Help! My dog yelps when touched! What’s going on?
If this sounds like your pup, you’re not alone. “Dog yelping when barely touched” is a very common search term and question in pet forums.
It can be scary when our dog vocalizes in a way that he normally doesn’t. If you assume that your dog is in pain when he yelps, then you’re on the right track.
Below, we’ll go over the reasons behind it and talk about what to do about this sign of pain in dogs.
Dog Yelps When Touched – Causes
Before we go any further, I just need to remind you of the importance of talking to your veterinarian whenever your dog’s behavior changes or he shows any signs of suffering.
Yelping is most often associated with pain or the assumption of pain, meaning that either your dog is hurting or he assumes that your touch will hurt him.
The first is physical, the latter is mental (or related to behavior). And no, it doesn’t mean that you’re an awful owner or that your dog lives in fear of you.
It just means that for some reason, which you’ll need to figure out, he assumes your touch will cause him pain.
In either case, it’s important to find out the cause of the yelping so that you can take action to correct either the physical or mental cause.
Correcting the cause of yelping due to abuse will help your dog live a happier life.
Moreover, figuring out what’s causing physical pain will help you correct minor conditions or find underlying major conditions more quickly. Let’s explore some of the most common reasons.
Assumption of Pain
In almost all cases of a dog assuming that touch will cause him pain, it boils down to one of two factors: abuse or chronic illness of some sort.
Now, it doesn’t mean that YOU are abusing your dog. It just means that at some point in his life, he was abused, and he never got over the experience.
The assumption of pain due to physical abuse is common in dogs who have been adopted. Think about shelters and rescues. Dogs are often there because they’ve either been willfully or forcefully abandoned.
While in some cases, this abandonment is from loving owners who are going through circumstances beyond their control, way too many cases are those of neglect or outright abuse.
An adopted dog has seen and gone through things that a dog raised by loving owners from puppyhood has not.
They’ve had to scrounge for food. They’ve had to run from other animals, in some cases.
In almost all cases, they’ve been abused in some way. The most often-seen manifestation of physical abuse is hitting.
So, if you’ve adopted a dog and he yelps when you try to touch him or when he isn’t expecting that contact, he was most likely beaten at some point in his life.
Then there are the dogs who had an amazing life with their previous owner. For them, the yelping may stem from separation anxiety or other behavioral issues related to losing someone that they loved so much.
While behavioral issues can definitely play a role in yelping, often the simplest answer is also the right one. In this case, your dog cries because he’s in physical discomfort, plain and simple.
Unfortunately, while the answer itself is simple, finding the source of the discomfort is anything but. Physical pain can be the result of acute trauma or chronic pain. It can stem from anything ranging from a simple ear infection to hip dysplasia to even more serious ongoing health problems.
In any case, it’s important to address it immediately, as this pain is a sign that something is potentially severely wrong with your dog.
Waiting it out can lead to a dramatic increase in the severity of the injury or illness, making it much harder to treat.
In a moment, we’ll go over what to do when your dog seems to be in pain. First, though, let’s do a quick breakdown of the different types of trauma as well as some of the other symptoms (aside from yelping) that you may notice when something is going wrong in Fido’s body.
Types of Trauma
- Soft Tissue – Muscle strains, sprains, or tears or impact to the soft tissue as well as tendon strain or tears.
- Nerve Damage- Including spinal cord injury
- Bone and/or Joint – Broken bones, sprained joints, severe dysplasia, and other bone or joint conditions.
Apparent Trauma (aka Injuries That You Can See)
- Swelling (Inflammation)
- Lacerations and other open wounds
Symptoms of Pain
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Dog yelps when touched even lightly
Dog Yelps When Touched – What to Do
The first you need to do if your dog yelps when touched is to call your vet immediately.
It’s important to have him examined so that your vet can assess the source of your dog’s vocalization.
Via a physical exam, and in some cases, bloodwork or x-rays, your vet will work to determine the cause of your dog’s apparent pain and then address it.
Your vet will give your dog a comprehensive exam to determine if the pain is coming from a readily identifiable source.
These can include a laceration, sprain, joint issue or other soft tissue or bone or joint problem.
A physical exam should be head to toe and will include:
- Joints (Including Mobility Tests)
- Back (Including Mobility Tests)
If your vet can find no apparent external causes of your dog’s yelping, they’ll move on to bloodwork.
In some cases, even external sources of trauma may require bloodwork.
This bloodwork can range from a specifically-targeted test to a complete panel.
In most cases, the vet will order a complete workout to get a clear picture of everything that is happening in your dog’s body.
This workup will look at values such as:
- Kidney values
- Liver values
- CBC (Complete Blood Count) which includes white and red blood cells and platelet count
- Thyroid levels
For older dogs or when the vet needs to cover all their bases, your vet might also order a urinalysis.
This test looks for abnormalities in the urine such as protein, urea, and other markers.
Vets will often order x-rays in an attempt to further narrow down the cause of a dog yelping.
X-rays can show the vet things like bone trauma, organ problems, and even obstructions.
Once you determine the underlying cause behind the yelping, your vet will work with you to come up with a treatment plan. This can include anything from pain medication to physical therapy to behavioral modification.
Special Training and Medications for Abused Dogs
If your adopted dog turns out to be yelping due to possible previous abuse, your vet will likely recommend a good trainer well-versed in working with abused animals.
In some severe cases, your vet may also prescribe a drug designed to help them cope mentally on a day-to-day basis.
These may include Fluoxetine or other mood-altering drugs.
Dog Yelps When Touched – Take Action Now
It can be difficult to answer the question: dog yelps when touched, and the best person to help you do that is your vet.
So if your dog vocalize when touched, make an appointment with your vet immediately.
Whether your dog has a mild soft tissue issue, an underlying disease, or was abused before you owned him, your vet can help you make that determination through an exam, testing, and other diagnostic tools.
This allows you to get to the root cause of the yelping and fix it as quickly as possible.