A sudden loud sound pierces your ears. And startles you.
You stare in disbelief as you realize it’s coming from your dog. They’re screaming.
It’s intense and sounds so painful…
But you have no idea what’s happening. Or how you can help them.
In this article, you’ll learn what your dog is trying to communicate to you. And what action you should take.
Read on to find out:
- How to recognize whether your dog is screaming out of pain.
- What syringomyelia is and how it endangers your dog’s well-being (reason #3).
- The health risks in pedigree dogs that can make your furry friend suddenly scream.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog suddenly scream (for no reason)?
If your dog suddenly screams, there’s always a reason. It could be something harmless such as overexcitement, wanting attention, being bored, or having a nightmare. But it could also be due to fear, illness, anxiety, a dangerous condition called syringomyelia (SM), canine cognitive dysfunction, etc.
People also ask:
13 reasons why your dog suddenly screams (and keeps screaming randomly)
Your dog might be ill if they’re screaming and exhibiting some of these signs:
- Panting often.
- Nasal discharge.
- Excessive salivation.
- Reduced or no appetite.
Or, the dog might have separation anxiety. In this case, they will start panicking whenever you leave them alone. And will scratch at the walls, doors, furniture, chew excessively, bark and scream.
#3: Syringomyelia (SM)
Syringomyelia (SM) is a progressive condition. It occurs when the skull size doesn’t correspond to the brain size.
This leads to pain in the back of the dog’s neck. The head and neck become very sensitive.
As a result, the dog can feel pain:
- When excited.
- During certain weather conditions.
- While standing in a specific posture.
According to Veterinary Partner, some of the most common symptoms include scratching at the neck, chest, and shoulder. But without touching the skin and only on one side of their body.
The condition is also called Chiari Malformation. This however, is not correct as both terms refer to different states.
The Chiari Malformation is the lead cause of syringomyelia (SM).
The latter prevails in pedigree dogs such as:
- French Bulldog.
- Brussels Griffon.
- Yorkshire Terrier.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS).
If you have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, you should know that this breed often suffers from the disease.
Science reveals the numbers
Scientists decided to dig deeper into this issue. They researched 555 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Even dogs who showed no clinical signs went under MRI. Researchers wanted to find the correlation between the condition and the dog’s age or sex.
They discovered that age was the only factor that played a part.
Syringomyelia (SM) was present in:
- 25% of one-year-old CKCS.
- 70% of six-year-old or older CKCS.
An eye-opening documentary
There’s even a one-hour BBC documentary called Pedigree Dogs Exposed that you can watch for free.
It heavily focuses on the role genetic predisposition plays in the development of syringomyelia in CKCS.
Warning: The video above contains unsettling images.
The documentary describes syringomyelia simply and accurately: a horrible brain condition. What’s more, due to it, CKCS can be put down as early as 5 years old due to its severity.
In short, it causes premature death.
And that’s not all…
“At its worst, the dogs are simply in agony.”
Besides sudden yelping and phantom scratching, affected CKCS also exhibit:
- Weak limbs.
- Slower movements.
- Reluctance to jump or climb.
While the CKCS was the 6th most popular breed in the UK, they’re also the sickest.
This health problem started appearing after competitive dog showing became a thing. To participate and win a prize, the dog must cover certain breed standards.
Unfortunately, the requirements center around how the dogs look. And don’t take into consideration dogs’ needs or practical physical features.
One of the documentary speakers says these dogs have become victims of fashion. He then compares them to mutants.
He appeals that people should prioritize the quality of dogs’ life over this irrational obsession with beauty.
Diagnose and treatment
Syringomyelia can be diagnosed through magnetic resonance imagining (MRI).
Once the vets detect this condition, there are 3 ways to go about it:
- Physical therapy.
Researchers examined the long-term effects of surgery in 15 CKCS.
From the dogs that participated, 80% got better after the operation, while 20% stayed the same.
3 dogs were euthanized: 1 due to tonsillar carcinoma (5 months post-surgery) and 2 due to syringomyelia (between 0,4 – 4,6 years).
12 dogs were alive in the interval between 1- 6,5 years after surgery.
The researchers concluded that surgery could improve the dogs’ quality of life for a few years.
According to The Veterinary Nurse, the most frequent course of action would be treatment combining different medications.
Depending on the phase of the condition, drugs that could be used are:
- Analgesics: carprofen, meloxicam.
- Pain relievers: gabapentin, steroids.
Conditions such as Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia can lead to neurological issues. And reduce a dog’s mobility.
Physical therapy can help with the limbs’ functionality and strengthen the body.
#4: Joint or muscle pain
What are cramps?
Cramps are painful contractions of the muscles which can last from seconds to a few minutes.
Causes of cramps can be:
- Muscle strain.
- Overusing a muscle.
- Staying in a position for an extended time.
