Dog yelping in pain

My Dog Keeps Yelping in Pain Randomly

Dear Mr. Thompson,

“I’m having a problem because my dog keeps yelping in pain randomly. She has always been healthy, but when I lifted her under her chest last night, she was yelping in pain. She yelled when she jumped from the couch. I don’t even know what to say! “I’m scared that something is wrong, but Susie looks fine. She is five years old and is a mix of a Chihuahua and a Shih Tzu.”

-Karen B.

Dear Karen

I’m sorry to hear that your dog is in trouble. Humans are so upset when animals struggle and don’t know what is wrong or how to fix it!

Intervertebral disk disease (a slipped disc or pinched nerve) is the most common reason a dog yelping in pain. Slipped disc or pinched nerve. Many things can cause pain, but these symptoms are often associated with neck and back pain.

The number one cause of IVDD

Intervertebral disk disease is the most common cause in my 20+ years of experience as a vet. This condition is also called IVDD or, by some, a pinched nerve.

As in humans, spinal disc issues are also common in dogs. A disc is a cushion that sits between the vertebrae in the spine.

The disc bulges out of its normal position when it “slips”. This presses the spinal cord and the nerves which run from the spine to the rest of the body. The classic “pinched-nerve” symptoms are caused by a bulging disc pressing against nerve tissue.

A slipped disc can affect any dog, but certain breeds, such as miniature Dachshunds (especially Shih Tzus), Beagles, German Shepherds, and Basset Hounds, have a higher risk of developing it. IVDD is more common in older dogs.


Pinched nerves can occur in two places: the neck of a dog or in the lower to mid-back. Symptoms of pinched nerves and slipped discs include:

Mild to moderate symptoms

  • Holding your head down
  • Muscle spasms of the shoulder and neck
  • When picked up under the chest, belly or front legs by the front legs, they cry in pain.
  • Yelping while jumping from the couch
  • When sleeping or lying down, you may suddenly start yelping.
  • Screaming (can occur anywhere on the body).
  • Yelping while walking with a leash and collar
  • After yelling, run away and act scared.
  • Doesn’t like to stand very long
  • You can’t lie down comfortably.
  • Grumpier than usual
  • Hiding
  • Shaking/shivering
  • Holding the tail down
  • may or may not be eating properly
  • Pain can make it difficult to posture to have a toilet movement.
  • Sometimes dogs can get diarrhea.

Severe symptoms

  • Limping
  • Difficulty standing up after lying down
  • Legs are weak when standing.
  • When walking or standing, you can fall.
  • The dragging of one or more limbs
  • Weakness of one or more limbs
  • Paralysis of one or more legs.


A thorough physical examination by your veterinarian is the first step in determining what’s causing your dog to yell. It could be something else, or it could just be her back.

A veterinarian’s physical examination is the only thing that can replace it!

When a dog is hurt, it will scream when the part of its body is touched.

Some dogs hide their symptoms and are stoic when they arrive at the vet clinic.

I’ve seen some dogs yell loudly at home, but I have to look very closely in the hospital to see a wince.

X-Rays and Veterinary Neurologists

A radiograph is the next step to diagnose suspected IVDD. Your dog must lie on its side, then her back during the radiograph to obtain the best pictures. The vet may suggest your dog take pain medication to help her relax during the x-ray.

The X-rays can’t always diagnose IVDD with certainty, but your veterinarian will want to ensure that it isn’t something else causing the pain. Infections and tumors around the spine area can produce the same symptoms. These diseases are less common than IVDD.

Your vet may recommend some lab tests depending on your dog’s age and any concurrent health problems. The lab tests can help identify infections, inflammation and organ abnormalities.

Your dog may be referred to a veterinary neurology expert if it has severe symptoms such as paralysis. They greatly help dogs with the most severe cases of IVDD, as they can perform an MRI or CT scan and even perform surgery if necessary.

Costs of Diagnosis & Treatment

My experience as a veterinarian in a large city shows that X-rays and lab tests cost about $300 each. The cost of the office visit, exam and any injections or pain medication to take home can add up to another $300.

The total cost depends on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and if he also has any other health issues. You might only spend $200 on dogs with mild pain but no other health problems. If your dog needs everything I have mentioned (excluding specialist services), you will be charged around $750.

Vet fees are likely lower if you live in a small town or rural area. Depending on the complexity of the case, if your dog requires an MRI or surgery by a specialist, the cost can range from $5,000 to $10,000.

How to manage a dog’s mild back pain at home

I am happy to report that most dogs yelling in pain at random are in the mild-moderate category. The majority of dogs will recover within a few days. It is rare to need to send a canine to a veterinary neurosurgeon for surgery.

It would help if you always had your dog checked by a vet. Here are some of the most important things you can do for those who already have and need tips and reassurance to help stop their dog from yelling and feel better.

  1. STRICT RESTING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THREAT! I wrote it in capital letters to emphasize how important rest is.

When I say strict relaxation, I mean that you must not run, jump, climb stairs, chase balls, play tug of war, or roughhouse with other people or pets.

For one to two weeks after the onset of her symptoms, a dog suffering from back pain should spend most of their time lying down or sitting. You can take her out on a lead so he does not get a bad idea of running around.

All dogs who suffer from back pain should be walked with a harness rather than a collar.

When picking up your dog, support her front and back parts with your hands.

  1. Follow the directions of your veterinarian when giving any medication. Call your veterinarian if you have trouble getting her medication to work.
    1. You can try cooling or warming the affected area if your dog tolerates it. I use a heating mat wrapped in a towel and set it to LOW. I hold it over the painful area for 5 to 10 minutes a few times per day.
  2. Your dog may prefer cold over heat. Wrap a bag or similar of frozen vegetables in a towel, and place it on the painful area. Do this for 5-10 minutes every day.
    1. Your pet may appreciate a gentle massage. If your dog is resistant, go slowly.
    2. Acupuncture can be helpful for dogs who have sore backs. ( 1). There are many veterinary acupuncturists in the U.S. today, and some make house calls. You can ask your veterinarian for a referral or simply Google “veterinary-acupuncture near me.”
    3. Cold Laser Therapy helps some dogs suffering from back pain. Your vet may have a laser or be able to refer you to someone with one.

The following is a list of preventions.

  1. It is not possible to stop IVDD pain. Long-term activity restrictions could make the problem worse. ( 2).
  2. Consider taking supplements that reduce inflammation and improve overall health. You might try:
    1. Vetri-Disc (glucosamine/chondroitin)
    2. Click here to read about Omega-3 fatty acids supplements.
    3. Curcumin Click to read more.-Meriva curcumin for better absorption
  3. Weight loss may help your dog if it is overweight. Your dog will stay fit with regular moderate exercise of 20-30 minutes twice daily. Once she feels better, you can start a gentle stretching regimen to maintain her flexibility.
  4. Hope your friend, Susie, feels better soon!

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