Why Does My Dog Suddenly Scream? – (Answer By Vet Tech)

dog screaming all of sudden

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We all know that dogs make all sorts of crazy sounds.  They grumble, growl, bark, and howl.  Dogs make different noises for different reasons.  Have you ever heard a dog make a noise that sounds like they’re screaming?  It’s pretty alarming and can happen out of nowhere!  If you’ve heard this noise from your dog before, you might be wondering;

Why does my dog suddenly scream?

Dogs will sometimes scream out of the blue.  It’s not necessarily normal, but it also doesn’t mean there’s something wrong.  Your dog might yelp out of fear, anxiety, illness, injury, boredom, or even excitement!   If your dog screams often, you should try and figure out the cause. 

In this article, we’ll discuss many of the things that might cause your pup to suddenly scream.  First, we’ll talk about the different ways your dog might communicate something to you.  Maybe the scream isn’t necessarily sudden, but you’re not paying attention to the other ways your dog is communicating.

How Do Dogs Communicate?

Dogs have so much to say! Even though our furry friends can’t talk, they find ways to get their needs communicated to us.

Dogs speak with body language and with vocal sounds- and some breeds are a lot more vocal than others.

When your dog screams, it actually might not even be sudden.  If you observe your dog closely enough, you might notice other quieter hints they give you before they scream.  For example, a fearful dog might make a low growl at night.  The growl might have been so quiet that you missed it before the loud scream you heard afterward.

When a dog screams, it usually means something is happening!  Although it might seem like they scream for “no reason,”  I assure you this just isn’t true!  What might not seem like a big deal to you, could be a really big trigger for your pup.  A scream or yelp is different from a bark because it is shorter, higher pitched, and more sudden.  You also usually only hear one scream at a time, whereas you might hear a long stream of barks.

So, why might your dog be screaming?  Let’s start to figure that out now!

Reasons Why Your Dog Might Scream Suddenly.

There are an intimidating number of reasons why your dog might scream out of the blue.  These reasons can be physical, mental, or emotional.  Once you start to get an idea of why your dog screams, you can start to help them avoid or fix the issue.

1. They’re Dreaming

Does your dog scream when they’re asleep?

If so they might be dreaming!  Dogs can actually bark, yelp, and move their limbs while they’re dreaming.  They’re actually more mobile than most people are in sleep!  If your dog reacts to stimulus in a dream, don’t worry.  While these screams might sound alarming, your dog isn’t in any physical pain.  It’s just in their head and they’ll be okay when they wake up.

If your dog screams as they wake up, it’s most likely just from a dream and nothing to worry about. Some more vocal breeds, like huskies, may be more likely to also be vocal in their dream.

2. They’re In Pain

Does it seem like your dog Keeps yelping in pain randomly?  Well, maybe there is something bothering them.  Unfortunately, since dogs can’t speak to us with words, they might express pain with a yelp or a scream.  If these sounds seem sudden, they could be caused by a movement your dog makes that set them off.

Let’s look at a few things that could make your dog yelp in pain.

Back Or Neck Pain

If your dog yelps and looks toward its back end, it might be experiencing back pain.  While there are other reasons your dog might look at its butt while yelping, this is the most common one.

Back and neck pain is common in certain breeds of dogs.  Dogs with longer bodies, like dachshunds, are especially prone to back pain.  Because of the length of their torsos, their back might experience severe chronic pain.  Other older dogs are prone to back and neck pain as well.  You might notice your dog scream in pain because of their back when they turn or slip.

Muscle Or Joint Pain

Muscle or joint pain is another common cause of sudden yelps of pain.

Did you know that dogs can get arthritis just like we can?  As dog’s age, their joints do as well.  Large breed dogs like Great Pyrenees, Dobermans, and Rottweilers are notorious for suffering from joint pain.  Larger dogs tend to feel joint pain more acutely because of their size.  If your dog is overweight they’re also at more of a risk for joint issues.

Muscle pain can be caused by acute injuries or chronic injuries.  Muscle pain can be felt as soreness or spasms.  If your dog screens suddenly after a quick turn, it might have injured one of its muscles.

Ear Infection Pain

Another reason your dog might suddenly yelp is if you pet their ears and they have an ear infection.

Ear infections are common in dogs, especially dogs like Cocker Spaniels that have long droopy ears.  If you don’t check your pup’s ears regularly, the first sign you might get of infection is a random yelp.  Although ear infections can be hard to see, they can cause your dog a good amount of pain, enough to scream out when touched.

You may also notice that other dogs are suddenly more interested in the infected ear even before you see signs of pain.

There are many other types of pain that could make your dog yelp suddenly, and these three are just a few broad categories you might notice.

What Should You Do?

If you think your dog is screaming suddenly because of pain, you’ll want to take them to see a veterinarian ASAP.  A vet can diagnose and treat illness and injury with medications and techniques you just don’t have.  In the end, it’ll be best for you and your pet to figure out what’s causing them so much pain that they yelp.

