Regardless of breed, dogs are known to bite and chew random objects. But have you ever witnessed your dog making chewing motions without anything in its mouth?
When your dog persistently chews even without any object in its mouth, it may be trying to remove something lodged between its teeth. However, oral and dental issues, improper training, gastrointestinal disorders, and even some neurological problems may also be the causes of this behavior.
In this guide, we’ll look at the top 14 reasons why your dog keeps making chewing motions with no toys or any items in its mouth. Make sure to read all the way through to learn more about this issue.
Why Does Your Dog Keep Making Chewing Motions?
Biting and chewing are normal canine behaviors. However, when dogs chew persistently, even if there’s no object in their mouths, it is crucial to examine the underlying cause of it.
Some of the factors that can cause this abnormal chewing motion in dogs are relatively less serious and require minimal intervention from dog owners. However, others are more complicated and require veterinary care.
In fact, abnormal dog chewing may be an indication of a more serious condition. The common causes of the abnormal chewing motions in dogs are discussed below:
1. Lack of attention and exercise
Sometimes, when a dog doesn’t receive the attention and exercise it needs, it gets bored. In this case, abnormal dog chewing can be an indication that your pooch is understimulated.
If you have a busy working schedule or have recently experienced some abrupt changes in your household, your dog may not receive enough stimulation to stay happy and healthy.
Consider examining your schedule and household status in tracing the cause of your dog’s abnormal chewing motions.
2. Behavioral and emotional status
Persistent chewing in dogs can also be a sign of compulsive behavior and emotional distress, which require behavioral management and, in some cases, medical intervention.
Two of the extreme emotions that a dog can feel are overexcitement and separation anxiety. Your dog may become overly excited when you come home or upon meeting new people or companions.
Separation anxiety occurs more in overly attached pets like Poodles, Australian Shepherds, and even Pitbulls. Although it may affect younger pooches, separation anxiety is more prevalent in older dogs.
When a dog is feeling anxious or overly excited, some hormonal changes may occur and may induce what seems to be “chewing.”
Pet parents sometimes confuse chewing with teeth chattering. Keep in mind that an anxious or overly excited pooch naturally grinds its teeth.
This gives the impression that a dog is making a chewing motion when it actually isn’t.
3. Food stuck in dog’s teeth
Just like humans, dogs also pick their teeth after eating. This enables them to get rid of any food that has lodged in their teeth.
Primarily, dogs pick their teeth with their tongues, making it appear like they are chewing gum.
You should brush the teeth of your dog at least twice a day to help them remove the food debris stuck in their teeth. This can hopefully help in resolving the persistent chewing behavior of your dog.
4. Foreign object stuck in dog’s mouth
Some foreign objects may lodge in your dog’s tongue, palate, cheeks, and gums. Any object that gets stuck in your dog’s mouth can make it uncomfortable and chew constantly.
Foreign objects that are not immediately removed from the dog’s mouth may cause mouth pain.
Moreover, the repeated opening and closing of your dog’s mouth could be an indication that something is stuck in its mouth.
Among the foreign objects that can be stuck in the dog’s mouth are plant awns, thorns, bone shards, and wood splinters.
Other signs that something is lodged in your dog’s mouth are coughing, excessive drooling, and foul breath.
Dogs can also face mouth problems when they eat insects such as bees. Aside from allergic reactions, bee stings may also cause pain and swelling in the affected area which can make the dog chew persistently.
5. Foreign object lodged in dog’s throat
Sometimes, mistakenly swallowed foreign objects may block the dog’s throat and may cause choking. Small toys and bone fragments are some of the typical objects that can get stuck in the larynx of a dog.
When something is lodged in the throat of your dog, you might notice it retching and coughing in an attempt to remove the object that has been stuck.
Keep in mind that if a foreign object completely blocks the laryngeal opening, it can be fatal to your dog. If this happens, owners can perform a Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the object from the dog’s throat.
When your dog feels nauseous, it will excessively slobber, and its gag reflex will activate. In cases like this, you may see your dog acting as if it is about to vomit, accompanied by some chewing motions.
Note that nausea is not a disease and is actually a symptom of a condition, which may or may not require veterinary intervention. Some food items and odors may also cause nausea in dogs.
However, recurrent nausea in dogs may be a sign of a more serious disease, such as gastroenteritis, parvovirus infection, pancreatitis, kidney and liver failure, and many more. Nausea can also be a symptom of bloat in dogs.
7. Oral and dental issues
Tooth decay is among the dental issues that can bring pain and discomfort to canines and make them chew persistently.
Ideally, pet parents must brush their dog’s teeth regularly to prevent tooth decay from happening.
