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Dog Jaw Chattering – What You Should Know

The minute my dogs do anything out of the ordinary, I get a little panic attack.  It’s a relief when someone says “Oh, that’s normal”, or “My dog does that, too.”  

Is your dog jaw chattering?  It looks weird…almost like he/she is about to have a seizure.  There’s a good chance it’s nothing serious, especially if it only happens once in a while. Follow my D.O.G. guide to try and narrow down the problem.  Keep in mind that dog chattering is rarely anything to be worried about.

D   Deconstruct the problem

O   Obvious Signs

G   Get advice, if required.

I’m going to explain these steps in detail so that you can practice at home and, hopefully, save some unnecessary trips to the veterinarian’s office.


You know the minute something isn’t right with your dog. Whether he’s avoiding food, behaving badly, pawing at his mouth, or chattering his teeth.

Let’s say your dog’s jaw is chattering. You’ve never seen your dog do that before. What’s happening? Ask yourself the following questions to deconstruct the problem:

    • Is there something stuck in his mouth or throat?  Gently pry your dog’s mouth open and take a quick look inside. While you’re there, pay attention to your dog’s breath. Is it the normal stinky kind of breath dogs have, or is it really foul?
  • Watch your dog’s behavior for several minutes.  Is your dog shaking his/her head, pawing at his/her mouth, or trembling anywhere else on the body?
  • What environment are you in?  Are you outside when this happens? What’s the temperature? Is your dog a small, short-haired breed susceptible to the cold?
  • Are there other animals around?  How are the other animals reacting?  Have they moved away from your dog? Are they doing the same thing?
  • Did you just walk into the room? Is there a reason your dog might be suddenly over-excited?

Jaw chattering can be caused by a number of benign things like:

    • Sensitivity to the cold.
    • Oral pain caused by dental issues
    • Excitement
  • Something stuck in the mouth or teeth

Rarely, jaw chattering can be a sign of neurological diseases including epilepsy. In that case, you would notice other signs of seizure including muscle trembling, twitching, unfocused eyes, weakness, and possible temporary collapse.


Think about the questions posed above, and consider what your dog may have been doing before you noticed the chattering. You could ask another family member if they’ve ever seen the dog do that before. The more you can piece together, the easier it will be for the veterinarian to assess if you have to bring your dog in.

  • If you gently touch your dog, will he “snap out of it”?   If the dog is suffering with a little anxiety or over-excitement, he/she should stop the behavior with a gentle interruption.
  • Is the dog trembling?  Don’t automatically think “seizure”.  It could be that the dog is simply cold.
  • Has your dog started a new medication?  Medications can cause any number of side-effects and it’s possible that this is one of them.
  • Have you given your dog new treats or bones?  Certain treats and bones can be too hard for dogs to chew safely, causing damage to the gums or the teeth.

 There is usually an identifiable sequence of events before the jaw chattering began.  Even if you decide to take your dog to the veterinarian as a precaution, you will be able to answer questions with ease while providing your own insights into what might have happened.

  1. Get Advice If Required

Sometimes there really is no logical explanation for certain dog behaviors and illnesses. Pay attention to the length of time the jaw chattering lasts, and whether it happens again later that day.

In the absence of other symptoms that might suggest seizures, mouth injury or dental pain, the most likely explanation is:

    • Fear
    • Anxiety
  • Over-excitement

Whatever symptoms your dog is exhibiting are likely benign conditions not needing an emergency visit.  I know that many dog health sites prefer to amp up the ‘“fear factor”, but I don’t think that’s necessary.  

Dental Issues

I’ve actually seen my cat chatter his jaw and, on further investigation, realized he had a broken tooth in his mouth. The same thing can happen with dogs. Tooth decay and gum disease can cause painful lesions in the mouth requiring medical help.  If you’ve noticed your dog hasn’t been eating much lately, he/she could very well have a dental issue that needs fixing.

I think it bears saying that even a dental issue isn’t an emergency. Yes, you need to book an appointment. In the meantime, offer your dog soft food and water.  

Aspirin for Pain

If your dog appears to be in pain, ask your veterinarian about painkillers between appointments.  The general rule is 5 mg to 10 mg of aspirin per pound. However, if your dog is on other medications, or has a bleeding disorder, the veterinarian may advise against it.


The last thing I want to do is suggest anything that might bring harm to your dog. You know your dog better than anybody else, so please use common sense.  When in doubt, sometimes a quick (and free) phone call to the vet for over-the-phone advice is the best thing to do.

If something really just doesn’t seem right and you’re not able to make sense of it, please make sure your dog gets professional help.  

I hope you were able to get some concrete advice from this post. If you did, please like and share for other dog owners to benefit!

There’s a lot to say about dental issues/disease that I’ve covered fully in another article. Please continue reading for more information.

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