It may be a funny sight at first, but it can quickly become concerning when you see your dog making weird mouth movements constantly.
Peculiar mouth movements generally include teeth chattering, smacking of lips, and repeatedly opening and closing the mouth.
These can be caused by a variety of reasons, ranging from behavioral and neurological conditions, pain, and anxiety, to simple factors like cold weather and food stuck in teeth.
It’s important to find out the probable origin of the behavior as quickly as possible in order to treat it in an efficient manner. Let’s jump right in!
One of the most common weird mouth movements dog owners observe in their dogs is teeth chattering.
Teeth chattering often leads dog owners to pose the question, “Why is my dog making weird mouth movements?” Teeth chattering can be a symptom of several conditions in dogs.
If your dog’s teeth chattering continues for more than a couple of days, you should contact your vet to rule out serious medical conditions. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the reasons your dog may be chattering its teeth.
Dogs experience emotions similar to humans, including excitement, joy, and sadness.
Your dog’s teeth chattering may have behavioral roots. Dogs often chatter their teeth when they get excited. Your dog may be chattering its teeth because it’s excited to see you when you get home from work.
Dogs sometimes chatter their teeth when they’re playing because it’s a way for them to express their excitement. If your dog is chattering its teeth in these situations, you don’t have anything to worry about.
Teeth chattering is also a way for dogs to express distress.
Dogs sometimes express pain by chattering their teeth. If your dog suddenly starts chattering its teeth and you can’t pinpoint the cause, they may be in distress. For example, your dog may be experiencing digestive and GI problems.
Emotional distress can also lead to teeth chattering in dogs.
Your dog may start chattering its teeth to release negative energy or frustrations. Some dogs chatter their teeth in response to stress or when they’re nervous. This may also be accompanied by behaviors such as a refusal to leave your side.
Many environmental factors could cause your dog to experience anxiety, including fireworks, stormy weather, loud noises, a stressful home environment, and unfamiliar dogs.
Just like humans, dogs often shiver and chatter their teeth in cold weather.
If you take your dog out in wintry conditions, they may have trouble dealing with the cold.
Shivering and teeth chattering are involuntary reactions to cold weather. Short-haired dogs living in cold climates or in cold houses are especially susceptible to cold weather. A common accompanying symptom is a cold tongue.
If your dog chatters its teeth in cold weather, you probably don’t need to see a vet. Instead, try to keep your dog warm in cold weather. A dog sweater can help keep your dog comfortable in frigid temperatures. Otherwise, keep them home when temperatures drop!
Although rare, if you are thinking, “My dog is doing a weird thing with his mouth”, teeth chattering is occasionally a symptom of a neurological disorder in dogs.
A partial seizure in a dog sometimes goes unnoticed. Partial seizures may result in dogs chattering their teeth. Distemper is another neurological disorder that may cause teeth chattering in your dog.
If your dog is suffering from a severe neurological condition, there will often be other warning signs indicating something is wrong.
For example, your dog may have trouble holding its head up, stick its tongue out and shake, or have droopy eyelids in addition to teeth chattering. It may also constantly look around frantically at nothing in particular.
Focal motor seizures can also cause your dog’s teeth to chatter. The chattering is usually brief and only affects the jaws, so you may miss it.
This condition is not serious, and the chattering comes in short bursts. If your furry friend displays any symptoms of a neurological disorder, be sure to take it to the vet.
A dog making weird mouth movements such as smacking lips may have various causes, which are almost always physical. The most common reasons dogs smack lips include:
- Dental Disease
- Gum Masses
Dogs often also smack their lips when they’re hungry. If you show your dog a tasty treat, don’t be surprised if you catch your furry friend smacking its lips.
Dogs also smack their lips when they’re experiencing stress or feeling agitated. You may notice your dog smacking its lips after you’ve scolded it.
Other reasons your dog may smack its lips include the following:
- Your dog has something stuck in its teeth
- Your dog is in pain or experiencing discomfort
- Gastrointestinal problems or nausea
- Dry mouth or dehydration
- Salivary gland problems
Nervous system disorder or seizure
Many of these conditions will cause your dog excessively drool, resulting in your dog smacking its lips. If your dog is excessively smacking its lips, make an appointment with your vet.
There are many reasons your dog may repeatedly open and close its mouth. It may seem like they are chewing on something but sometimes there could be nothing in its mouth.
A dog making weird mouth movements such as opening and closing its mouth frequently could be serious and merit immediate attention.
You may have noticed your dog opening and closing its mouth after eating. In this case, there’s nothing to worry about.
A common reason a dog opens and closes its mouth repeatedly is that it has food stuck in its teeth. By opening and closing its mouth, the dog hopes to dislodge whatever is stuck between its teeth.
A mouth problem may cause your dog to open and close its mouth repeatedly. Your dog may open and close its mouth often if it has broken a tooth or if a tooth is loose.
An oral ulcer, a cut, or a bug bite may also cause a dog to engage in this behavior. Anything that feels different in the dog’s mouth may trigger this behavior.
Other dental problems your dog may be suffering from include:
- Salivary cysts
- Periodontal disease
If you think your dog may be suffering from a mouth problem, consider taking your dog to a vet for an oral examination. The vet may request dental x-rays if there’s a chance your dog may be having problems with its teeth.
If your dog opens and closes its mouth after eating, it may have a piece of food or other foreign object stuck in its mouth that stops it from breathing. A dog may open and close its mouth when choking in an attempt to get air.
If the behavior continues, you may need to help your dog dislodge the food by holding the dog in the air with its head down, or lifting it by its hind legs to make the head tilt down.
You can also use a modified Heimlich maneuver by striking the dog between its shoulder blades with the palm of your hand.
As you have discovered in this article, there are multiple possible reasons that can induce a dog to make strange mouth movements.
If you still can’t confidently answer the question, “Why is my dog doing something weird with his mouth?” The situation definitely merits veterinary assistance.
A vet will be able to examine your dog to determine whether your dog making weird mouth movements is normal, or a symptom of a more serious medical problem.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.