3. They’re Excited

On a less concerning note, another reason your dog might scream suddenly is from excitement- even if they just finished a walk!

Excited dogs do all sorts of funny things!  Usually, it’s pretty easy to tell when your dog is excited.  But, sometimes you might not notice your dog’s excitement until they’re screaming, literally!  Here is a video that shows the difference between a dog barking and a dog screaming out of excitement.

While these are some pretty obvious examples and these owners probably know exactly why their dogs are screaming, it’s still important to note!

Your pup might not be in pain at all but rather, they’re just hyped up!  Again, screaming is just another way that a dog might communicate something to us.  And, in the case of excitement, it’s usually that they just can’t contain their happiness!

4. They’re Anxious

Another emotion your dog might experience that causes them to yelp out of nowhere is anxiety.

If you have a dog from this list of 10 dog breeds that only bond with one person, look out!  While these dogs are incredibly loyal and loving, they’re also more at risk of developing some sort of separation anxiety.  But, even if your dog isn’t on this list, it’s possible that they have separation or some other form of anxiety.

Some dogs will yelp or scream out of anxiety when they’re home alone.  Your neighbor might report that they hear yelps, or you might see it on a camera.  Your dog also might scream when they have to go to the vet, or when you’re about to leave for work.  These dogs are ones that are feeling anxious and don’t know how to express it other than by screaming!

Beating dog anxiety is a long journey, but it can be done.  To find out why your dog yelps from anxiety, you’ll have to start by figuring out what’s causing the anxiety in the first place.  If you’re a little lost, a veterinarian can help you out with this process.

5. They Are Afraid Of Something

Dogs can be scared by the funniest things and their fear can show up in all kinds of weird ways from zig-zagging on the leash to letting out a loud scream!

My dog gets startled by house flies all of the time.  If one catches him off guard, he’ll run away from it with his tail between his legs.  While my dog isn’t vocal, other dogs might scream out in this situation.  Usually, if a dog yelps out of fear it’s more of a surprised fear.  They could have been scared by something on a walk that you didn’t even see. Smaller dogs may scream and urinate (especially if picked up by a stranger) which is a good indication that fear is involved.

If a dog is really afraid of something, it’ll eventually run away from it or start barking at it.  So if it’s only a quick yelp, your dog is probably going to be okay.

6. An Insect Bit Them

One of the last and best reasons why your dog screams suddenly is that a bug may have bitten them.

Bug bite dogs!  Even though it might be harder to get through all their fur and to their skin, it’s still possible.  Dogs can get bit by spiders, mosquitos, ticks, and other bugs.  You can inspect your dog for signs of a bite by looking for bumps or redness.  Another hint that your dog has a bug bite is that they will probably start to lick or gnaw at the affected area.

Most insect bites aren’t dangerous for dogs.  But, some bugs can carry parasites and diseases.  If your dog has a bite that doesn’t look normal, you should take them in for a checkup.

7. Something More Serious Might Be Going On

The last reason why your dog is screaming could be a serious issue.  I don’t want you to worry too much!  These things aren’t common in dogs but do notoriously cause random screaming and yelping.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction is more commonly referred to as dog dementia.  Although the exact causes of this aren’t fully known, older dogs will sometimes develop dementia.  Dogs with dementia will display many symptoms of changing behavior, one of them being screaming at random times for no apparent reason.

Diagnosing dog dementia is difficult, and should only be attempted by a veterinary professional.

Syringomyelia

Syringomyelia describes a condition where your dog has fluid-filled sacs in and around its spinal cord.   This phenomenon is caused by Chiari-like malformation   (CLM).  CLM is a condition that describes a difference in brain and skull size.  If the brain doesn’t fit right in the skull, serious problems like syringomyelia can occur.  CLM is common in dogs with small, round skulls, like King Charles Spaniels.

Naturally, this causes pain and causes your dog to yelp at what seems like very random times.

This condition should be taken seriously and diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Keeps Screaming All Of A Sudden?

So, with all the things that could potentially make your dog scream and yelp suddenly, what should you do if the screaming continues?

The best course of action that you can take is to try to figure out why your dog is screaming.

If you think that your dog is screaming out of physical pain, you’ll want to take them to the vet.  Even if it’s nothing serious, your dog deserves some pain management.  Plus, you’ll want to rule out those more serious conditions that could cause yelping!

For dogs that scream out of fear, anxiety, or excitement, you’ll need to figure out what sets them off.  Once you do, you have two choices.  You can try to keep your dog from coming into contact with the thing that is overstimulating to them. Or, you can try desensitization training, so that they’re no longer triggered by that thing.

Final Thoughts

When your dog screams suddenly, it can be annoying and alarming! It’s also stressful when your dog acts weird even when there’s nothing actually wrong.

It’s fair to wonder why they’re doing it.  If your dog is screaming, it’s probably for a good reason.  Once you figure out what’s causing them to yelp suddenly, you’ll be able to navigate fixing the root issue.  Hopefully, you have some ideas to think about the next time you hear your pooch yelping loudly!