Warning: Cramps are typically harmless, but they could indicate an underlying medical issue.
Arthritis (in old dogs)
Arthritis occurs when a joint gets inflamed. This can lead to swelling and pain.
These poor dogs find basic tasks such as walking or even lying down painful.
One of my neighbors, who’s also a passionate dog lover shared her situation with me. She doesn’t take out her 7-year-old Pekingese for more than 20 minutes at a time.
“He just can’t endure longer than that. It’s too painful.”, she told me this morning.
A seizure is characterized by abnormal activity of the brain. Often, accompanied by a temporary loss of body control.
As a result, the dog’s body might stiffen and start having convulsions. The dog might panic and start screaming.
Seeing your dog like that can be one of the scariest things you witness. Especially if it’s happening for the first time.
But despite how horrible it looks, seizures are not life-threatening.
Before experiencing a seizure, your dog might feel anxious or scared. Pre-symptoms include:
- Acting abnormal in any other way.
Causes of seizures include:
- Neoplastic growth.
- Metabolic disorders.
#6: Infection-related screaming
Middle and inner ear bacterial infections can cause your dog to scream. Some dogs would sleep and wake up screaming in pain. And not due to a nightmare.
Dog breeds predisposed to ear infections are:
- Basset Hounds.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
That’s because they all have floppy ears.
Dogs with hairy or narrow ear canals need regular checkups.
#7: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is to dogs what Alzheimer’s is to humans. It disorients dogs. And the older your dog becomes, the more confused they get.
They might forget where they are and scream in fear.
Some dogs would get over-excited and start screaming on walks. This will make other pedestrians turn their heads. They’ll likely think something’s wrong with your dog.
This can be stressful. And it can get too much if it starts happening more often.
But don’t worry. Instead, have a look at tip #10.
#9: Whining for attention
Your dog could be screaming because they want to get your attention. If it has already happened a few times, your dog will get the message that this approach works.
And they’ll keep using it to get what they want. If this continues, it can turn into problem behavior.
Check out: 11 reasons why your dog cries in the morning
Have you been neglecting your dog?
Remember, you’re all they have. So if they don’t get enough playtime with you, they can easily get bored.
If your dog starts screaming due to boredom, screaming is one of their ways of inviting you to play.
#11: Insect bite
The signs of an insect bite can vary. But depending on the type of insect, the dog can experience mild to severe pain.
Other symptoms include:
- A lump.
- A puncture wound.
And if the dog has anaphylaxis (a fast-developing allergic reaction that can cause death) the following can be seen:
- Respiratory distress.
- Cardiovascular arrest.
Don’t miss out on this read: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Acts Like Something Is Biting Her
#12: A bad or an exciting dream
Has your dog screamed in their sleep?
Chances are that they’re either having a blast or a nightmare.
Stanley Coren, who has devoted his life to studying dogs, wrote a book on the matter:
“Do Dogs Dream?: Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know” (check it out here on Amazon).
Scientists have also examined the sleep behaviors of 6 pointer dogs. The results indicated 2 states of:
- Sleep: slow-wave and rapid eye movement (REM).
- Wakefulness: alert and drowsy.
The tested dogs exhibited the following states:
- 12% REM.
- 21% drowsy state.
- 23% slow-wave sleep.
- 44% alert wakefulness.
Not only does this prove that dogs dream, but it also tells us that most of the time they’re in alert wakefulness.
When you watch your dog sleeping, you’ll likely see twitching, growling, and even screaming at times. This all depends on the dream the dog is having.
And most likely, the dream is connected with the activities you did during the day.
Warning: If you witness your dog screaming due to a nightmare, do not attempt to comfort them. If you wake them up abruptly, they’ll need a few seconds or a minute to adjust. And they might act impulsively (aggressively) and bite you.
Don’t forget to also discover: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pet Dogs While They’re Asleep
Usually, rescue dogs who underwent some kind of emotional or physical trauma will attempt to keep others from touching them.
Also, a dog in pain will lash out at those near them. Not because the dog wants to bite. But because that’s the only way they know to preserve their personal space.
When I visit shelter dogs who need socialization, they start screaming as soon as you get close.
Read next: 7 reasons why your dog is acting scared
11 tips to stop your dog from screaming
#1: Rule out a medical condition
Whatever you think the cause for screaming may be, it’s best to let your vet determine it. Some symptoms apply to more than one medical condition.
By checking your dog’s health, your vet will assess whether cognitive decline or pain is at the core of this issue.
Have your dog’s ears checked for an ear infection asap.
It’s crucial not to waste time. And have your dog undergo treatment if necessary.
If you can’t visit a vet at the moment of screaming, you can consult one online here.
While it’s not ideal, you will better understand the situation. And will know what to do next to relieve your dog’s condition.
