Dog teeth chattering: everything you need to know

Our favourite companions can make the weirdest sounds. Chances are you’ve already noticed the strange chattering sound that comes occasionally from your dog, but if it’s not below zero outside, you might be wondering what’s going on. Unlike us, dog’s teeth chattering can mean a multitude of things.

Dog teeth chattering can be totally harmless, when they’re excited and playful or have tried a new, unfamiliar taste, or smelt something but did you know it also signals certain medical conditions? We thought it might be useful to get the complete picture on those gnashers, so for the good (and bad) on why your dog chatters their teeth, here’s a round-up.

Why are my dog’s teeth chattering?

Before hitting the worry button, here’s what to do first. Ask yourself:

  • What is your dog doing (are they sniffing, eating, socialising?) 
  • How are they behaving while the teeth are chattering? 
  • Is it ‘clicking’ or is your dog grinding their teeth? 
  • How healthy are their teeth?

This can give you a clue as to whether it’s simply an emotional response, or a symptom of pain. 

Emotional response – some dogs chatter their teeth out of excitement or nervousness. The anticipation of a treat, a ball being thrown, or playing with a favourite toy can all trigger the jaw clicking or chattering. 

Anxiety or stress – is your dog naturally nervous? If so you might find their teeth chatter while around new people or in new environments. They’re using their chattering teeth as a coping mechanism to help them stay calm!

Medical condition – while some dog teeth chattering is relatively harmless, it can also signal a problem with your dog’s gums or teeth. The most common causes of dog teeth chattering is periodontal disease. This is a painful condition where the gums become inflamed and bacteria eventually deteriorates the teeth, bones and tissue. Chattering can also be caused by sensitive teeth due to a loss of tooth enamel. 

Oral pain – dogs do their best to hide their pain or show any signs of weakness, but the chattering can often be an instinctual response to being in pain. So if you’re wondering where your dog’s chattering teeth is coming from, it’s persistent, and out of the blue – seek advice from a veterinary professional. 

Related blog: Your dog’s dental health 

Why does my dog’s mouth chatter after licking?

Dogs’ mouths will sometimes chatter after they’ve licked something – it’s usually just an impulsive reaction and nothing to worry about! Remember dogs’ sense of taste and smell is much stronger than ours and sometimes this results in chattering teeth.

What to do about persistent dog teeth chattering 

If your dog’s teeth chattering happens regularly, make a vet appointment. Your vet will help you uncover – and rule out – any potential health problems. Your vet will be able to thoroughly examine your dog’s teeth and gums to look for any signs of fractures or disease. If there are no obvious signs of a problem, your vet may suggest an X-ray to explore further. 

Your vet will likely ask you questions about your dog’s behaviour over the last few weeks. Any unusual behaviour like excessive drooling, avoiding eating or playing with toys can signal mouth pain. Equally, a foul odour or blood coming from the mouth can also signify a problem. 

Teeth chattering – oral health

Since dog teeth chattering is often caused by tooth or gum pain, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week and offer dental chews to help keep that build-up of tartar and plaque at bay. 

Related blog: Dog’s and bad breath

If your dog is grinding their teeth (known as bruxism) read our blog here: https://tails.com/blog/2020/02/19/why-do-dogs-grind-their-teeth/

23 comments

    1. thanks. this stsrted about a month into us having to distance due to my health issues. we have been doing this since mid March. she is a social butterfly and she misses her friends. occasionally we run into 1or 2 of her friends on potty runs. she appears depressed too. il take her to vet when I get my ss on the 3rd. thanks so much.

    2. Thank you for your comment. It has been so difficult to hear of this event now that has been happening for over two weeks. I cannot endure the reality that I have not been able to give the senior dog I adopted 6 years ago, as a senior 9 years young Cocker Spaniel (that rescued ME!) the normal veterinary care that any responsible pet parent knows and takes care to accomplish. Financially, I have not been able to- because of an ongoing 4-year process with SSDI. At this moment, I do not know, and am unable to help my sweet boy Sammy (Davis Jr.)-

  1. My 14 yr old Jack Russell, Cindy, has two visible tumors and really bad teeth. She has a heart murmur. She is a great dog and best friend. I have limited money, how can I help her. Her teeth chattering has increased and she squeals sometimes while yawning or stretching, then teeth chatters.

    1. My 14 year old chihuahua also recently started chattering her teeth. She has bad teeth because she can’t have them professionally cleaned because she suffers from a heart murmer as well. I’m not sure what I can do to help her.

