What to Do If a Dog Yelps When Picked up Under the Chest

Pet Care


October 18, 2021

Anyone who has a dog knows there are any number of reasons that can cause it to yelp. There are plenty of ways to react to this. Maybe you’re an extra protective and paranoid pet parent and choose to treat every little yelp like a big deal. Maybe you choose to tune it out after a while and understand that it’s just part of having a dog.

Whatever your response, you need to know when that yelp is serious enough to warrant special action, and few reasons are more serious than if a dog yelps when picked up under the chest.

Reason #1: Psychological Anguish

You might well read that and scoff – a dog’s life seems like a dream compared to the hectic life of a human, what does it have to complain about? However, that’s approaching the problem from the wrong angle. Even if their life seems peachy compared to yours, the fact remains that dogs can still suffer stress or trauma, which in turn can manifest in all manner of anguished yelps.

Maybe your dog has suffered an injury to its chest in the past, and touching its chest recalls that bad memory for it. More likely still, your dog may be suffering from psychological anguish right now and it simply manifests in yelping when being touched or held in this way.

There are myriad reasons why your dog may be suffering mental anguish that you may not be able to decipher. After all, you aren’t a dog psychologist – but others are. That isn’t a joke, either. Silly as it may seem, pet psychology is a growing and hugely important field for combatting issues just like this. If your dog won’t stop yelping in anguish, they could be a lifesaver.

Reason #2: You Scared Them

Maybe things aren’t as serious as severe and lasting mental anguish. Maybe you just scared them! After all, we cry out when someone pops out of nowhere or touches us when we aren’t expecting it. The same can hold true for dogs. Don’t creep up on a dog, and don’t grab it when it isn’t expecting it. Obvious as that seems, it’s something to keep in mind.

However, a potentially bigger problem could be at play here, namely, your dog being fearful of your very presence. This may well point to some of the psychological issues alluded to above. However, if you and your dog have just been “introduced,” your dog may just be wary of you as a new person. If you let that go unaddressed, it could lead to psychological baggage in the future.

There are ways to combat this. For one thing, you’ll want to take it slow and not rush things. Don’t tower over your dog, but don’t be overly cautious with it, either. When holding your dog, make sure that you are holding it with a firm but not overly tight grip. Make sure your dog knows who’s boss, but don’t try to intimidate your dog.

Reason #3: Soft Tissue Pain and Other Injuries

This is perhaps the most obvious option on this list. If your dog is physically injured in the area where you’re touching or holding it, of course it’s going to cry out in pain. You would too! This kind of injury can often be from bruising to open wounds to actual deep tissue soreness or damage. In fact, there’s a wide range of injuries that aren’t soft tissue ones.

Does your dog have abnormal growths, bumps, blisters, or cysts on its chest? If so, that could be the reason why your dog whimpers when you pick it up. Does your dog have skin infections? Once again, this could be the reason for its yelping. Broken ribs aren’t a soft tissue injury, but are another possible reason your dog could yelp in pain when picked up by its chest.

As varied as those reasons may be, they all have one thing in common – the root cause is more serious than a bit of chest discomfort. If your dog has cysts, they could be a sign of tumors or other issues. If your dog has broken ribs, that can be hugely painful, and a threat to its lungs if they puncture them. In all these cases, get help immediately.

Reason #4: You Picked Them up the Wrong Way

This one is also fairly obvious. Just as a baby can cry if you hold it in a way that causes it discomfort, a dog can do the same.

In fact, there’s some overlap between how you can hurt them here. For example, neither babies nor dogs like it when their head and neck are left unsupported.

Reason #5: Neck, Spine, or Skeletal Problems

If your dog has problems with its neck or spine, or has skeletal issues such as scoliosis, the pain from those issues can radiate down to its chest. However, this category of issues can encompass a wide range of potential problems, ranging from arthritis to skeletal degeneration and everything in between.

These can also include issues that trace back to the dog’s breed. For example, larger, heavier dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia. The same holds true for arthritis or osteoporosis, which can develop as a result of age. These are not issues that are within your control, but they are still something you’ll need to respond to lest your dog be racked with neck and back pain.

Reason #6: Chest Fluid or Inflammation

This is a pretty rare occurrence, but it’s still worth noting. If your dog is yelping with pain when pressure is applied against its chest, the source of that pressure could actually be coming from within the chest itself in the form of fluid buildup or inflammation. In the former case, this can include things such as a pleural effusion, which can involve additional symptoms such as:

  • Fluid accumulating in their chest
  • Low tolerance to exercise
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Pale or blue gums, lips, tongue, and so on
  • Stretching or sitting in awkward positions as they try to ease breathing issues

In the case of chest inflammation, this can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections and come with additional serious symptoms such as gagging, vomiting, fever, lethargy, and difficulty swallowing. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms or those mentioned above in addition to yelping in pain when you touch its chest, see a vet immediately.

As you can tell, when a dog yelps when picked up under the chest, it can be a sign of any number of conditions, some mild, some quite serious. Review these symptoms carefully, consult your vet, and you’ll be able to get to the bottom of what’s bothering your dog and what you can do about it.