Dogs have many strange behaviors. You may notice your dog chasing its tail or attempting to catch flies. You may also notice that your dog opens and closes its mouth repeatedly. It’s strange to watch, and  it may leave you feeling concerned. 

Why does my dog keep opening and closing his mouth?

You look at your dog and realize that they keep opening and closing their mouth. What could be causing this? Should you be concerned? There are many potential reasons your dog could be opening and closing their mouth. Some of them are concerning. 

Distemper

The first symptom of distemper is typically a watery discharge from the eyes. As the disease continues, fever, nasal discharge, and coughing occur. Your dog becomes fatigued and may have nausea or vomiting. 

Eventually, the disease attacks the nervous system. This can cause head tilt, mouth opening and closing, muscle twitches, and paralysis. 

Seizures

Seizures are one of the most common neurological conditions in dogs. The dog will experience uncontrolled muscle movements. This often causes convulsions. It can also cause teeth grinding or the jaw opening and closing. 

Seizures can be caused by epilepsy or other conditions, including organ failure. Grand mal seizures are dramatic, causing full body convulsions and loss of consciousness. Petit mal seizures are more subtle. Symptoms can include staring, mouth movements, tremors, or convulsions in one area of the body. 

Gastrointestinal Problems

Gastrointestinal problems can cause your dog’s mouth movements as well. Esophagitis, gastritis, and ulcers can cause your dog discomfort. This discomfort can cause them to move their mouth or grind their teeth in an attempt to distract themselves from pain or as a comfort mechanism. 

White Dog Shaker Syndrome

White dog shaker syndrome is also known as generalized tremor syndrome. As the name suggests, it typically affects white dogs, particularly small breeds. Despite the name, it can affect dogs of any breed, size, and color. 

Shaker syndrome causes tremors or shaking. They may occur in one area of the body, or the entire body. They can be mild or impair your dog’s ability to function. Most dogs with shaker syndrome are healthy in other respects. 

The disease usually occurs at 1 to 2 years of age. Symptoms get worse when the dog is excited or upset, and often disappear when the dog is sleeping. The cause of shaker syndrome isn’t known. It can be treated with steroid medication. 

Hypothermia

Hypothermia causes your dog’s body temperature to drop too low, usually from exposure to cold temperatures. Just like humans, dogs will shake when they are cold in an attempt to warm their body. 

If your dog is cold, shaking is normal. This can occur indoors during cold temperatures as well, particularly for small short haired breeds. It’s similar to you catching a chill and shivering. This shivering can cause them to open and close their mouth. 

Why does my dog keep opening and closing his mouth after eating?

If your dog is opening and closing his mouth after eating, there are a few possibilities. These range from benign, like something in their teeth, to life-threatening causes like choking. 

Choking

Choking is a big worry for many pet parents. You may choose what you feed your dog carefully, in an attempt to avoid choking hazards. However, choking can happen with any food or object your dog ingests. 

When a dog is choking, they can’t breathe. They open and close their mouth in an attempt to get more oxygen. You may hear gagging or choking sounds or nothing at all.

Choking requires immediate action. Hold your dog upside down or lift their hind legs up so their head goes down. You can also strike them with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades. This is essentially the canine version of the Heimlich maneuver. 

Object in Mouth

Your dog may have an object in their mouth. The most common and least concerning is when your dog has a piece of food stuck in their teeth. Your dog feels the food, and is opening and closing their mouth in an attempt to dislodge it. 

If your dog has chewed a foreign object, pieces of this item could be in its mouth or teeth.

Dental Problems

Dental problems can also cause your dog to open and close their mouth after eating. If they have tooth or gum pain, eating will likely make it worse. They may be opening and closing their mouth as a way to relieve the pain. 

Bloat

Bloat is a life-threatening condition that comes suddenly. Air gets trapped in the stomach. It begins to ferment, creating increased pressure. As the pressure increases, the stomach twists, blocking the entrance and exit. 

Bloat is life-threatening if not treated quickly. The exact cause of bloat isn’t known, but risk factors include large breed dogs and eating food too quickly. 

Symptoms of bloat include the inability to poop, fart, or burp. Retching without producing vomit is also common. A dog with bloat will have a swollen stomach and clearly be in a lot of pain. 