The discomforting gum pain from gingivitis can also make your dog chew continuously.
Note that aside from this symptom, any gum disease or irritation in a dog’s mouth may lead to ptyalism, where a dog produces more saliva.
If you have a new puppy with good oral hygiene, and you notice that it keeps chewing while holding nothing in its mouth, it may be because it is teething.
In this case, you don’t have to worry, as chewing is a normal part of the teething process.
8. Muscle spasms
Some muscles associated with the dog’s mouth can occasionally experience spasms.
This usually happens when a dog chews forcefully and over an extended amount of time, wearing down the chewing muscles.
However, forceful chewing isn’t the sole cause of muscle spasms in a dog’s mouth. Sometimes, muscle spasms can be a sign of neurological or physical damage in the affected area.
Aside from that, dehydration can also cause muscle spasms in dogs. When your dog experiences this, you may notice its mouth twitching and making some chewing motions.
If you’ve seen these symptoms in your dog after chewing forcefully, you may help by gently massaging the affected area and applying a muscle relaxant recommended by your trusted veterinarian.
9. Seizures and localized epilepsy
A dog may also make chewing motions if it has seizures or localized epilepsy. Seizure is a condition that affects the nervous system of a dog. It happens when there is an abnormal electrical activity in the dog’s brain.
When this abnormal activation repetitively occurs in episodes, it is known as epilepsy.
If only a partial area of the brain is affected, the seizure or epilepsy is described as localized or focal. Fly-biting seizure is an example of a focal seizure.
In fly biting seizures, the affected dog snaps at the air as if it is biting at invisible flies, hence the name. Your dog may also make some chewing motions if it is affected by the said condition.
If you suspect your dog of having a fly-biting seizure, taking it for a vet visit is highly recommended.
A veterinarian will perform eye, gastrointestinal, and blood tests to rule out other conditions that may also cause this condition.
Watch this video of a dog exhibiting the signs of a fly-biting seizure:
Just like in humans, the brain and spinal cord of dogs are covered with three layers of membranes called meninges. When this covering gets inflamed, the dog will acquire a condition called meningitis.
Meningitis is caused by infection from several pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans. The treatment for this disease would depend on what caused it.
For example, meningitis caused by fungi can be treated with an antifungal medication.
Meninges are a part of the nervous system. Hence, when they become infected, it can have unpredictable effects on dogs, including muscle twitches and spasms.
As a result, affected dogs may develop problems with their chewing muscles, which may lead to abnormal chewing motions.
11. Eye problems
When floaters form in the vitreous humor, the affected dog may bite in the air as it mistakes the floaters for flies. This may cause the dog to chew even when there aren’t any actual flies around.
Older dogs are more predisposed to develop floaters. Hence, if you have an older dog in your home, you should bring them to a reputable veterinary ophthalmologist for proper checkups and medications.
12. Digestive issues
If your dog’s digestive system isn’t functioning properly, it may cause serious discomfort and nausea, which can further trigger continual chewing motions.
Other symptoms of digestive problems in dogs that could trigger chewing behavior include diarrhea, stomach pain, dehydration, and weight loss.
Dogs usually experience digestive discomfort when they consume dirty, poisonous, or inappropriate items. However, some serious conditions could also upset your dog’s digestive system.
13. Canine distemper
Canine distemper is one of the most fatal diseases a dog can acquire. It is primarily caused by a paramyxovirus, which can be obtained through direct contact with an infected animal, airborne exposure, and vertical transmission.
Some observable neurological symptoms of canine distemper are chewing gum fits or uncontrollable chewing motion, excessive saliva, head tilt, full or partial seizures, paralysis, nystagmus, circling, and muscle twitching.
Other signs of canine distemper include eye discharge, fever, lethargy, and in rare cases, skin sores.
This viral disease can also be transmitted both by domestic and wild animals, which include wolves, foxes, and coyotes.
14. Canine cognitive dysfunction
Upon aging, dogs may also develop a form of dementia called canine cognitive dysfunction. This disease is both a neurological and behavioral condition.
Most dogs affected by canine cognitive dysfunction exhibit uncontrollable repetitive behavior, such as constant chewing motions.
However, other dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction may also develop more serious signs.
Keep in mind that this condition can mimic the symptoms of separation anxiety. However, the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction in dogs can still be observed even when their owners are around.
How to Stop Your Dog Chewing With Nothing in His Mouth
The answer to this depends on the reason why your dog keeps making chewing motions. Usually, less serious causes require simple intervention from the owner to solve the issue.
However, you might need professional assistance if your dog’s unusual chewing is caused by underlying medical issues.
