You have been relaxing at home, had a nice bath, ate and chilling out, and you suddenly notice your dog making weird mouth movements. It seems your dog is chewing with nothing in his mouth or he is trying to talk to you. Now wouldn’t that be a novelty, our dogs talking to us in sounds that actually make sense to us. Sorry to burst your bubble, that is a huge fantasy and although imagining something like that is nice, the truth is that we should have our dogs behaving naturally as they have been created and that is to bark normally. Another truth is that if your dog keeps smacking his mouth or making weird mouth movements, then there must be something wrong that needs to be addressed.
So here is the answer to the question “why does my dog open and close his mouth?”
Our dogs open and close their mouths repeatedly when they
(1) have foreign objects stuck in their mouth,
(2) have food stuck in their teeth or mouth,
(3) have broken teeth and gum issues and
(4) when they feel nausea or want to throw up.
The more serious situations are when they are
(6) have periodontal disease,
(7)abscesses or salivary cysts,
(8) Canine distemper and
(9)A Neurological Issue.
Now let’s explain each of these situations in more details
Have foreign objects stuck in their mouth.
By now, you should know that your dog’s nose and mouth are the fastest way in which our dogs interact with their environment, much in the same way we use our hands and eyes. Having said this our dogs get to be curious about different things based on their smell or test and in their investigative capacity get overzealous and try to test various objects.
These objects may be wood, plastics, metals, grass, etc that end up getting stuck in some parts of their mouth or inner parts of their teeth and end up causing them great discomfort. Unlike we humans that can have holes in our teeth and not feel discomfort for a long period of time, dogs instantly notice when something is out of place in their mouth (I guess its the same thing when something is wrong with our hands, we tend to feel it more quickly because of how often we use them).
Some of them might even start panicking in addition to making weird mouth movements in a bid to remove these foreign objects. So what can we do to help them? Well this depends on the relationship you have with your dogs, some dogs don’t like to have their mouths handled. If you have a dog that’s cool with you. He or she would allow you to open their mouths and investigate. In some cases, you can use a stick or some plastic to remove this foreign object. If your dog is one that would not allow you to check, then take a video of your dog in the current state and send to your vet doctor, like they say, a picture is worth more than a thousand words (in this case a video).
Have food stuck in their teeth or mouth.
If your dog opens and closes his mouth repeatedly immediately after having a meal chances are your dog has some food stuck in his teeth or mouth. Some foods that our dogs consume tend to be sticky, unfortunately for them, they do not have the luxury of having hands to remove these troubling sticky mess in their mouth. They can’t use toothpicks and their tounges are not as flexible as ours so they find it very hard to manage the uncomfortable sensation they feel when this sticky food is stuck in their teeth or mouth.
So if this is the situation where your dog opens and closes his mouth repeatedly, you can assist him or her in solving the problem. Again depending on your relationship with your dog, you can clean up the sticky area using a small gauze to remove the stuck food, you may also resort to brushing your dog’s teeth with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. This should easily solve the challenge.
But in a situation where you have not developed enough rapport with your dog to handle their teeth, you just have to call in an expert especially a vet doctor, don’t forget to take a video of the situation with your phone. This will go a long way in helping your vet doctor to analyze the situation properly.
Have broken teeth and gum issues.
A broken tooth, a wounded gum, a dislodged tooth, a sensitive gum all this can be really uncomfortable for our dogs. There is this gap or a feeling of something missing which our dogs feel when something is out of place in their mouth. Remember we made a comparison before between how we use our hands and how our dogs use their mouth. Because of how regularly we use our hands, anything out of place is noticed almost immediately. From lifting a cup of water to drink, taking our bath, writing on a notepad, typing on our devices (phones, ipads, laptops, etc). The slightest sprain or pain in our fingers, arms, shoulder, etc is noticed almost immediately.
The same thing applies to our dog’s mouth. Because of how they interact with the environment, any slight misplacement of any part of the mouth is very much noticed. Unfortunately for us dog parents, this kind of problem is hard to trace. If your dog still makes weird mouth movements, even after all investigations, your best bet would be to get him or her to have a full oral examination from a vet clinic.
When they feel nausea or want to throw up.
A dog also tends to exhibit this characteristic (opening and closing their mouth repeatedly) when they feel nausea. This is because just like us, when they are about to throw up there body produces a large amount of saliva in that period. This saliva is meant to protect their teeth from the acidic nature of the food which they are about to throw up.
