Thursday, March 15, 2018

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Teeth Chattering

I have to admit when I first read about this, I was as surprised as you most likely will be.

Could teeth chattering signal a medical problem?


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Teeth Chattering

Believe it or not, it can. This comes to show the importance of assessing things in context. It's the context and circumstance that make the difference most of the time.

The only time I have ever seen a dog chatter their teeth was when we took Jasmine to pick her new housemate from a little. JD's father was quite smitten by Jasmine and his teeth were chattering up the storm. It would seem that he liked her a bit.

Are you cold or just happy to see me?


Emotional arousal can be a perfectly benign reason behind teeth chattering. It doesn't need such a major reason such as meeting the queen bitch of the universe, Jasmine. A dog can get this excited over a frisbee or a favorite meal as well. Both positive and negative excitement/stress can cause teeth-chattering.

Just as with humans, dogs can chatter their teeth when they're cold or have a fever.

But there is one reason you'd likely not think of in a million years.

The most common cause of teeth chattering in dogs is oral pain.


"Teeth chattering is such a common symptom of oral pain, Fink says, that some dogs will chatter their teeth even when they’re under anesthesia." ~Dr. Fink, Cornell University

How about that? There is not one specific oral problem which would have this as a hallmark symptom. The pain can be from a tooth fracture, tooth resorption, or enamel loss ...

Not as unexpectedly, teeth chattering can be a neurological problem.


Tremors or focal seizures can result in teeth chattering. A slower motion, what looks as if your dog is chewing a gum, can arise in late stages of distemper infection.

Do you see now how important context is?


Further reading:
Dogs and Teeth Chattering: What You Need to Know



Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?


Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog has won the following awards:

26 comments

  1. My friend's intact dog does that around other dogs in heat. I haven't seen Mr. N doing it but I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

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    1. Yeah, just like JD's father when he saw Jasmine. And she wasn't even intact. So sexy ... ;-)

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  2. I really enjoy reading your series posts, these are so helpful--and important! I know my dog Magic used to chatter his teeth after sniff-investigating scents, especially of girl dogs. I suspect that was due in part to helping analyze the smells (maybe with the vomeronasal organ).

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    1. Thank you, Amy, means a lot coming from you.

      Yeah, that was the only time I've seen a dog chatter their teeth; when JD's dad met Jasmine.

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  3. I've never seen either of my dogs chatter their teeth. I'll have to keep this in mind should they ever do!

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    1. Yes, a good thing to file in the back of your mind.

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  4. When we first adopted Beau he would chatter his teeth while waiting for his food. He was malnourished and quite food dependent/ excited. He is still very food oriented but does not chatter any more. If it began again, I would probably have him checked out to be safe.

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    1. I can see how the anticipation of food could be so exciting for him to get his teeth chattering. Not much reason why it should return under the same circumstances now that he knows where is daily meal is coming from.

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  5. Teeth chattering is something I've never thought much about in dogs! It's a great topic to dissect.

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    1. The dental pain connection surprised me as well.

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  6. I think context is always important when making a decision to take a dog to the vet (or a person to the doctor.)Before I read this, I think I wouldn't be too worried if it was cold and my dog's teeth were chattering, but if it suddenly started happening inside, I would probably search your blog as my first stop. Then, I'd call the vet. I had no idea that teeth chattering could be a sign of being smitten.

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    1. Thank you, Beth. I knew about the excitement trigger, clearly, as I witnessed it. I had no idea about the oral pain connection.

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  7. Wow I haven't heard about teeth chattering as a symptom of something more serious before. This is helpful information for pet parents to have.

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  8. I have never thought about that although I am happy that Layla's vet this week gave her a clean bill of health including teeth phew.

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    1. Congratulations on Layla's clean bill of health. Great job.

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  9. I should not be surprised that I’m learning something new on your blog. I haven’t heard Bernie or Lizzie chatter their teeth, but I definitely feel better prepared to evaluate the context of any potential future chattering.

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  10. I've never seen it happen! Woa... now I know to look for it. As a Chihuahua my whole dog shakes from time to time but ... teeth?

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    1. Not something that is easy to miss; could be easily misinterpreted, though.

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  11. I see this more in the herding breeds that are excited about herding or playing frisbee or dock diving or...whatever they are excited about that day. Good to know to look for medical issues too.

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    1. Yes, it's like with some other things such as panting, shaking ... it can be from excitement or it can have an underlying medical problem.

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  12. BOL - Are you cold or just happy to see me? Not so funny though, the fact that chattering could be overlooked. As always, great information and suggestions for signs to look out for.

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    1. LOL Yeah, I was proud of that header :-) Thank you, Sadie.

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  13. Well this one threw me for a loop! I would never think teeth chattering would be due to anything but being cold! I've never seen teeth chattering but I'll be on the lookout now. Thanks.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  14. I've never heard of teeth chattering in a dog, but it makes perfect sense.

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