Below are some of the ways you can do to stop your dog from chewing while holding nothing in its mouth:
1. Provide enough exercise and mental stimulation
Sufficient physical exercise and mental stimulation prevent the dog from becoming bored and emotionally distressed, which can make a dog chew persistently.
In addition, physical and mental workouts can significantly decrease the unnatural chewing behavior of your dog.
2. Provide chew toys and proper training for teething puppies
Poorly trained teething puppies might chew on any item it perceives as chewable, which could develop into destructive chewing behavior.
In this case, you may offer them a spot that is clean and dog-proof, along with some chew toys.
You can also train your dog using positive reinforcement, which employs treats and other incentives to strengthen the dog’s desirable behavior.
3. Hydrate your dog and help it rest
To prevent your dog from being dehydrated, you can provide it with plenty of water and electrolyte solution to replenish all the ions that have been lost in its body.
If your dog experiences muscle spasms in its mouth and jaw, let it rest its chew bone and give the affected area a light massage.
4. Pay attention to what your dog ingests
Sometimes, the reason why your dog chews persistently is because of the food and other items that it ingests, which may get stuck in its mouth and throat.
To avoid significant issues in the future, pet owners should carefully check the food and other items that their dogs put in their mouths.
5. Regularly brush your dog’s teeth
Whether your dog is making abnormal chewing motions or not, regular tooth brushing is necessary to maintain your dog’s good oral and dental health.
It does not only remove the plaques and food debris that are stuck in your dog’s teeth. It also prevents your dog from having tooth decay.
6. Consult your trusted veterinarian
If you observe your dog making abnormal chewing motions, it is highly advised to consult your trusted veterinarian to identify its underlying cause.
Usually, chronic chewing in dogs may be due to a more serious condition, such as meningitis, canine distemper, digestive problem, and seizure.
Getting pet insurance for your dog will greatly help you with the costs of your dog’s veterinary treatment and guarantee that it lives the best life possible.
This is especially useful if it exhibits unusual chewing habits due to a more serious problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does My Dog Keep Making Chomping Noise?
This occurrence has a number of causes. However, the most typical one is that the dog is attempting to remove something from its mouth or teeth, such as food particles.
It’s also possible that your dog has salivary, digestive, or neurological issues. Sometimes, making chewing noises might be a dog’s way of soothing itself.
Why Does My Dog Keep Moving His Jaw?
Usually, dogs keep moving their jaws when they feel cold, anxious, or excited. Yet, in more serious cases, it may be because of epilepsy, gastrointestinal problems, or some dental issues.
Bruxism or tooth grinding is among the most notable symptoms of these conditions.
Dog owners can visibly observe bruxism by examining how frequently their dogs move their jaws, even when nothing is in their mouths.
Why Does My Dog Keep Opening and Shutting His Mouth?
When your dog opens and closes its mouth repeatedly, it may be because it is choking. If this is the case, you can perform a Heimlich maneuver to remove the blockage in your dog’s throat.
However, if this phenomenon happens more regularly, it might be brought on by some conditions, including nausea, canine distemper, or partial seizures.
Why Does My Dog Keep Chewing on One Side of His Mouth?
The most probable reason for this occurrence is an oral or dental issue. For example, if your dog keeps chewing on the right side of his mouth, it might be because his left side has tooth decay or gingivitis.
In this case, your dog needs to be examined by a veterinary dentist as soon as possible to extract the affected tooth and treat the inflamed gums.
Why Does My Dog Keep Biting His Tongue?
Dogs rarely bite their tongues. But when they do, it could be the result of a seizure or just an accident while they are playing or vigorously catching things with their mouths.
Why Is My Dog Chewing in the Air?
There are various reasons why your dog snaps or chews in the air. Among the less serious causes of this phenomenon are boredom and anxiety.
You can lessen the occurrence of this by giving your dog enough physical and mental stimulation. However, chewing in the air can also be a sign of some neurological or behavioral problems.
For example, dogs suffering from seizures or obsessive-compulsive disorder may exhibit this phenomenon more frequently.
There are a lot of factors that could cause a dog to make persistent and weird chewing motions. This phenomenon is linked to a number of conditions, which can be mild to severe.
Lack of physical and mental exercise, extreme emotions, food stuck in the dog’s mouth, and poor oral hygiene are among the less serious causes of a dog’s persistent chewing behavior.
Meanwhile, more serious causes such as eye issues, compulsive disorder, digestive problems, nausea, muscle spasms, and some neurological diseases require immediate veterinary intervention.
Have you ever seen your dog chewing oddly even when nothing is in its mouth? Tell us your experience in the comment section!
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.