What Does It Mean When A Dog Chatters Their Teeth

When a Dog Chatters Their Teeth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Dogs communicate with us in many ways, from barking and whining to wagging their tails and licking our faces. One behavior that can be puzzling or concerning for pet owners is when a dog chatters their teeth. What does it mean when a dog does this? Is it normal or abnormal? Should you be worried or amused? In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and more, based on scientific research, expert opinions, and anecdotal evidence.

Causes of Tooth Chattering in Dogs

First of all, let’s define what we mean by “tooth chattering” in dogs. This term refers to the rapid movement of a dog’s jaw muscles that produces a clicking or rattling sound similar to human teeth chattering due to cold or fear. However, unlike humans, dogs don’t chatter their teeth because they feel chilly or scared (although those emotions may coincide with tooth chattering). Instead, tooth chattering in dogs can have several possible causes that vary in severity and frequency.

One common cause of tooth chattering in dogs is excitement or anticipation. When a dog gets excited about something they like, such as food, toys, walks, or attention from their owner, they may start to chatter their teeth as a way of expressing their eagerness. This behavior is more common in some breeds than others (such as Greyhounds), and can also depend on the individual personality and training of each dog. While excitement-induced tooth chattering is usually harmless and even cute to watch, it can become excessive or problematic if it interferes with the dog’s ability to eat, drink, play, or rest.

Another possible cause of tooth chattering in dogs is pain or discomfort. When a dog experiences physical pain or discomfort in their mouth or jaw area (such as dental problems, injuries, infections, or tumors), they may start to chatter their teeth as a way of coping with the discomfort or signaling it to their owner. This behavior is more likely to occur in older dogs or those with a history of dental issues or trauma. If you notice that your dog is chattering their teeth more often than usual, especially during eating or drinking, you should consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems.

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A third cause of tooth chattering in dogs is neurological or behavioral. When a dog has a seizure disorder, nerve damage, anxiety, compulsive disorder, or other mental health condition, they may exhibit tooth chattering as one of the symptoms. This behavior may be triggered by certain stimuli (such as loud noises, sudden movements, or changes in routine) or may occur spontaneously without an obvious cause. In these cases, tooth chattering is usually accompanied by other signs of distress or abnormal behavior (such as shaking, drooling, pacing, or hiding). If you suspect that your dog’s tooth chattering is related to a neurological or behavioral issue, you should seek professional help from a veterinary neurologist or veterinary behaviorist.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Tooth Chattering in Dogs

To diagnose the cause of tooth chattering in dogs, veterinarians may need to perform some tests and exams depending on the suspected underlying problem. For example, if dental issues are suspected, your vet might do a dental exam under anesthesia and take X-rays to check for signs of decay, infection, or injury. If neurological issues are suspected, your vet might do a neurological exam and run blood tests to check for any abnormalities in brain function or chemical balance. If behavioral issues are suspected, your vet might refer you to a certified animal behaviorist who can assess your dog’s behavior and environment and suggest treatment options.

In addition to diagnostic tests and exams, there are some signs and symptoms that pet owners can observe to help identify the cause of tooth chattering in dogs. These include:

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– Frequency and duration: How often does your dog chatter their teeth? Is it a brief or prolonged behavior?
– Triggers and context: What seems to trigger or accompany your dog’s tooth chattering? Is it related to specific situations, people, objects, sounds, or movements?
– Other behaviors: Does your dog show any other unusual or concerning behaviors, such as aggression, fearfulness, lethargy, or loss of appetite?
– Physical signs: Are there any visible signs of dental problems, such as bad breath, bleeding gums, loose teeth, or swelling? Are there any signs of neurological problems, such as weakness, tremors, seizures, or loss of balance?
– History and breed: Does your dog have a history of dental issues or trauma? Does their breed predispose them to certain dental or neurological conditions?

By gathering this information and sharing it with your vet or veterinary specialist, you can increase the chances of getting an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan for your dog’s tooth chattering.

Treatments for Tooth Chattering in Dogs

The treatment for tooth chattering in dogs depends on the underlying cause and severity of the problem. In some cases, no specific treatment may be needed if the tooth chattering is harmless and doesn’t affect the dog’s quality of life. However, if the tooth chattering is caused by pain or discomfort in the mouth or jaw area, your vet may recommend dental cleaning, extractions, antibiotics, pain relievers, or other interventions to alleviate the problem. If the tooth chattering is caused by neurological or behavioral issues, your vet may prescribe medications (such as anticonvulsants, anti-anxiety drugs, or antidepressants) and/or refer you to a veterinary neurologist or veterinary behaviorist for further evaluation and management.

Apart from medical treatments, there are also some behavioral and environmental changes that pet owners can make to help reduce or prevent tooth chattering in dogs. These include:

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– Providing regular dental care, such as brushing your dog’s teeth, using dental treats or toys, and scheduling dental checkups with your vet.
– Minimizing stressors that trigger tooth chattering, such as loud noises, sudden movements, or changes in routine. You can use calming aids (such as pheromone sprays or diffusers) or desensitization techniques (such as gradual exposure to the stimuli) to help your dog cope better with these stressors.
– Increasing physical and mental exercise to reduce boredom and anxiety. You can take your dog for walks, play games with them, provide puzzle toys or interactive feeders, or enroll them in obedience or agility classes.
– Using positive reinforcement training to teach your dog alternative behaviors or commands that replace tooth chattering. For example, you can train your dog to “speak” on cue and reward them when they do so instead of chattering their teeth.


In summary, tooth chattering in dogs can have various causes and symptoms depending on the underlying problem. While some cases of tooth chattering are harmless and normal expressions of excitement or anticipation, others may indicate underlying health or behavior issues that require medical attention and/or behavioral modification. As a responsible pet owner, you should observe your dog’s behavior closely, seek professional advice when needed, and provide appropriate care and treatment to ensure their overall well-being and happiness. And if your dog ever chatters their teeth while reading this article with you, just smile and say: “Good boy/girl! You’re learning something new today!”