Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth?

This might seem like a random question if you’ve never seen a dog chatter their teeth. But, if you’ve noticed your pup doing this, you might be confused or alarmed.

The behavior is similar to when people chatter their teeth in the cold. However, dogs will sometimes chatter their teeth, and it could be completely unrelated to the weather.

So why do they do it? There’s actually a handful of different reasons, as we’ll cover in this post.

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Your pup might be cold

Much like humans, dogs can also chatter their teeth when they’re cold. Since you’ll likely be near your dog when this happens, it should be fairly straightforward to determine if cold weather is the culprit.

Likewise, they might chatter their teeth if they have a fever. Other signs of fever include lethargy and loss of appetite. If you suspect this to be the case, bring your pup to the vet as soon as possible.

Your dog might be excited

Some animals, dogs and cats included, can chatter their teeth when they’re excited and happy. Watch the rest of your dog’s body language and take note of the situations they chatter their teeth in to determine if they’re just really excited, like this pup:

Your dog might be anxious or fearful

Unfortunately, anxiety and fear is often the flip side of excitement. If your dog has a lot of anxiety issues and chatters their teeth in stressful situations, anxiety might be the culprit.

Again, paying attention to the rest of their body language is key. Watch their ears, tail position, and other expressions of canine emotion.

Your dog might have dental issues

There’s a host of dental issues that might explain your dog’s teeth chattering, including periodontitis (gum disease), tooth decay or an abscess, or severe plaque like this poor dog:

If cold, excitement, or anxiety don’t seem to explain your dog’s issues, it might be a health problem such as a type of dental disease. Dental health is an important part of a dog’s well-being, which is why you should consider brushing their teeth (or alternatives) on a regular basis.

Dental issues are often accompanied by a change in eating habits: if they seem like they’re struggling to chew or don’t eat as much as they were before, they might need dental help. Likewise, if they exhibit “head shyness” (hesitance to being pet or touched on their head), it’s likely time to get a vet appointment.

Your dog might have a neurological condition

In more rare situations, teeth chattering might be a sign of something more serious, like epilepsy or other neurological conditions. Much like the previous explanation, this is something that needs to be diagnosed with veterinary help.

Conclusion

As we’ve covered, there’s a variety of reasons why dogs might chatter their teeth, from easy to diagnose to much more difficult. Take note of patterns of this behavior and watch their body language. If you end up needing veterinary advice, it will be helpful for you to share patterns you’ve noticed.

PuppyLists is written by J., who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 14 year old Lab mix.