#2: Seek the help of a behaviorist or trainer
If the issue is behavioral, it’s best to speak to an established certified professional. They will help you deal with your dog’s fear, excitement, or anxiety.
Ask your vet for recommendations on dependable professionals.
#3: In case of a seizure, do this
If your dog had seizures before, you’ve likely got used to recognizing when one is about to happen.
What you can do is move your dog to a comfortable soft place. One they know and feel safe at. Ensure the dog is not lying on a hard surface, and there are no sharp objects around.
Remain calm and stay by your dog.
Warning: Don’t put your hands in or anywhere near your dog’s mouth. Take your dog to the vet if a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes as it can cause brain damage and hyperthermia. Do the same if you witness more than 3 seizures in 24 hours.
#4: Check your dog for insect bites
While it’s not common, there’s the possibility that a tick has stuck to your dog’s paw. Since dogs use their feet to get information about the environment, the pads are sensitive.
And the presence of a tick will be uncomfortable. And will get noticed every time your dog puts their paw on the floor or ground. So your pooch might scream in pain.
Another possibility is a spider bite.
#5: How to ease the life of a dog with syringomyelia (SM)
There are ways to make your dog with SM feel more at ease.
Harness or collar
The harness might be a better alternative than the collar. A collar can put unnecessary pressure on the neck. That’s why you want to avoid it.
To have a better idea, test both with your dog and see if they react sharply to one.
Since some dogs’ ears are more sensitive, you want to keep them trimmed. This will reduce the pain and make your dog feel more comfortable during grooming.
Keep the head elevated
Some dogs benefit from having their heads elevated while lying down. For this purpose, you can use a dog bed with raised edges.
Or an orthopedic dog bed. Just take a look at the variety there is.
Consult with your vet about the characteristics and specifics you should keep in mind.
Put food and drinking bowls higher
If you raise the level on which the food and water bowls are, you will make it more comfortable for your dog.
#6: The solution to calm dog sleep
Here’s a suggestion: Keep your dog happy to prevent nightmares. It’s easier than you might think. And more effective than you’d expect.
We don’t have control of what we dream of. But chances are that if we’re stressed, we will transmit this state to our dreams.
That’s why the best prevention is to keep it cool as much as we can throughout the day. And the same goes for our dogs.
Take your dog for a walk. Play with them. Socialize them with other dogs they like. Spend some time chilling at home.
All of these activities will bring joy to your dog. If you exercise them, they won’t have pent-up energy. Hence, it won’t build into stress.
As a result, your dog is likely to be unbothered in their sleep.
#7: How to treat an insect bite
If you see the stinger in the skin, try to get it out with the help of a stiff object. But be careful not to press it further down.
You could put a bag of ice on the swollen place. This should reduce the pain.
#8: Take note of when screaming occurs
Can you notice a pattern in your dog’s screaming?
Look for something happening before and after that. These observations will be useful to your vet, a dog trainer, and a behaviorist.
#9: Do not give any painkillers to your dog
It’s natural to want your dog’s pain to stop. But before speaking to a professional, you can’t be sure what’s wrong.
Giving any kind of medication before having talked to your vet is unacceptable. Because by doing so, you can endanger your dog’s wellbeing. And things might get worse.
What you can do is provide plenty of drinking water. Limit your dog’s movement to ensure the condition doesn’t worsen.
#10: Deal with overexcitement-screaming the right way
Extend the time each walk lasts. This way, your dog will burn more energy. Plus, the chances of getting overexcited are lower.
You see, overexcitement is an issue when the dog doesn’t get enough time outside. As a result, their brain goes all over the place.
To deal with that, start walking in areas familiar to your dog. Carry treats in your pocket. And reward your dog when they act calm and collected.
Don’t forget that besides exercise, your dog also needs mental stimulation. At home, provide puzzle games. They’re fun and engaging. So your dog will have something to do for hours on end.
Last but not least, prevent reinforcing the dog’s unwanted behavior. If they start screaming and you try to run out of the house to get them on a walk, that’s encouragement.
If you react to screaming, your dog learns they can demand walks from you. Or she could be telling you to move faster.
Instead of tending to your dog right away, try to keep your cool. Sit down and wait for the excitement to drop if you have to.
You can also let your dog follow some commands before you two walk out of the house. Reward accordingly with a treat whenever your dog sits and pays attention to what you tell them to do.
#11: Handle separation anxiety
Does your dog scream when you’re about to leave?
Then they’ll need a little help from your side. These dogs need reassurance that the world doesn’t end once you close the door behind you.
To make your dog feel at ease while you’re away, leave an old cloth of yours with them. This will be a comfort item for them.
Also, try to redirect their attention to what is there, rather than what isn’t. You can achieve this by getting a toy such as a Stuffed Kong. It’s a mental challenge for dogs. And rewarding at that.