If your dog has ever chattered his teeth, then it could be due to some very normal reasons. Teeth chattering is a reasonably common behavior amongst dogs but will arouse curiosity in us owners. Health concerns can pop to mind, as well as sinister diseases and other nasty illnesses.
It’s only natural that new and strange behavior like chattering teeth would set alarm bells ringing. It did for me as a dog owner, so I researched what it meant online, and here’s what I found.
The most common reasons why dogs chatter their teeth
Similar to humans, dogs will chatter or otherwise chomp, grind, or move their teeth in a reaction to different stimuli. Most of the reasons for teeth-chattering are harmless and are merely an impulse or habit that your dog has picked up over time.
Therefore, you should not immediately panic if your beloved pooch begins to display this behavior. Instead, you should take a deep breath, relax, and try to figure out if they are chattering their teeth because they are cold, or for other common reasons. In this section, we will provide a list of what these reasons could be.
1. Decreases in body temperature
By far, the most common cause for why dogs chatter their teeth is a decrease in body temperature and warmth. Like humans, primates, and other mammals, dogs shiver to keep themselves warm, regardless of whether they have a thick coat or not.
However, to better understand how and why this affects the teeth, it is worth taking a look at how shivering works in the first place.
When a mammal’s core body temperature drops, a response is triggered by the brain that tells the body to start shaking the skeletal muscles in small movements.
These small movements expend energy, creating additional warmth and helping the animal retain homeostasis in the process; essentially a balanced and stable internal state that is unaffected by the temperature outside.
But how does this relate to teeth-chattering, I hear you ask?
Firstly, various muscles are used during this shivering state, including the jaw and neck muscles. In turn, this can cause the teeth to chatter or shake as a result.
Therefore, you should check if your dog is warm enough, especially during the colder winter months.
It is not unusual for owners to forget that their pups feel the cold too, so keeping them warm will go a long way in helping to reduce teeth-chattering. Often, purchasing a doggie coat or jacket can help, many of which can be found in pet stores or online shops.
2. Fear, stress, and anxiety
Dogs are emotional animals and, just like us, can suffer from negative feelings such as fear, stress, and anxiety. At times, teeth-chattering is used as a coping mechanism by nervous dogs, especially those who are suffering from separation anxiety.
Similar to humans, dogs develop unique and varying traits to deal with stress and uncomfortable feelings, and for some reason or another, teeth-chattering is one of the most common types.
Also, it is worth noting that loud and unexpected noises or stressful situations can cause even the most confident of dogs to exhibit nervous behavior, regardless of how fearless you may believe them to be.
If you suspect your dog is chattering his teeth because of fear, stress, or anxiety, try identifying what is causing the response. From here, you can apply steps to reduce these negative feelings, such as offering them comfort and removing the source of their anxiety.
Some of the most common reasons for stress in dogs are loud noises, separation anxiety, unfamiliar environments, large groups of people, and unfamiliar objects.
However, if your pup is extremely anxious, try discussing this with your vet before taking any action.
3. Excitement and happiness
You have probably noticed your dog tapping his feet or shuffling around in excitement before, perhaps when taking him to his favorite dog park or forested area. Dogs are intelligent creatures and will often recognize the signs that their owners are about to walk, feed, or play with them.
As a result, they will become excited at the merest sign (such as their owner pulling on their boots or getting the kibble out of the cupboard) that something enjoyable is about to happen. Although slightly uncommon, teeth-chattering in happy canines is by no means rare and is one of many behaviors dogs exhibit when experiencing excitement, joy, or anticipation.
Similarly, dogs may start chattering their teeth randomly during bouts of play with their owners or other dogs, signifying that they are enjoying themselves.
4. Displacement language
Like all animals, dogs use movements and sounds to communicate with other members of their species. According to experts, this form of communication is so complex that it can be regarded as a non-spoken form of language in many animals – hence the name, displacement language.
When dealing with a perceived threat, usually an unfamiliar or aggressive canine, dogs will chatter their teeth as a form of coping mechanism, helping them to relax. In addition to this, this behavior can sometimes provide the added benefit of confusing or distracting the other dog, allowing your pooch to sneak away.
Although this sounds ridiculous, it often works and is a common tactic for avoiding problematic situations amongst nervous or subservient dogs.
Can teeth-chattering in dogs be a sign of anything serious?
Most commonly, teeth-chattering in dogs is not a serious problem as it is a normal part of canine behavior. However, in some rarer instances, it can be a sign of underlying health issues and other significant problems.
Therefore, you should get your pooch checked over if they are constantly chattering their teeth, especially if they are elderly or infirm. Failure to do so could lead to your dog becoming depressed or suffering from large amounts of pain.
I am not a vet, so please do speak with your own – here’s are some possibilities I have found when researching online.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder categorized by unusual or abnormal brain activity. Dogs suffering from this condition will often experience seizures, odd sensations, and loss of awareness. For most canines, this affliction is usually inherited, with some breeds being more at risk of epilepsy than others. However, injuries, tumors, toxin poisoning, and brain trauma can also result in epilepsy.
Teeth-chattering can sometimes occur as a result of seizures, those of which can range from mild to severe. Furthermore, it can be difficult to spot when a mild seizure is happening, and at times teeth-chattering or slight shaking will be the only indicator that something is amiss.
Thankfully, for the majority of dogs, epilepsy can be controlled or lessened with regular medication.
Dental issues and gum disease
Unfortunately, dental issues can quickly become a problem for older dogs. Due to their advanced age, elderly dogs are likely to experience problems with their dental health, ranging from broken teeth, cavities, and sore gums.
However, one of the most common conditions that affect them is an extremely painful form of gum disease called periodontal disease. This condition occurs when bacteria forms and grows in small gaps between the teeth and gums, causing bleeding and irritation and in severe cases, even the loss of teeth.
Teeth-chattering can often be your dog’s way of coping with dental pain, as most canines are reluctant to show signs of weakness. If you suspect your dog has this disease, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Shakers Syndrome (also known as the little white shaker syndrome) is a condition that commonly affects smaller breeds of white dogs, such as West Highland Terriers, Maltese, and Poodles.
However, this syndrome can be seen in all types of dogs, regardless of their breed or size. Canines affected by Shakers Syndrome will, as the name suggests, develop tremors that cause them to shake in repetitive and rhythmic movements.
Additionally, these shakes can localize in one area for some dogs, such as the head or torso. But, whole-body shaking is more common than localized shaking.
Although Shakers Syndrome is not dangerous, it can hinder a dog’s life, causing them discomfort when eating, walking, or running. Likewise, teeth-chattering can happen as a result of these shakes.
I am not a vet, so please do ask yours if you are at all worried about why your dog is chattering his teeth. It’s better to have the peace of mind in a professional opinion. Everything on this page, is my own online research.
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