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Why are my dog's teeth chattering?

Our teeth chatter when we’re cold, but why do dog’s teeth chatter?


There are actually several different causes for why a dog’s teeth might be chattering. Because this symptom can be pretty vague and related to several different causes, it is important to discuss any new or concerning symptoms with your veterinarian to get to the root of the behavior.



Dog looking to the side

 

What is chattering?


Chattering is an audible noise made by a pet’s mouth or jaw caused by the teeth rubbing together. You may be able to visibly see your pet’s teeth “chatter” similar to the way ours might when we’re cold or anxious. Some common causes for teeth chattering may include:


Anxiety


Being stressed or nervous can lead to body shakes or trembling, which in turn, can cause your pet’s teeth to make a chattering noise. If you notice this symptom occurring frequently or during specific scenarios (car rides, during storms, visits to the groomer or vet, etc.), you can speak to your veterinarian about options to manage anxiety to avoid extreme shaking or trembling.


Pain


Like humans who deal with jaw pain related to TMJ, pets can also experience pain in their temporomandibular joint. Things like arthritis, fractures in the jaw, or painful teeth can cause a clicking noise or teeth chattering. You might notice the noise when your pet yawns or while eating.


A common cause for tooth pain can include a broken or infected tooth. While it’s not always easy to tell if a tooth is broken just by looking, dental x-rays can provide more insight on how healthy the teeth and their roots are! Additionally, the teeth can be best evaluated during a dental cleaning, when your veterinarian can examine and probe the teeth and gum line to determine possible sources of pain or infection, and extract painful teeth as needed to improve your pet’s symptoms.


Nausea


When pets become nauseous, they salivate more and lick their lips, which can sometimes cause that chattering noise. If you notice that your pet’s teeth only chatter in certain instances, such as before vomiting or during car rides (pets can get motion sickness, too!), their chattering may be due to gastrointestinal issues!


IMPORTANT: If the teeth chattering starts after you know or suspect that your pet may have licked or ingested something poisonous, such as rat bait, anti-freeze, or other household chemicals, please contact your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic immediately for further instruction.


Focal Seizures


Sometimes teeth chattering can be associated with focal seizures. A focal seizure is a type of seizure; unlike a Grand Mal seizure (where the whole body seizes), focal seizures only affect certain parts of the brain. Pets will usually appear conscious during a focal seizure, though they may not be aware of you or their surroundings while the seizure is occurring. During the seizure, your pet’s teeth may start chattering, which can range in severity. Focal seizures are also referred to as “fly biting seizures” or “chewing gum seizures” due to the jaw-snapping movements made.


What should I do if my pet’s teeth are chattering?


Because there are so many possible causes for this behavior, the best thing to do is contact your veterinarian to schedule a physical exam. Before your appointment, try to make note of the instances you are noticing your pet’s teeth chattering, and if possible, try to capture the behavior on video so your veterinarian can see and hear your pet.


Please contact your veterinarian if you have noticed any new or unexplained behaviors. For additional questions, please contact us at 972-347-6100.


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