      1. Have you tried dental chews. They come in various strengths and I use some that are 1.00 a day oravet chews. Plus additive into water + plaque off . Helped my 14 yr old with horrible teeth that were black. Now breath better, not chattering, teeth whiter.

        1. What kind of chews do you use ? What kind of additive do you use in the water ? I have a 16 year old min pin who cannot have anesthesia due to her age. I would love to add these to her diet.

    2. I would find the money from somewhere to have her treated, I couldn’t let her carry on in pain. Poor love, at 14 she really doesn’t need this pain. Find some money, there’s always a way if it is essential, which it is.

    3. Taken from the above info: “One of the most common causes of dog teeth chattering is periodontal disease. This is a painful condition where the gums become inflamed and bacteria eventually deteriorates the teeth, bones and tissue. Chattering can also be caused by sensitive teeth due to a loss of tooth enamel”.
      Hope this helps, best of luck with your lovely doggie, try phoning a vet practice, are u registered with one, if not, do so as it is free to register?
      Ian.

    4. Hi Susan, I don’t know if you have sought help already for your pup but why don’t you contact your local vet school at a university of there is one near you? They are sometimes willing to help out

    5. My dog is 18 years old and does this as well, I don’t have much money as I’m young and I rescued her when my neighbor passed away so it was very unexpected. Well when it happens with my dog, I’ve been putting her softest plush toy in her mouth and she stops because her mind gets distracted and she kind of snaps out of it. I thought it was seizures at first but I can tell it’s her teeth. She’s very old as I said, so when she gets too rowdy(she plays like a brand new puppy hahaha) her teeth with break and occasionally fall out. I took her to vet and he said this exact thing as this web post.

    6. Sorry mine is 16 and same symptoms
      Have you gotten any responses? If I get any I will text you… someone told me it was the start of seizures…… will let you know what O find out. Daisy has 2 tumors on lower back one on back leg and one on chest… cataracts and deaF.

  2. Hello my name is Ashley, I have a 4 year old male blue nose Pitbull, everytime he licks his private area he looks back and his teeth chatter , when he licks his pee, and only sometimes after he eats a snack

    1. I think that probably falls under the category of excitement. I have a red nose and he gets like that if he smells certain things that makes him nervous or overexcited.

    2. My 3rd cocker spaniel (8 months old) started this a few months ago as well! Others never did this. Strange habit! As long as there is nothing physically wrong guess we’ll have to live with it or maybe it will just stop

  3. My pug cross sometimes clicks his teeth after smelling my other dog’s penis or urine. It’s the only time he does it. Why does he do it? It doesn’t seem like a medical or dental thing and I know dogs’ urine and feces has chemical messages. Could the pug be detecting something he likes/doesn’t like in the other dog’s urine and should I be concerned?

  4. thanks. this started about a month into us having to distance due to my health issues. we have been doing this since mid March. she is a social butterfly and she misses her friends. occasionally we run into 1or 2 of her friends on potty runs. she appears depressed too. il take her to vet when I get my ss on the 3rd. thanks so much. Peaches is a Chihuahua mix of 3 other breeds. she has had teeth removed a few years ago plaque removed. I put plaque control liquid in her water. she is a nervous type dog. her jaws do not match up. I got some natural herbs stuff to calm dogs. it helps. any further suggestions welcomed. she is 10 yrs old

  5. I have a 19mth old Chocolate Labrador and she has just started to chatter her teeth. I have noticed one side of her lip is slightly swollen, not too much but it is slightly bigger than the other side.
    I was wondering if she has been stung as her teeth are immaculate being so young??? She us eating normally and playing as usual.
    Thank you

  6. I have a 16yo Kelpie x Cattle dog (it’s an aussie thing). She has only started chattering in the last year or so. She does this only as she is settling down to sleep (she has never played ball, she was a lonely rescue with us at 6yo). She is in excellent physical health according to our vet, but I am beginning to wonder about her mental health as she sometimes looks around as if she doesn’t know where she is. I’m worried we may lose her sooner than expected.

    1. My 11 year old beagle mix has been doing this for a year. I struggled with thinking I was losing her in the beginning but she’s still getting a clean bill of health from the vet. We’ve seen some improvement after giving her Innovet CBD 3 times a day and some hip and joint pills (in case she has hidden arthritis pain). All that to say, it may just be a new “old dog habit.” They age just like humans but it may not be the end. Just enjoy every day she’s hear and don’t let your worry put a damper on your time with her 😊

  7. Have a foster dog and he does it when my other dog pees. He goes over and licks it and his teeth chatter. I guess I have a dog that’s excited about pee…. EWWWWW! haha

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