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Dog Yelps When Picked Up Under Chest (7 Reasons & Solutions)

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Do you have a dog that yelps when you pick them up under the chest? If so, you’re not alone. This is a common problem with dogs, and there are many reasons why it happens.

This article will cover the signs that your dog has a health issue, why they might yelp when you pick them up, and how to handle this situation. We will also discuss when to see a vet and how to pick up a dog in pain.

Let’s dive in.

dog yelps when picked up after shots

Why Do Dogs Yelp In Pain When Picked Up? (7 Reasons)

It’s scary when you pick up your dog and they yelp. You aren’t quite sure exactly why they yelped and wonder whether or not you did something wrong.

In some cases, dogs can be overdramatic and yelp because they don’t want to be picked up, but it could also indicate a more severe problem.

Here are 7 reasons a dog will yelp when being picked up:

Muscle Spasm & Cramps

If your dog yelps whenever you pick them up, they might have a temporary muscle spasm or cramp. These are usually not serious and pass quickly.

Dogs can get muscle spasms and cramp from several different things. Spams can occur from dehydration, allergies, injuries, neurological issues, and more.

If your dog has a muscle spasm, you might notice them shaking or trembling. They may also be in pain and have difficulty moving. Cramps are similar but usually not as severe. 

Some common signs that your dog may have cramps and muscle spasms are:

  • The pain when you touch them or try to pick them up
  • Lameness
  • Slow movement
  • They may be hunched over
  • Their muscles may feel hard or knotted
  • They may walk with a stiff gait or limp
  • Tremors or twitches
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

The best thing for dogs with muscle spasms or cramps is to rest and ensure they drink lots of water. You can give them a massage to help relieve the pain and cramping. If you think your dog has bad muscle spasms or cramps, the best thing to do is to consult your veterinarian. They will be able to determine the cause and give you treatment options.

Spinal Issue

dog yelps when picked up under stomach

A spinal issue is one reason dogs yelp when picked up. This can be anything from a slipped disc to arthritis.

Slipped discs happen when the cushions between the vertebrae in your dog’s spine slip out of place and press on the nerves. This can be very painful for your dog and cause them to yelp when you try to pick them up.

Arthritis is another common issue that can cause your dog to yelp. Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints that can happen as your dog ages. This pain is usually worse in the morning or after resting, and your dog may have difficulty moving around.

Essentially, any injury from the spine can cause a dog to feel pain when being picked up. This, in turn, causes them to yelp anytime you go to grab them.

Some symptoms you would see from dogs with spine injuries are:

  • They yelp when pressure is put on the spine
  • They may be hunched over and have difficulty moving
  • Lameness in the legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis (in severe cases)

To fully determine if your dog has a spine issue, they will need an X-ray or MRI. Once they have a diagnosis, your vet can provide you with treatment options.

Surgery may be required in some cases, but dogs with spinal issues usually can be treated with medication and rest.

Joint Or Muscle Problems

dog yelps when picked up under chest

Musculoskeletal problems are another common reason dogs yelp when picked up. This can be anything from a dislocated joint to torn ligaments.

Dislocated joints happen when the bone pops out of place and is no longer aligned with the rest of the body. This is usually caused by an injury and can be very painful for your dog.

Fearful Or Startled

Sometimes dogs will yelp when picked up because they are startled or afraid. For example, if they are suddenly lifted off the ground without warning, they may yelp out of fear.

However, it might not even be due to the shock of being lifted off the ground. Some dogs are truly fearful of being grabbed and picked up. This could be from past trauma, abuse, or simply not being handled much as a puppy.

In addition, some dogs a scared of being high off the ground when you pick them up.

Dogs that are fearful or startled may also:

  • Cower or try to hide
  • Shake or tremble
  • Pant excessively
  • Have a racing heart rate
  • Try to escape
  • Urinate or defecate
  • Seem timid in general

In most cases, dogs that yelp from being startled can learn to feel comfortable with being picked up. However, it takes time and training to desensitize them to fear.


Sometimes dogs will yelp out of excitement or playfulness when you try to pick them up. But on the other hand, they may be so excited that they can’t help but vocalize their joy.

