents and is coping with them by chattering their teeth.
Dogs’ teeth chatter when it is cold, just like humans do. Teeth chattering is an entirely normal response to cold temperatures, and you should not worry about it. People and dogs both chatter their teeth when it is cold to generate more heat. If your dog’s teeth are chattering, and you are in a cold environment, your dog is probably just trying to warm up.
Smaller, short-haired, and thinner dogs all have less insulation to protect them from cold weather. This means they are more likely to chatter their teeth in cold temperatures. If you suspect that your dog’s teeth are chattering because of the cold environment, offer them a blanket or sweater (or turn up the heat!) and see if the chattering stops.
Sometimes dogs with chronic ailments like arthritis will chatter their teeth in response to the pain. Just as humans might grimace in sharp pain, a dog may respond with a clattering of their teeth.
Dogs also chatter their teeth when they have pain in their gums, teeth, or jaw. Chattering is sometimes a response to pain, especially oral pain, that is bothering a dog. If you are worried that your dog might be chattering their teeth because or oral pain, see if your dog will let you touch their face. If they shy away or seem scared, they might have some kind of dental problem that needs to be treated.
If your dog does let you look in their mouth, gently lift their lips to see if there are any inflamed, red areas or blood in their mouth. If you do not see any problems, and your dog does not seem like they are in pain when you pet their face, they are probably not chattering their teeth in response to oral pain.
If you do see any blood or inflamed areas, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. See the below medical conditions as your dog may have an abscess, a decaying tooth, or periodontal disease. If this is the case, getting treatment could quickly relieve your dog of its pain and prevent any infections or abscesses from growing in your dog’s mouth and spreading elsewhere into the body.
If your dog’s teeth chattering is persistent, a medical condition may be causing the problem. Several different medical issues can cause your dog to chatter its teeth, so you should take your dog to the vet if the chattering continues for more than a week.
Advanced Periodontal Disease
One cause of chattering teeth is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums caused by too much plaque buildup in the dog’s mouth. The plaque buildup causes bacteria to grow in the dog’s mouth, causing painful bleeding sores and tooth loss.
If your dog is bleeding from the mouth, has irritated, bloody gums, bad breath, or difficulty eating, you should take them to the vet. Your dog may also be reluctant to chew on bones or toys, or may only chew on one side of their mouth to avoid the discomfort.
You can help your dog avoid periodontal disease by maintaining proper dental care. You can do this by brushing their teeth or using other dog dental hygiene methods.
Tooth abscesses can also cause dogs to chatter their teeth. Tooth abscesses can usually be detected by swelling on the gum of a dog’s mouth. If you find a tooth abscess, you should take your dog to the vet for proper treatment. Usually, the abscess will need to be drained, and sometimes an infected tooth needs to be removed.
A seizure disorder such as epilepsy can also make dogs chatter their teeth. You can usually tell if the chattering is caused by a seizure disorder if your dog often chatters its teeth, even when nothing exciting or stressful is happening.
If your dog chatters its teeth randomly and frequently without any relationship to a behavior, you may want to visit the vet to ensure that your dog does not have a seizure disorder.
Focal Motor Seizure
This seizure is isolated in the jaw area, causing it to tighten suddenly and often results in teeth chattering. It is relatively harmless but its diagnosis might help rule out another condition.
Dogs with neurological disorders also chatter their teeth often and at random. Dogs with neurological disorders usually have other symptoms, including dilated eyes, a loss of coordination, or a limp or otherwise awkward gait.
One neurological disorder that often manifests in teeth chattering is shaker syndrome, a condition in which the dog’s muscles often spasm and contract, causing tremors and lack of balance. Technically known as Multisystem Neuronal Degeneration, shaker syndrome is a hereditary disorder that affects the Bichon Frise, Cocker Spaniel, and Maltese breeds. While not curable, the condition is usually manageable.
If you see any symptoms of a neurological condition in your dog, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible to ensure that your dog gets the right treatment before the condition worsens. There are many procedures and medications available for dogs who have neurological disorders that cause teeth chattering, so a visit to the vet could help your dog immensely.
Temporomandibular Joint Arthritis (TMJ)
As with humans, dogs can have TMJ, which causes the jaw and teeth to chatter. The jaw tissue has either degenerated or been injured, causing cartilage loss. In humans, this often results in a clicking of the teeth during sleep, and the same can occur with dogs. This arthritic condition can also cause teeth chattering as a response to the pain.
How Can You Tell Whether Teeth Chattering Is Caused by a Medical Condition?
Before jumping to conclusions, you should pay attention to what is going on when your dog chatters its teeth. To determine the cause of the chattering, you may want to ask yourself:
- Has anything stressful or exciting just happened?
- Has my dog just smelled something strong or pungent?
- Is my dog just cold?
- Are my dog’s teeth healthy?
- Does my dog show any neurological disorder signs, such as limping, loss of coordination, or dilated pupils?
If your dog could just be excited, stressed, cold, or overstimulated, then you probably do not need to go to the vet. Teeth chattering in dogs is fairly normal unless it is constant and unexplainable. However, if you are worried that your dog’s chattering teeth could be a sign of a medical condition, you should visit the vet promptly.
It is always prudent to observe your dog’s behaviors and note any changes. Document them if possible so that you can better identify relationships and causes. Even if you can’t identify the cause yourself, your documentation may help your vet with their diagnosis.
If your dog is chattering its teeth, you should pay attention to what your dog might be doing to determine the cause of the chattering. Chattering is a perfectly normal and healthy response to stress, excitement, strong smells, new tastes, and cold temperatures. But if your dog randomly chatters their teeth, they may have a medical condition such as an oral problem or neurological disease. Knowing why your dog’s teeth chatter will help you ensure their health and wellbeing.