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Why Are My Dog’s Teeth Chattering?

Dogs display a lot of behavioral cues, both audible and non-audible, to communicate with us.

And given their inability to actually speak to us when something is wrong, it is absolutely critical that we as owners pay special attention to these behavioral cues, as they could point to an underlying medical condition or some circumstance that is causing our dogs to feel a certain way, perhaps even indicating discomfort or pain.

Once such behavioral signal in which dogs can sometimes engage is the act of teeth chattering—a seemingly innocuous behavior that may convey different meanings in the canine class.

To make more sense of this conduct, in this article we will highlight the problem of chattering teeth in dogs, and outline and explain some of the reasons that might be behind this type of behavior.

My Dog’s Teeth Are Chattering:  Why and What Can I Do about It?

Why are my dog’s teeth chattering?

This is a query uttered by thousands of dog owners at one point or another.

And there are actually many reasons this could be happening, and some of these reasons may actually surprise you.

As humans, we typically associate the act of teeth chattering with being cold—and only with being cold.

And it could very well be the cold that is making your dog’s teeth chatter, too.

However, when your dog’s teeth are chattering for extended periods of time or very rapidly, it could be due to some underlying condition that demands your immediate attention.

This is why it is so important that we take immediate note of this behavior.

Moreover, continued or violent teeth chattering, or teeth chattering that is getting worse by the day, can suddenly or gradually cause tooth damage in some dogs, so discovering why this is happening and how to stop it is absolutely crucial.

So without further ado, here are some of the potential reasons for teeth chattering behavior in dogs, and the steps you should take, if any, to address each of these reasons.

Your Dog Is Cold

Just like their human counterparts, whose teeth may automatically begin to chatter in the cold, dogs can also be subject to teeth chattering when the temperatures plunge.

Of course, there are some breeds that are much more susceptible to cold temperatures than others, along with the involuntary teeth chattering that often accompanies them.

Smaller dogs with short hair or fur, for example, are much more prone to shaking, shivering and chattering their teeth when it’s cold.

Also, dogs like chihuahuas, who have very fast metabolic rates in addition to being small and short-haired, can really suffer when it is frigid.

Of course, there are some things you can do to address the cold and bring the teeth chattering to a close.

Be sure to keep your dogs inside when the outside weather is inclement, and keep the heater going so it’s comfortable.

If you must take your pooch outside, try putting them in a doggy sweater to combat the chill.

Anything you can do to stave off and wait out the cold while keeping your dog warm will go a long way towards curtailing the teeth chattering.

Your Dog Is Happy or Excited

Have you ever been so excited or happy about something you could feel it welling up in your body and bones?

If you have, now imagine you had no voice to actually verbalize that happiness or glee.

This is the position our dogs regularly find themselves in.

When we arrive home from a long day at work, or when we begin walking to the wall on which the leash is hung, indicating a walk outside is eminent, some dogs are just unable to contain their joy and it comes out as teeth chattering.

Teeth chattering when happy is usually fairly sudden, short-lived and nothing to worry about.

It’s just an outward display of happiness and excitement—one for which we humans might shout “whoopee.”

To confirm this is the reason behind their teeth chattering, glance at your dog’s tail.  If it is wagging a mile-a-minute, this usually translates to utter delight and enthusiasm.

Your Dog Is Getting Older

As one of many involuntary actions that tend to plague the aged, teeth chattering is one of the most concerning.

That’s because as dogs reach their mature years, teeth chattering can potentially damage their already-aging and fragile teeth.

Thankfully, the act of teeth chattering in older dogs tends to be rather infrequent, so it is usually not cause for immediate concern.

However, if the problem becomes more frequent, rapid or violent, there may be something else in addition to old age that is causing it.

If this is the scenario you find yourself in, be sure to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible to address the problem.

Other Causes for Teeth Chattering

Not all teeth chattering is caused by the cold, happiness, excitement or old age.

In rare cases, the action could actually be a sign of illness or injury.

These potential causes include:

  • Dental problems.  Although it may seem counterproductive, some dogs will display teeth chattering due to cracked or sore teeth.  They may also begin yawning more than usual as a way to draw attention to their mouths.
  • Anxiety.  Anxiety, nervousness and stress can often manifest itself in teeth chattering.
  • Focal Motor Seizures.  This type of seizure can certainly lead to teeth chattering in your four-legged friend.  Focal motor seizures are seizures that are limited to just the face and jaws.  These can be very serious and require immediate attention.
  • Epilepsy.  Epilepsy is a condition that is characterized by occasional seizures.  These seizures will usually not be limited to the jaw and teeth chattering; they tend to affect the entire body.
  • Hormonal imbalances.  The imbalance of some hormones or hormonal systems can also lead to teeth chattering on occasion.
  • White Dog Shaker Syndrome.  This very rare condition, so named because it was first discovered in small white dogs, typically comes on suddenly and gets progressively worse over a series of days.  It can lead to any number of involuntary movements of the face and body, including teeth chattering.

While teeth chattering in dogs is usually fairly benign and no cause for immediate concern, sometimes it can indicate an underlying disease or injury that demands your quick attention.

If you fear that any of the above “other” causes may be the reason for teeth chattering in your dog, be sure to seek the attention and expertise of your local veterinarian.

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National Canine Research Association of America