This episode usually ends with our dog throwing up the upsetting food substances or toxic substances and usually going on with their life. But if they keep opening and closing their mouth even after they have thrown up, then the problem is something else.
The more serious situations that can make our dogs to keep making weird mouth movements are:
This is usually accompanied by a lot of drooling and choking sounds. You find that your dog would be very restless and even trying to paw at his or her mouth to remove the offending object.
It is paramount to point out that choking is a life-threatening experience for our dogs and should be treated as an emergency. Get professional help immediately.
Have periodontal disease.
This is a bacterial infection that usually affects the gum and tooth area of our dogs. The bad thing about this infection is that it usually does not show any sign, especially at the beginning. The best thing you can do is to be constant in your dog care routines and checks.
If your dog is chewing with nothing in its mouth. Then take time to investigate more in his or her mouth. Do they have a bad breath, Is their teeth discolored? Do you notice swollen gums? Is he losing appetite? This is usually an early indication that your dog is progressing in the periodontal disease stages.
At this stage, you can take some steps to manage the situation at home. This includes
i. Brushing their teeth regularly
ii. Providing them with chew toys basically manufactured for dental problems.
iii. Providing them with chew based treats containing enzymes that tackle plaques and tarter problems.
iv. Schedule a visit to your local vet clinic for a dental checkup.
If for some reason you are late in noticing the early symptoms then it likely that dogs gums would have been very swollen around many of his teeth, at this stage, your dog already has what is called gingivitis and would have been undergoing some tooth loss and having halitosis or a very strong bad breath.
At this stage, there is nothing much you can do. A visit to your vet clinic for a professional dental cleanup, treatment, and medication would be needed here.
Elderly dogs are more prone to this infection so it is advised to take their dental care more seriously as they age.
Abscesses and salivary cysts.
Abscesses can cause our dogs to make weird mouth movements. For simplicity’s sake, just imagine abscesses as a tumor. This tumor has grown large enough to damage the salivary glands, this, in turn, causes excess production of the saliva in that area, usually the neck or mouth, leading to a dump of saliva in that area as the thick Saliva is unable to be absorbed back into the body.
For Salivary cysts, damaged salivary ducts may leak saliva into tissues around it and be forced to hold the saliva in these tissue areas, leading to large swelling around the neck region or under the jaw. Dogs that have chokes used on them extensively are prone to salivary cysts.
These pockets of saliva cause some undue pain as the dog is unable to eat or drink water properly. The main option to deal with this permanently is usually through surgery.
Let your local vet doctor advise you on the best approach.
This is a virus that attacks a dog’s overall systems. This includes the central nervous system, respiratory systems, gastrointestinal system, and our dog’s eyes.
If your dog is up to date on their vaccinations then there is a low chance of them getting infected by Canine distemper. But there is a possibility that someone reading this may not have considered or taken the vaccination process seriously. For these people, it is worth stating that Canine distemper is a fatal disease and is also very contagious for dogs worldwide so it should be taken very, very seriously.
Basic signs of a dog having Canine distemper are thick mucus coming out their eyes and nose, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, coughing, and vomiting which makes the dog to open and close his mouth repeatedly before throwing up.
Make sure to contact your vet doctor if you notice any of the above. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this Virus so it is very important to follow whatever advice or medication your vet doctor gives you to the letter. Your love for your dog would be tested at this stage.
Lastly, it is worth noting that this virus can be spread by other animals like skunks, coyotes, wolves, etc so you should be mindful of the areas your dog roams of to and how you socialize them.
The best thing to do is to make sure your dogs vaccination is up to date. This will save you and your dog a lot of trouble.
A Neurological Issue.
This is actually on the extreme, but one of the reasons for a dog making weird mouth movements can be due to Neurological Issues. As our dogs grow older, certain functions will not work as perfectly as they used to when they were younger. Changes occur in the weight and size of their brain cells leading to problems like dementia, cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, and Neurological Diseases.
This has many effects on the elderly dog and one of them is causing the dog to open and close his mouth atimes, mostly involuntarily. Luckily, in modern times, a lot of breakthroughs have been made in this area. Your vet doctor can advise you on proper nutritional changes and dog care for elderly dogs.
There is a lot that can be done to make life for our elderly dogs comfortable and enjoyable.
So there it is. We have tried to dig up all possible reasons for the question “why does my dog open and close his mouth?” Be sure to go through the points and apply the actions that suit the situation you face with your dog.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.