When you watch your dog’s bottom jaw quiver for the first time, you might start to wonder if something is wrong. I know I did when I first saw this happen in my pup!
My mind immediately started going over all the possible medical conditions that could be causing this. Was my dog having a seizure? Maybe she ate poison? It’s human nature to jump to extreme conclusions like that.
The truth is, if your dog’s bottom jaw is quivering, it’s most likely nothing to be worried about. A jaw quiver is nothing more than a form of a tremble, which is common in all dogs. Although there can be medical reasons for the jaw quivering, it’s most likely a non-medical issue such as excitement, anxiety, or old age.
Some breeds also tend to tremble more than others. Breeds that are over-anxious such as chihuahuas, poodles, jack russells, and even labradors tend to quiver at the jaw more than other non-anxious breeds.
It’s also more common in elderly dogs, regardless of the breed. As dogs get older, they begin to lose control of their muscles, experience more pain, and become more sensitive to cold weather, all of which can lead to jaw quivering.
Non-Medical Reasons For Jaw Quivering
If you’ve noticed your dogs bottom jaw starting to quiver, there’s a good chance the cause is from the list below. Before jumping to any extreme medical conditions, go through this list and see if one of the following could be causing this behavior.
It’s no surprise that dogs can get excited over the smallest things. If you notice the quivering starts when you (or someone they love) walks in the door, when you bring out the food or treats, or when it’s time to go on a walk, there’s a good chance this behavior is due to excitement.
We have even seen male dogs start to quiver and tremble when they smell the scent of a female dog in heat. Anything that makes a dog excited can cause trembling. Sometimes it’s full-body trembling. Other times it’s isolated to one area such as the bottom jaw.
When you walk outside on a cold winter morning, what’s the first thing you do? Shiver! Dogs are no different. Nearly all animals will tense up when they’re cold. Sometimes tensing up can lead to shivering. Dogs will usually tense their whole body, but quiver at the jaw.
Certain breeds such as greyhounds, terriers, and whippets are extremely sensitive to cold weather. This means that even if it doesn’t feel cold to you, they might be freezing.
If you think your dog might be quivering from cold weather, be sure to keep the house warm (if they’re an inside dog). If you keep your dog outside, make sure to use a dog coat and boots to keep them warm.
Displacement language is a fascinating topic. Just about all animals practice displacement, but dogs, in particular, seem to be great at it.
Displacement language is a form of distraction. When a dog feels like they’re about to be attacked, they’ll begin to do something bizarre to get the attacker to wonder more about what they’re doing than actually attacking.
In the case of jaw quivering, it could get the attacker to be more curious about why the jaw is shaking and turn them away from attacking.
If your dogs quivering is due to displacement language, that means something or someone in the house scares them. This is common if you recently moved, got new furniture, or have guests over.
What do most humans do when we get nervous? Typically our hands start to shake. When a dog gets anxious, stressed, or nervous, their jaw may begin to shake.
Does your dog have anything to be stressed about? Maybe they have separation anxiety? If you notice the jaw begins to quiver when you’re about to leave for work, the trembling could be because your dog is stressed that knowing they’ll be alone the rest of the day.
As dog’s age, they begin to lose strength. For an old dog, trembling could just be because their jaw is fatigued from eating, drinking water, or barking. Older dogs also tend to experience more pain. This pain could result in jaw quivering. With old dogs, the best thing you can do is to make them feel comfortable.
Above, we listed 5 of the most common non-medical causes for bottom jaw quivering in dogs. Below we are going to list 6 of the most common medical causes. Although we are listing more medical causes, that does not mean medical causes are more common.
In fact, I’d say there’s a 95% chance it’s NOT a medical cause. So don’t let the list below scare you. We wanted to cover all the possible reasons a dog’s jaw might be shaking, and the truth is that sometimes medical reasons can cause this behavior.
If you suspect a medical issue is causing the trembling, make sure you get your dog into the vet as soon as possible.
This is the most common medical reason for jaw quivering. Whether your dog has a cavity or is suffering from advanced periodontal disease, pain in the mouth can cause the jaw to quiver and the teeth to chatter.
The reason jaw trembling results from oral pain is because dogs try so hard to hide their pain, it causes them to tense up. The more tense they become, the more they’ll shake.
If you don’t get your dog’s teeth regularly examined and cleaned, be sure to schedule an appointment for the near future and make it part of the grooming routine.
This is most likely NOT the case, but poison can cause your dog to tremble. Usually, poison would cause the entire body to shake and not just the jaw, but in some cases, the dog may only quiver at the jaw. However, the other more alarming symptoms will come along with the trembling, so unless your dog is also vomiting and walking funny, you don’t have to worry about poison.
It’s very common for dogs to suffer from seizures. We had a beagle who would get a seizure at least twice per year. Sometimes the best thing you can do for them is pet them to keep them calm until they stop shaking.
Seizures will cause the entire body to lock up and shake, but even when it’s over, the jaw can still continue shaking for a few minutes. If you walked into the room and your dogs jaw is shaking, it could be the final few minutes of a seizure. However, if you’ve never seen your dog get a seizure before, this probably isn’t the cause.
Shaker Syndrome (also known as idiopathic cerebellitis) is when the cerebellum in the brain becomes inflamed for reasons we still don’t understand. The cerebellum is responsible for muscle movements. When inflamed, it causes the body to shake.
Just like seizures, this syndrome will cause the entire body to shake, but for the final few minutes, it’s usually just the jaw that continues to shake.
Oddly enough, shaker syndrome happens much more often in dogs with a white coat. It’s very rare for a dog with a dark coat to suffer from this disease.
Side Effect to Medication
This one is often overlooked because medication is supposed to help our dogs get better. But some dogs respond differently to certain medications, especially pain killers.
If your dog recently started taking a new medication, there’s a good chance the medication is responsible for the quivering.
We can’t rule out the unknown. Sometimes dogs will quiver at the jaw for a reason we will never understand. As long as it doesn’t seem to be affecting their quality of life, then you have no reasons to be concerned.
Should Jaw Quivering Concern You?
The answer to this question is most likely no. Bottom jaw quivering is usually nothing serious. Most of the time, it will be caused by one of the non-medical reasons we covered in this post. If it’s not one of those, then it’s most likely a dental issue. Although dental problems do need to be addressed, it’s still nothing to be worried about.
However, if you want to be safe, then be sure to get an appointment scheduled with your vet. Your vet will check for both medical and non-medical issues. He will look at the dog’s teeth and will then perform neurological testing just to rule out seizures and shaker syndrome.
Don’t let jaw quivering bother you. Almost all dogs do it from time to time. My dog does it when he gets excited. The trembling is essentially his way of saying, “I’m so excited I can’t control myself!”. As long as it doesn’t happen 24/7, it’s nothing to be concerned about.
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