Why Do Dogs Puff Their Cheeks? Understanding the Canine Behavior

Dogs are fascinating creatures with a wide range of behaviors that can sometimes leave us curious and perplexed. One such behavior is when dogs puff their cheeks, an action that seems unusual and raises questions about why they do it. Although dogs cannot communicate with us through words, their body language offers valuable insights into their emotions and needs. Let’s delve into this behavior and explore the possible reasons behind why dogs puff their cheeks.

1. The Presence of Dental Issues

Dogs may puff their cheeks as a response to dental issues that cause discomfort or pain. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from problems such as gum infections, tooth decay, or gum disease. These conditions can lead to inflammation or swelling in the oral cavity, causing dogs to puff their cheeks in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort or alleviate pressure.

If you notice your dog repeatedly puffing their cheeks or showing signs of oral discomfort such as reluctance to eat, bad breath, excessive drooling, or pawing at the mouth, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian. They will be able to examine your pet’s teeth and gums and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

2. Presence of Foreign Objects

Another reason why dogs may puff their cheeks is the presence of foreign objects lodged in their mouths. Dogs are naturally curious creatures and may explore their surroundings by sniffing and picking up objects. Sometimes, small items may accidentally get stuck between their teeth, causing irritation and discomfort.

If your dog consistently puffs their cheeks or exhibits signs like pawing at the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, or excessive drooling, there could be a possibility of a foreign object stuck in their gums or between their teeth. In such cases, it’s important not to try removing the object yourself, as it may worsen the situation. Instead, seek immediate veterinary assistance for safe and appropriate removal.

3. Behavioral Response to Stress or Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can manifest in various ways in dogs, and puffing their cheeks can be one of them. When dogs feel anxious or stressed, they might exhibit this behavior as a coping mechanism similar to humans biting their nails or fidgeting. It is a way for them to release tension or divert their attention from the source of stress.

If your dog frequently puffs their cheeks in stressful situations, it’s important to identify and address the underlying cause. Providing a calm and safe environment, using positive reinforcement techniques, and seeking professional help from a certified dog behaviorist or trainer can greatly support your dog in overcoming their anxiety.

4. Breed-Specific Characteristics

Certain dog breeds have physical characteristics that make them more prone to puffing their cheeks. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs, are known to have shorter snouts and more prominent cheeks. Due to their facial structure, these breeds may naturally exhibit puffed cheeks even during regular breathing or relaxed states.

It’s essential to differentiate between breed-specific characteristics and potential health issues. If your dog is a brachycephalic breed and only occasionally puffs their cheeks during exertion or excitement, it is likely a normal physiological response. However, if their breathing becomes labored or they struggle to catch their breath, it’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention.

5. Residual Behavior from Puppyhood

Some puppies may develop the habit of puffing their cheeks while nursing. This behavior can continue into adulthood as an ingrained habit or a residual behavior from their early stages of life. It might serve as a mild self-soothing mechanism or indicate an association with pleasurable experiences, similar to humans sucking their thumbs.

If your adult dog still occasionally puffs their cheeks, it is generally harmless. However, if it becomes excessive or accompanied by other signs of stress or discomfort, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist to rule out any underlying health issues or behavioral concerns.

In conclusion, dogs may puff their cheeks for various reasons ranging from dental issues to stress, breed-specific characteristics, presence of foreign objects, or residual behavior from puppyhood. Understanding these potential causes can help dog owners better interpret their pets’ body language and address any underlying concerns. By observing and communicating with our furry friends, we can ensure their well-being and strengthen the bond between humans and dogs alike.