Dog Teeth Chattering; Why do Dogs Chatter their Teeth while Shivering, when Old, after licking and Smelling?

White dog teeth chattering
The shaker syndrome is common in white dogs and can cause teeth chattering

Dog teeth chattering is exhibited when there is a continuous clicking of teeth. When this happens, it can signify a number of different things starting with simple mood swings, as a protective behavior or even serious periodontal deformities. It is therefore important to pay attention to your pooch so as to correctly identify the cause of chattering. Explored herein are the answers to the question; why do dogs chatter their teeth after smelling and licking things and what does it mean? We also dig into causes of drooling while chattering as well as why old dogs chatter more.

Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth?

Teeth chattering in dogs can be an indication of your dog’s happiness. This can be seen especially during play time. It could be an indication of nothing more than simple enjoyment. Do not get surprised therefore if in the middle of an energetic play session your dog starts to chatter their teeth. It is simply because they cannot contain their excitement.

White dog teeth chattering
The shaker syndrome is common in white dogs and can cause teeth chattering

Other than this, discussed below are other reasons and thus answers to the question: why do dogs chatter their teeth?

Cold as a Cause of Dog Teeth Chattering and Shivering

Shivering when it is cold is not alien. Human beings as well as cats and dogs experience this. In most cases, dogs chatter their teeth because they are cold. This is more so in small sized dogs who are vulnerable to losing a lot of body heat rapidly when compared to larger dogs.

Miniature pinschers, Chihuahuas and jack Russell terriers are some breeds known to have a tendency to chatter teeth. Try and keep them warm enough during the cold season to avoid this.

Dog Teeth Chattering when Excited

In case your dog tends to chatter their teeth when you get home from work or in anticipation for a treat, it could be as a result of excitement. Dogs that enjoy car rides can be seen chattering their teeth before boarding the car.

When a dog is distressed it could also exhibit teeth chattering. It is therefore possible to observe teeth chattering in dogs when they are in pain. This kind of behavior is normally performed when a dog wants to vent out their frustration or is seeking an outlet for pent up energy.

A common question by dog owners normally is: why do greyhounds chatter their teeth? The answer to this is excitement. It is their way of showing it and this breed tends to get overly excited thus the more the behavior is observed in them. At times this kind of behavior could become impulsive.

Advanced Periodontal Disease Resulting in Chattering of Teeth

Oral problems are another one of the causes of dog teeth chattering. Advanced periodontal disease causes a lot of pain and anguish in dogs and may be a reason for the chattering. The pain may be too much for the dog causing some chattering. To know if this could be the cause, inspect your dog’s mouth.

Check whether there could be some broken teeth or inflamed gums. These are indicative that something is wrong in their oral makeup. Give close attention to the lower gum as this is most likely to have issues.

Upon noticing any oral concern, seek medical attention immediately. Relief from the pain will most of the times help to stop the behavior.

Dog’s Teeth Chattering Resulting from Multisystem Neuronal Degeneration

Cocker Spaniels, Maltese and Bichon Frise breeds are likely to suffer a multisystem neuronal degeneration, balance issues as well as muscle tremors. These are hereditary health conditions and neuronal degeneration can cause dog teeth chattering.

Cocker Spaniel teeth chattering
Cocker Spaniels are predisposed to genetic disorders that can cause teeth chattering

The disease manifests itself at around one year of age and has no cure. The shaker syndrome is also another disease that causes the dog tremors which could include chattering of the teeth. It is common in white furred breeds. A veterinarian can help diagnose it and help treat it to eliminate symptoms.

Focal Motor Seizures Causing Teeth Chattering

With this condition, the jaws of the dog are tightened. This leads them to their chattering the teeth. In most instances, the seizures are not severe and only occur briefly causing minor symptoms. The teeth chattering bouts tend to be brief as well and if you are not keen enough you may not recognize them.

Drooling and Chattering of Teeth from Dog Epileptic Seizures

With these, the dog will appear normal before you notice it staggering a bit as it walks. This is then followed by backing up before sitting on its hind legs. Its eyelids and facial muscles will then start to spasm which then leads to dog teeth chattering and drooling. This is then followed by forced breathing that is then followed by foaming of saliva from the mouth. Any of these seizures that last more than five minutes should be analyzed by a vet.

Dog’s Teeth Chattering as Displacement Language

According to positively.com, a dog engages in displacement behavior to calm itself as well as focus attention from them and onto the behavior especially when faced by a threat. Whenever an actual or perceived threat approaches the dog, it is likely to make it uncomfortable and nervous.

This will often lead them to engage in behavior that will see the threat refocus their attention on something else (the behavior in this case) as opposed to their intention of harming it. The kind of displacement language or behavior exhibited could be teeth chattering, nose licking or spinning.

Why Do Dogs Teeth Chatter after Licking Pee, Smelling Something or When old?

You may have noticed your pet exhibit this behavior after smelling something or licking pee. This brings us to the question; Why do dogs teeth chatter after smelling or licking pee? Dogs will normally chatter their teeth and even foam in their mouth when they lick pee. This could be attributed to the nasty taste of urine just like you would shiver at tasting something nasty.

On the other hand, excitement on smelling great treats could cause them to chatter. This is the equivalent of the mouth watering in humans. It is an indication that your dog is anticipating to have a taste of what you have in store for him.

