Hunter's Teeth Chattering: What Caused It?

Hunter is a sweet, 8-year-old Golden Lab mix. He's always been healthy and happy. Until something started bothering him a great deal.

Out of the blue, one day Hunter started chattering his teeth, licking his lips, yawning and looking downright miserable. He held his head low, and the look in his eyes was saying, "help me."

Apart from these episodes, Hunter was still eating, pooping, playing and barking as usual, or so it seemed.

What could be wrong with Hunter?

Could it be an upset GI tract? Seizure activity of some kind? Or a dental problem? If you read the article about teeth chattering in dogs, you might remember that the most common cause is oral pain.

Hunter's mom took him to a veterinarian, but they couldn't find anything wrong. Hunters teeth looked good, but his breath smelled bad. Blood work came back clean.

Suspecting that there could be an oral issue going on where it cannot be seen, the veterinarian scheduled Hunter for dental work. The big C was uttered as well.

Did Hunter need dental work?

Hunter's mom was very concerned, particularly being told that there was the possibility of cancer. She decided to get a second opinion.

The new vet checked Hunter's mouth and found the problem immediately.

Hunter had a stick stuck between his upper teeth, lodged in there all the way across the bridge of his mouth.

The vet was able to get it out right there on the spot. Fortunately, no tissue was seriously damaged. Hunted walked out of there his normal happy self.

Sticks and foreign objects can be troublemakers

Stick injuries in dogs are, unfortunately, quite common. Splinters can embed in the tongue, gumline, and other tissues. Large fragments can lodge between the upper teeth like happened to Hunter, or even in the hard palate. This can cause severe damage and require surgery. Hunter was lucky. Large swallowed fragments can damage or obstruct the digestive tract. Small or even larger pieces can even be inhaled.

Read Dr. Jason Nicholas' article to learn how much trouble playing and chewing on sticks can cause.

Dogs will be dogs

Depending on your dog and their lifestyle, it may not be possible to divorce your dog from sticks. It is a good idea to give it a fair try, though, and try and replace sticks with safer alternatives. If your dog does have an obsession with sticks, be aware of the potential problems it can cause so you can act fast.

Our male dogs ate their share of sticks, particularly when out on the horse farm when one couldn't watch them the whole time. Other than throwing them up the next morning, nothing worse ever came from it--but it could have. This was the main reason I got health insurance for JD.

JD once almost impaled himself on a stick which landed funny and I stopped using sticks to play fetch right then and there.

It is quite possible that a splinter from a stick which traveled through the hard palate, and resulting infection, was JD's undoing at the end. It might have been that or cancer but the result was one and the same.

Cookie was more into eating rocks; not really that much less dangerous--fortunately, I was able to get her to abandon the habit.

There is a balance between keeping your dog safe and letting them live their lives.

I struggle with finding the balance daily. A dog cannot live in a bubble. But being aware of the risks that being a dog comes with is important.

Related articles:
Teeth Chattering
Observe, Analyze, Deduce

Further reading:
Why Sticks Are not Free Toys for Dogs

What is your dog telling you about their health?

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. 

An award-winning guide for dog parents


  1. Congratulations on your award-winning guide and Perhaps its best to have Hunter get his teeth checked to make sure everything is okay? There's a number of reasons why a dog may chatter their teeth and one cause for teeth chattering is when a dog is anticipating something.


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