Behind the Tears: Understanding the Top 11 Causes of Crying in Dogs

Behind the Tears: Understanding the Top 11 Causes of Crying in Dogs

When dogs suddenly start screaming, it is usually because of fear or pain. Under certain circumstances, the screaming can also be due to an epileptic seizure, dementia, nerve damage, and convulsions.

In general, screaming is a rather rare expression in dogs. Here, as a rule, it is serious. Because with milder complaints, they whine, howl and bark more.

In addition, the respective initial situation can provide conclusions about the potential causes. Here is a brief overview:

Initial SituationPotential Causes
When liftingA herniated disc, anxiety, ear infection, arthritis
While sleepingDreams, insect bites, muscle spasms, anxiety, dementia
When snoozingFear
Out of nowhereAn epileptic seizure, insect bites, muscle spasms, herniated disc, lack of attention
When getting up & walkingArthritis, herniated disc, muscle spasms, ear infection
In the carAnxiety, muscle spasms, excessive joy
On contactArthritis, herniated disc, ear infection, anxiety

Then let’s take a closer look at all 11 causes.

1. Muscle Cramps

Muscle spasms are unwanted contractions of the muscles. If they last longer, these cramps are usually painful, so that dogs sometimes start screaming.

The most common causes are here:

  • Overexertion
  • Dehydration
  • Psychological stress
  • Electrolyte deficiency
  • Monotonous movements
  • Magnesium deficiency

In most cases, such a spasm lasts only a few seconds and then goes away on its own. Other typical symptoms are:

  • Limp and limp
  • Stiff gait
  • Whining and squeaking
  • Trouble getting up

Spaniel breeds and the Scottish Terrier are most commonly affected. There is no concrete need for action here, provided that these cramps are rather rare.

However, if muscle cramps become the norm, then I advise you to consult the vet as a precaution. Because it can also point to other underlying diseases.

Dogs can experience painful muscle spasms that last for several seconds when overexerted or nutrient deficient. Bewildered by the sudden pain, many dogs start screaming. Waiting is usually enough here.

2. Herniated Disc

Intervertebral discs normally serve as a kind of “buffer” between the spine. In the event of a herniated disc, this buffer suddenly slips out.

In most cases, this pinches nerves in the spinal cord, causing affected dogs to suddenly experience severe pain. Other symptoms are here:

  • Tenderness on the back
  • Leg paralysis
  • Screaming when picked up
  • Unusually slow movements
  • Howling and whimpering
  • Aversion to stairs

Since herniated discs are particularly common in dachshunds, there is often talk of “dachshund paralysis”. But other breeds are also often affected:

  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Bulldog Species
  • Basset Hound
  • Boston terrier

In order to avoid unnecessary agony, you should visit the veterinarian immediately. In simple cases, painkillers and physical rest can suffice.

The earlier action is taken here, the less likely it is that there will be permanent damage.

Since nerves are crushed in almost all cases of herniated discs, it leads to sudden severe pain. Affected dogs are not only very sensitive to touch on the back but also cry out more often when there is severe pain.

3. Fear

Dogs are very sensitive compared to other animals and are therefore more likely to feel fear. This is especially true for very young and old dogs. Typical triggers are:

  • Strangers and dogs
  • Loneliness and separation anxiety
  • Thunderstorms, hail, or storms
  • Lack of socialization

When very scared, dogs can also have a panic attack and scream wildly. Other common symptoms of severe anxiety include:

  • Sudden incontinence
  • Tremors and restless behavior
  • Retracted rod
  • No direct eye contact
  • Dog hiding
  • Flat-set ears

Here you should first identify the cause. Then it is either to avoid this trigger or to proactively get your dog used to it.

Regardless of the cause, increased physical activity, alertness, and anti-anxiety medication can also help.

Severe anxiety can trigger a panic attack in dogs. Affected dogs behave very restlessly, often peeing in the apartment or even starting screaming. Here it is important to be proactive and get the dog used to the “threat”.

4. Ear Infection

According to statistics, every tenth visit to the vet is due to an ear infection. Beagle, dachshund, and spaniel species are most commonly affected.

Because they not only have long floppy ears, but also a hairy and narrow ear canal. Bacteria can therefore easily accumulate here.

Typical symptoms here are:

  • Sensitivity to touch on the ear
  • Lateral head position
  • Constant scratching of the ear
  • Unusual discharge from the ear
  • Howling, whimpering, and whimpering
  • Swelling and pain in the ear
  • Visible redness on the ear

With severe inflammation, dogs sometimes start screaming when someone touches their ears. The most common cause here is moisture after swimming.

In some cases, however, allergies, viruses, autoimmune diseases, parasites, or fungi can also be responsible. Here you should visit the veterinarian.

Treatment usually involves professionally cleaning the ears and prescribing antibiotics. The symptoms should be gone within a few days.

Ear infections can cause severe pain in the ears. Upon contact, affected dogs often start screaming in pain. However, this can be solved relatively quickly with the help of anti-inflammatory drugs.

5. Epileptic Seizure

During epileptic seizures, nerve cells in the brain are suddenly overstrained. Because this usually leads to severe cramps, it is also referred to as a “seizure”.

Other typical symptoms are: 

  • Tongue biting
  • Uncontrolled tipping
  • Severe shaking
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Sudden screaming
  • Heavy drooling

What is striking here is that affected dogs cannot be addressed during this time. In addition, such seizures are usually painless until you fall over.

The screaming here is more a sign of intense fear, confusion, or panic. Incidentally, only around 1% of all dogs are said to be affected.