Females on heat a cause of male dog teeth chattering
Male dog teeth chattering may result from the scent of females on heat

Male dogs, neutered or not, tend to smell females. In case there is scent of one that is in heat, they will sniff at them, lick and chatter their teeth. If there was some female in heat around, you can bet that this could be the cause.

Generally, dog teeth chattering is more prevalent in older dogs than it is in younger ones. If your pooch starts to experience it with age and there are no other accompanying symptoms, he is okay and it is just an indication that age is catching up with them.

Where you can’t seem to pinpoint the cause for your dog’s teeth chattering, keep observing it closely and consult the vet to ascertain that it is not indicative of something serious such as advanced periodontal disease.

Why Do Male Dogs Chatter Their Teeth?

This is yet another gender specific concern regarding dog’s teeth chattering. When there is a female in heat around your area and the dog can smell it, it has an overwhelming effect on him even when they have been neutered.

In addition to dog teeth chattering, you may observe your dog digging around the fence and in the backyard. All this is driven by the scent of some female dogs that are in heat around the area and the excitement that comes with wanting to have them.

Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 338 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone

13 Comments

  1. My Giant Schnauzer has shown all the signs of Focal Notor Seizures and have never bee able to get a diagnoses from my vet..she is 12yrs and has good teeth no ear problems..until small haematoma appeared on her ear i’ve put down to contiues teeth chatering

  2. This is the kind of information that makes Internet diagnosis so infamous (“my nose is running… do I have leprosy?”). It’s not misinformation, exactly, but it gets the most likely explanation wrong and buries it among less common and more worry-causing possibilities.

    I see dozens if not hundreds of dogs each day, and if they’re “chattering” it’s because they just smelled something unusually interesting (very often urine or another dog’s hindquarters). It’s the same reaction as when a cat sniffs something and leaves their mouth open. They’re trying to examine the smell with the less-powerful but more sensitive sensory receptors in the mouth. This is what people do purposely during formal tastings (of wine, or whatever).

    I notice pit bull breeds and pit mixes tend to do this more often than other breeds. And I’ve never seen this behavior in any of the breeds that were specifically bred for scent – perhaps their noses alone are already sensitive enough?

    • Hello james, I have a pointer and he recently had been chattering his teeth. It is randomly such as when he wakes up, I will feel his teeth chattering. I have already took him to the vet twice for other reasons and they checked his teeth while doing a routine exam and said teeth look good. I really don’t want to go back in to the vet if this is just normal.

    • Thank you for this. I have a pit boxer mix and I just recejtly noticed her doing this. I feel better now knowing it’s pretty common.

      • James is rightI’ve had German Schnauzers do this!Also the Jack Russell Terrier that i have now does it to! He’s six years old now,I have been to the vet for his checkup and he is fine! The Vet told me she can’t count how many times people have called or brought there Dog in and nothing was wrong with them! Hope this helps…TAKE CARE….

    • I know this isn’t a new thread but I’m hoping for a little help. When my pup has to pee he chatters and foams and shakes. Like while he is peeing. And he’s 4. A Great Dane pit bull lab mix. Is this a concern then or no?

    • I know this isn’t a new thread but I’m hoping for a little help. When my pup has to pee he chatters and foams and shakes. Like while he is peeing. And he’s 4. A Great Dane pit bull lab mix. Is this a concern then or no?

  3. My male Chihuahua (3,2kg) experiences teeth chattering every day, few times a day, when we get home after walking. Sometimes it happens when he plays and talks to toys, showing up who is the boss. He is 1,5 year old, very active and masculine. I took him to a vet to ask about a bad smell in the ears and about chattering theeth. The vet said nothing to worry. That it’s excitement causes theeth chattering in small breeds, and that because of their small size they seek extra attention of owners.. But I still alert about this condition..I hope it’s not related to nervous system disorder. I always watch my dog.

  4. James is right, I’ve had Schnauzers do this over the years and nothing wrong with them! I have a Jack Russell terrier that likes to chase the Squirrels and does this when he is exicited or smells a female in heat!just took him to the Vet for checkup, She said she could not count how many times people have called her or brought their dog in and nothing was wrong with them!! Hope this Helps,TAKE CARE…

    • I’m glad u put this online… I have a min schnauzer and shes a female … could it b cuz she was playing with a little kitten that we just got … and he went 2 okay with her after he uh and the bathroom so he may had trace of pee on his paws.. first I thought maybe she swallowed some hair from the kitten and cant get rid of it .. please help thanks

  5. James is right, I’ve had Schnauzers do this over the years and nothing wrong with them! I have a Jack Russell terrier that likes to chase the Squirrels and does this when he is excited or smells a female in heat!just took him to the Vet for a checkup, She said she could not count how many times people have called her or brought their dog in and nothing was wrong with them!! Hope this Helps,TAKE CARE…

  6. James is right, I’ve had Schnauzers do this over the years and nothing wrong with them! I have a Jack Russell terrier that likes to chase the Squirrels and does this when he is excited or smells a female in heat!just took him to the Vet for a checkup, She said she could not count how many times people have called her or brought their dog in and nothing was wrong with them!! Hope this Helps,TAKE CARE…

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