This is usually seen in young puppies full of energy and who haven’t learned how to control their impulses. They may nip at your hands or jump up and down when you try to pick them up.

This behavior should stop as they mature and learn to control their energy. If it doesn’t, it could be a sign of another issue such as separation anxiety or fearfulness.

Puppies that yelp out of excitement may also:

  • Nip at your hands
  • Jump up and down
  • Bark or howl
  • Wiggle excessively
  • Urinate or defecate from excitement

If your dog is yelping out of excitement, the best thing to do is to ignore them. Don’t pick dogs up or give them attention when they behave this way. Once they calm down, then you can pick them up.

You can usually tell if a dog is yelping out of excitement based on its movement, body language, and yelp sound. For example, a dog’s tail will be wagging, they may be bouncing around, and their yelp will sound more high-pitched.


dog yelps when picked up under chest

Sometimes dogs will yelp when you pick them up because you are putting pressure on areas they don’t like.

Simply put, you pick them up wrong, and they don’t like it.

This is usually the case when medium and large dogs are picked up. Since some can weigh a lot when you pick them up, the force and pressure are typically isolated to a smaller body region.

For example, with little dogs, you can pick them up with your hands and spread pressure across their entire body with your fingers. For large dogs, you are basically hugging them, and your arms are digging into their stomach. The pressure is much more concentrated, so it can be uncomfortable for them.

This can also be the case if you try picking up dogs under their armpits. This can put pressure on their chest and ribs, which can be painful for some dogs.

In addition, some dogs may just hate being picked up. It’s not because they are uncomfortable or scared; they just don’t like it.

The best advice for picking up a dog is to ensure the pressure is spread across where you pick them up. If your dog still yelps when you pick them up under their chest, and you know they have no injury, they might just dislike it.

Other Medical Issue

Some medical conditions could cause a dog to yelp when you pick them up.

Soft tissue injuries, skin infection, surgery, allergies, or any other type of discomfort. Your dog may also yelp if you accidentally hit a sore spot while picking them up.

So check to see if anything is visibly wrong before you rule out a medical issue.

If your dog has never yelped before and suddenly starts yelping when you pick them up, it’s always best to take them to the vet just to be sure. There are also internal issues that may cause dogs to yelp without being clearly visible.

If you are concerned they might have an internal injury, a could indicator is when you palpate their abdomen and they yelp.

If this is the case, you will want to see a vet to figure out what is causing them pain.

The Signs Your Dog Is In Actual Pain

You can look for some signs that will help you determine if your dog is in actual pain when you pick them up.

These include:

  • Whimpering or crying sounds
  • Body stiffening
  • Trying to squirm away
  • Unusual body posturing*
  • Hesitance to move
  • Sensitive to touch
  • Breathing difficulties*
  • Eye redness or discharge*
  • Loss of appetite*
  • Lethargy

It’s not easy to identify when a dog is in serious pain. A good rule of thumb is if you feel concerned or notice your dog is not acting like themselves, something is probably up.

Any physical signs of discomfort should also be taken seriously. If your dog is sensitive to touch, is not eating, has issues breathing, or has eye redness or discharge after touching them, those are red flags that something is wrong.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Yelping In Pain When Picked Up

dog yelps when picked up under back legs

If you think your dog is yelping in pain, the first thing you should do is stop picking them up.

You need to figure out what is causing them pain before you can do anything else. If you are not sure, take them to the vet to get checked out.

Once you know what is causing the pain, you can start taking steps to help make your dog more comfortable. In addition, even if you don’t know why your dog is in pain, you should start following these steps.

Here are 5 things you need to do for your dog when you think they are yelping in pain when being picked up:


If your dog has any form of injury or medical condition that is causing them a pain to be lifted, they will need time to rest and heal. This means keeping them calm and not letting them run around or play too much. You may need to crate or confine them, so they stay still and don’t reinjure themselves.

Stay Calm, Cool, & Collected

Dogs feed off of our energy. We must stay calm and cool around our dogs to avoid making them feel anxious or stressed. This will help them stay calm as well. Stay calm when approaching them and keep their environment in control to avoid any added stressors.