Dogs under the age of one year and male dogs tend to be affected more frequently. Although epilepsy is considered curable, it can be treated relatively well by a veterinarian.

Dogs with epilepsy occasionally have uncontrolled seizures. Affected dogs often react very anxiously to such attacks, so they suddenly start screaming.

6. Insect Bites

In comparison to other countries, fortunately, we hardly have any dangerous animals in Germany. The most common insect bites in our country come from:

  • Wasps
  • Mosquitoes
  • Bees
  • Ants
  • Fleas
  • Hornets
  • Ticks

In many cases, affected dogs don’t even realize they’ve been bitten. However, if an allergic reaction occurs, some dogs will also start screaming.

Other typical symptoms are:

  • Severe itching
  • Feeling weak
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dog salivates a lot
  • Burning pain
  • Severe redness and swelling
  • Breathing problems

For normal bites, something cool and an aloe vera ointment are usually sufficient. If you have an allergic reaction, you should contact your vet immediately.

Insect bites can cause allergic reactions that are accompanied by severe pain. The symptoms are sometimes so severe that dogs start screaming out of desperation. Here the veterinarian should be consulted.

7. Excessive Joy

Dogs often bark, howl or whimper when they are happy. This is perfectly normal and part of their natural communication.

If the joy is excessive, very sensitive breeds also sometimes tend to shout. This is especially true for dogs that have a traumatic past.

This is more common in street dogs and dogs from shelters. This is also more often the case if the master is absent for a very long time.

You can usually tell by the dog’s body language:

  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Constantly jumping at the master
  • Upward wagging tail

However, if your dog starts screaming with joy even at the smallest things, then the following measures can help:

  • More physical exertion
  • Pay no attention when greeting
  • More dog toys ( like ours )
  • Introduction of the “No” command

For more tips about dog training, I recommend Johanna Kessler’s online dog school. You can train your dog from the comfort of your own home.

Dogs with a bad past or unresolved traumatic experiences often tend to be overjoyed. In addition to barking and howling, this can also be expressed in screaming. In many cases, more utilization is the solution here.

8. Dementia

Dementia is one of the most common neurological disorders in both humans and dogs. Around 70% of cases are Alzheimer’s.

Older dogs are more likely to be affected. More precisely, according to studies, around ⅓ of all dogs over the age of 11 and a whopping ⅔ of all dogs over the age of 15 suffer from it.

The disease systematically leads to an increasing decrease in mental performance. Sudden screaming can be an expression of confusion here.

Other typical symptoms are:

  • Sudden irritation
  • Disorientation
  • Nocturnal wandering
  • Increasing ignorance
  • Sleep disorders

Mental thinking tasks can slow down the decline in cognitive performance. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure.

Intelligence toys like this one are ideal for that. Because they combine thinking with a reward. Demented dogs also need a lot of attention.

Decreased mental performance in dogs is accompanied by increasing confusion. Dogs with dementia are therefore often disoriented and suddenly start screaming for no reason. By promoting the mental ability to think, the course of the disease can be slowed down here.

9. Dreams

Sleep researchers have now discovered that dogs essentially go through the same stages of sleep as humans.

This in turn also means that they have dreams and nightmares as well. In most cases, they dream of experiences or unfulfilled longings.

Typical signs of dreams are:

  • Muscle twitching during sleep
  • Barking, howling, and growling
  • Moving Eyes

In forums, some dog owners have already claimed that their dog starts to cry more often at night. Nightmares are said to be responsible for this.

There is usually no reason to worry here. Because dreams are generally a good sign and indicate mental health.

Gentle and slow waking up is already sufficient here. But beware! When awakened too quickly, dogs are often confused and react aggressively.

Dreams, as well as nightmares, can cause dogs to twitch, bark, or even growl while they sleep. Among other things, some four-legged friends start screaming at night. In such a case, the affected dog can simply be woken up.

10. Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in large and old dogs. According to statistics, an average of 20% of all dogs over the age of one year are said to suffer from it.

It is a chronic inflammation of the joints. You can usually recognize it by swollen or reddish joints. Other symptoms of this are:

  • Stiff gait
  • Touch sensitivity
  • Aversion to jumps
  • Screaming in pain
  • Limp and limp
  • Avoiding Stairs

While arthritis itself is considered incurable, its symptoms of it can be treated effectively. This is where medications for pain and inflammation come into play.

In addition, the dog’s diet is often adjusted and one or the other physiotherapy is prescribed. [ 20 ] The veterinarian is the right contact person for this.

Depending on the degree of severity, inflamed joints are associated with more or less pain. Sometimes the pain is so great that dogs start screaming when they move or are picked up. Drugs are usually used to treat this.

11. Lack of attention

Constant begging for attention is one of the dogs’ many survival instincts. It is most common in young and very sensitive breeds.

Of all dog breeds, Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, and Yorkshire Terriers need the most attention.

In most cases, you can recognize this from hyperactive behavior:

  • Barking at people
  • Wild jumping around
  • Constant howling
  • Carrying around toys
  • Barking and screaming

The origin here often lies in the fact that this behavior was rewarded in the past. And dogs are known to repeat rewarded behavior.

The following measures will help to solve this:

  • Consistent “No”
  • More dog toys
  • Longer walks
  • Playdates with neighborhood dogs
  • More pets

If you can’t set it up in time, then dog sitters are also an option.

A strong urge for attention can also be responsible for sudden screaming in dogs. This is most common in puppies and sensitive dogs. The solution here is to increase the daily level of attention.

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