Bloat causes your dog to open and close their mouth because they are having difficulty breathing. They may also move their mouth because they are trying to vomit, but the esophagus is blocked. 

Why does my dog move his mouth like he is talking?

It can be cute when your dog is moving their mouth like they are talking. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about. All the causes listed above can cause your dog to move their mouth like they are talking. However, there is another more pleasant possibility. 

Positive Reinforcement

This may be the most common reason it seems as if your dog is talking to you, particularly if you enjoy it. If you smile, laugh, or speak to your dog affectionately when they “talk”, your dog will keep doing it. 

Owners train their four-legged companions to do all sorts of things. In addition to training them to potty in the appropriate place and not jump on strangers, you can train your dog to perform certain behaviors without even realizing it. 

Dogs are eager to please. They seek your attention and praise. When you like something they do, they will keep doing it to please you. If you’ve accidentally trained your dog to “talk”, you can rest easy. There’s nothing to worry about. 

Why does my dog keep moving his jaw?

The most common reason your dog keeps moving his jaw is bruxism, or tooth grinding. Bruxism can cause damage to your dog’s teeth. It can also indicate an underlying problem. 

Bruxism can be caused by physical discomfort, usually pain in the stomach or mouth. It can also be caused by emotional or behavioral issues.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common causes. Just like humans, dogs will often grind their teeth when they are stressed. Other signs of stress include a loss of appetite, pacing, whining, barking, and tense body posture. 

Stress can be caused by a change to your dog’s environment or routine. Has your schedule changed recently? Is there a new pet or family member in the home? Have you moved? 

Sometimes the cause of stress can’t be determined. Your dog may need anxiety medication or behavioral therapy if the problem continues. 

Excitement

Excitement can also cause your dog to move their jaw or grind their teeth. If this is the cause, you’ll notice it only occurs during certain situations. They may do it when they are about to eat or go for a walk, or when receiving a new toy or treat. 

What to do about my dog opening and closing his mouth?

This will vary greatly based on the reason your dog is opening and closing their mouth. Let’s look at some potential reasons and solutions. 

Choking

If your dog is choking, time is of the essence.  Hold them upside down or lift their back legs so their head is down. This will help dislodge the object. You can also hit them with your palm between the shoulder blades, which works like the Hiemlich maneuver in humans. 

Once the emergency is over, they may need to see a vet. Your vet can ensure that there’s been no damage to the esophagus or mouth. 

Object in Teeth or Mouth

You can check for an object in your dog’s teeth or mouth by looking inside their mouth. Be sure that your dog is calm and accepting of you doing so. You should be able to place a finger in your dog’s mouth to feel for an object as well. 

If you find something, you may need to have your vet remove it. You don’t want your dog swallowing it and choking. You also want to make sure it’s removed without causing harm. 

Disease or Disorder

If you suspect your dog has a disease or disorder causing them to open and close their mouth, you’ll need to take them to the vet. Seizures, distemper, and white shaker dog syndrome are all potential causes. Your vet can run diagnostic tests and determine the cause of your dog’s symptoms. 

Bloat

If you suspect your dog has bloat, they will need emergency veterinary care. Bloat can occur and become fatal in a matter of hours. If bloat is treated in the early stages before the stomach twists, they will have the best chance of recovery. Once the stomach twists surgery is the only treatment option. 

Dental Problems

You can prevent dental problems with good dental hygiene. You’ll need to brush their teeth at least 3 times a week. Dental bones can help remove build up as well. 

Getting regular check ups will allow you to catch any dental problems early, when they are most treatable. If dental problems like cavities or periodontal disease occur, your furry companion will need veterinary treatment. 

Hypothermia or Cold

If your dog’s mouth is moving because they are cold, you’ll need to warm them up. In addition to shaking, your dog may tuck its tail, curl up, and act anxious or uncomfortable. 

If your dog is simply cold, cuddling or wrapping them up in a blanket may be all that’s needed. If they have hypothermia, you’ll need to use blankets and hot water bottles to slowly raise their temperature. You can check your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. If it is below 98 degrees, they need immediate veterinary care. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.