Monitor Their Diet

A dog in pain may not have much of an appetite. Make sure they are still eating and drinking enough water. You may need to tempt them with their favorite foods or offer smaller meals more often throughout the day. You can try mixing in more appealing food to get them to eat.

Keep Them Comfortable

You want to ensure your dog is as comfortable as possible when resting. This means providing a soft bed or crate pad for them to lay on and keeping their sleeping area quiet and free from stress.

Record & Track

While this might not seem important, it is. The more data and information you can collect about your dog, the better you’ll be able to treat them. This can make a big difference when trying to determine the root cause of your dog’s issues and provide the right treatment for them.

Make Sure You Pick Them Up Appropriately Or Not At All

dog yelps when picked up under chest

If you pick your dog up, ensure you do it correctly. You want to avoid any further pain or injury.

If you are unsure about how to pick your dog up or think it will cause them pain, don’t do it. If you are in a situation that requires you to pick them up, here’s what you can do.

The best way to pick up a dog is by placing one arm around the front of their chest and one arm around their back legs underneath their bum. To do this, you will need to squat down and lift up with your legs.

When dogs are smaller, you might be fine picking them up with one arm between both legs and your hand supporting their chest and neck. You can use the other hand to stabilize.

Take Them To The Vet

Lastly, if your dog seems in pain and you are unsure of the cause or how to help them, take them to the vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and your vet will be able to give you specific instructions on what needs to be done for your dog.

How To Properly Pick Up A Dog That Is In Pain

how to properly pick up a dog in pain

How you pick up a dog in pain is the same way you should pick up a dog not in pain.

To correctly pick up a dog, place one arm around the front of their chest and one around their back legs. Then squat down and lift up with your legs. This spreads the pressure along their body and allows the dog to rest their bum on your arm while their chest is supported by your other arm.

Most importantly, you avoid putting too much pressure on the area, causing them pain. You also want to ensure that you pick them up gently and avoid sudden movements.

Try to limit how long you are holding them and make it as short as possible to avoid putting your dog in a painful position for an extended time.

For example, if your dog needs to get into the car and you have to pick them up, walk them to the car before picking them up. Basically, get them as close to the destination they need to go as possible before lifting them.

How To Know When You Need To See A Vet

dog yelps when picked up under chest

You want to keep an eye out for a few things that might indicate your dog needs to see the vet.

If your dog is yelping when you pick them up, this is a sign that you need to pay attention to. If they yelp when being picked up and have other symptoms on top of this, then it’s time to go see the vet.

Other things to look out for are if they are limping, not eating or drinking, have lost interest in playing or being active, seem lazy, or are generally acting differently than normal. If you notice any of these changes, it’s best to take them in for a checkup.

You know your dog better than anyone, so if you know something is not right, trust your instinct. Dogs are very good a hiding pain, so dogs may only show subtle hints that something is wrong.

So if you get an indication they are in pain and notice multiple symptoms or changes in their behavior, go see your vet!

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Dog Yelps When Picked Up After Shots

If your dog yelps after getting shots, this is likely due to the pain the needle left behind. The pain should go away within a few minutes, and they may be sore for the next day or two.

The same way your arm is sore after vaccination is the same reason a dog may yelp being picked up after a shot. They are tender, sore to the touch, and might be hard for them to move. So you picking them up is uncomfortable and may cause pain.

Dog Yelps When Picked Up Under Back Legs

There are a few reasons why your dog may yelp when you pick them up under their back legs.

Arthritis, hip dysplasia, luxating patella, kidney stones, cyst, etc. Several things can cause your dog pain when you try to pick them up this way. The best thing you can do if your dog has pain from being picked up under their back legs is to take them to the vet for a checkup.

Dog Yelps When Pick Up Under Stomach

There are a few reasons your dog may yelp when picked up under the stomach.

These include bloating, gastrointestinal discomfort, gas, pancreatitis, cramps, internal bleeding, or an organ is displaced. They might also dislike being picked up under the stomach because of the pressure it puts on their bladder.

Regardless, it’s best to have a vet take a look to rule out any severe medical reasons why your dog might be yelping from being picked up this way.

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