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7 Alarming Reasons Why Dogs Flinch All Of A Sudden + Tips

Why Is My Dog Flinching All Of A Sudden

Petting our fur babies gives us immense joy.

However, as you go near them to give them rubs, they suddenly flinch.

It’s like they were startled or shocked by you.

You let this pass by…

Yet on another day while walking with them, you see them flinch again.

What’s causing this sudden urge to squirm?

Is it a symptom of something really bad?

Continue reading to learn:

  • 7 alarming reasons why dogs flinch all of a sudden.
  • Medical conditions that your fur baby has that cause them to squirm.
  • Why past experiences can make your dog flinch when you try to pet them.
  • And this is just the beginning…

Why is my dog flinching all of a sudden?

Your dog is flinching all of a sudden because they got startled by something. This can be caused by lights, shadows, loud sounds, and huge moving objects. Your dog may also have a traumatic past with abusive owners or attacks from wild animals. Medical issues can also be causes for flinching.

7 reasons why your dog flinches all of a sudden

#1: They had an abusive owner

Dogs deserve all the love in the world and we fur parents show it to them every day. However, there are people who just don’t see things the way we do.

And it’s saddening to hear that abuses happen to our beloved furry friends. Unfortunately, this happens when they make mistakes and their previous owners believe in punishment.

These people use screaming, scolding, and even physically hurting them with objects. And because of this, dogs develop bad memories when people are moving quickly.

Imagine the action one does when they’re about to slap someone. It’s a quick and sudden movement, right?

If your dog has been abused in the past, they have the tendency to flinch. This reaction is a self-defense mechanism to try and move away from the perpetrator.

According to research dogs have the ability to remember actions their fur parents do. If they were punished in their past homes, they might also expect the same from you.

This reflex to hide away and protect their bodies is possibly why your dog flinches. Even if the action that you’re about to do towards them isn’t going to hurt them.

Examples of gestures that might trigger a dog’s trauma are the following:

  • Hugging them tightly.
  • Shouting praises at your dog.
  • Playfully throwing objects at them.
  • Running enthusiastically towards your dog.

“What can I do to ease their flinching?”

If you have an adopted pooch, there’s a high chance that they were abused in the past. And if you want to keep them calm and not flinch out of fear, try moving slowly around them.

When petting them, try approaching from the front and don’t do any sudden movements. It would also help if you announce that you’ll pet them so they’ll anticipate it.

You can try calling their name out first before coming to them. Or maybe greeting them with a happy-sounding voice.

It would also help if you restrict your interactions with your dog to “chill” activities. For example, start by cuddling or sitting down with them on a porch.

Check out next: 13 Real Reasons Why Your Dog Protects You From Your Husband

#2: Their eyesight is starting to fade

Your Dog Flinches All Of A Sudden Because Their Eyesight Is Starting To Fade

Not being able to see clearly can cause your dog to become fearful of their surroundings. If your eyesight is suddenly taken from you, you’d find it hard moving around, too.

This can make your dog flinch every time something approaches. Since they won’t perceive the objects clearly, canines would try to stay away from it.

This is where the flinching comes from. As mentioned in #1, it’s sometimes a reaction to protect themselves.

“But dogs can smell you when you’re coming, right? So why do they still get startled then?”

Dogs do indeed explore the world with their noses and get information from scents. This is one of the reasons why they sniff the ground from time to time.

It’s also a reason why your pooch gets “mad” at you when you smell like another dog. They know you’ve been “cheating” on them.

However, having a dog’s eyesight degrade over time can still have an effect on them. And an adjustment period would be needed.

A fur parent even had a story of how their senior Chihuahua flinches. They noticed that when they leave a room and turn the lights off, their furry friend squirms.

“Oh… why does this happen?”

One reason I can think of is that their Chihuahua thinks something got suddenly close to their face. Try putting your palm in front of your face without touching it.

It gets dark, right? This might also be what their dog is thinking when the lights suddenly go out.

“So what can be causing the degradation of a dog’s eyes?”

Here are a few eye problems canines might have:

  • Cataracts.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy.
  • Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome.

You might also need to check out some symptoms that your dog’s eyes are degrading. Here are a few signs:

  • Their eyes look cloudy.
  • Hesitation from climbing the stairs.
  • They are frequently hitting random objects.
  • Your dog doesn’t want to jump on the couch.
  • Your canine sometimes looks confused and dazed.

You might also want to check out: 17 Tips To Take Care Of An Elderly / Senior Chihuahua

#3: They are experiencing seizures

In some cases, what might look like a small flinch can actually be something more serious. Other fur parents might dismiss seizures as normal squirming or a non-threatening action.

This might happen more to newly minted dog parents who still don’t have a lot of experience. But, particularly about the health of the dog – we all gotta start somewhere, right?

But there are some behaviors in your dog that shouldn’t be dismissed easily. One of these would be flinching. Especially if it happens often and without any identifiable triggers.

If you see a person flinch and you can’t find anything that caused it, it’s alarming, right?

It’s the same for dogs. And seizures are one of the reasons why they flinch.

“Is my dog gonna be okay, though?”

Generally, dogs are going to be okay if the correct aid is applied during and after their episode.

Research also states that seizures are common in dogs. This means vets are highly familiar with what to do if your pooch has one.

But first, you need to learn what a seizure looks like in dogs. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • If the tremors last for a few minutes.
  • Loss of consciousness and convulsion.
  • Unusual movements in a specific part of their body e.g. limbs.

Here’s an example of a canine having an episode:

Here’s what you should do if you notice your dog is starting to flinch that turns into a seizure:

Step 1: Remain calm. Panicking won’t help you think clearly and do the appropriate steps to aid your dog.

Step 2: Don’t touch your fur baby’s head and mouth. They might react aggressively and bite you.

Step 3: Contrary to popular belief, dogs can’t choke on their tongues according to PetMD. So, don’t put anything in their mouth to avoid injuries.

Step 4: Point a fan to your dog – seizures can cause dogs to overheat. Putting cold water on their paws can also help them cool down.

Step 5: Calmly talk to your dog and reassure them that you’re there to assist them. As much as possible, don’t touch them.

Step 6:Slide them away from objects that might hurt them. 

Step 7: After their seizure, try bringing them to their vet. This way, they will get the appropriate medical help.

Step 8: The vet will most likely conduct a physical exam to check the causes of their seizure. An MRI will sometimes be needed to have a clearer view of your dog’s brain.

You might also be interested in: 21 Reasons Why Your Dog Suddenly Drools (& Acts Strange)

#4: They didn’t get socialized properly

Dogs are naturally social beings. They love connecting with humans, dogs, and even other animals.

This is one reason why they are called “pack animals”; they thrive mainly by being in a group. And because of this, dogs survive longer in the wild and they’re able to travel far.

In today’s age, most domesticated dogs no longer have the need of their pack for survival. So unless you’re Tarzan who lives in the jungle, your dog isn’t in immediate danger.

But their instinct to stay in a pack is still there. However, if their socialization skills weren’t trained, dogs can shy away when in crowds.

And because of this, canines sometimes get startled when people and other dogs touch them. Even getting near them can make them flinch out of surprise.

That’s why pups need to be socialized as soon as possible. Research shows that dogs who interact with humans and other dogs become less fearful.

PetMD also suggests that you should let your dogs socialize at 3 to 12 weeks old. 

But it’d be safer if your dog gets their vaccine shots first. This way, they are protected from viruses that can be extremely harmful to them.

A good estimate would be to wait for 7 days from the day your fur baby got vaccinated.

“How about older dogs?”

Adult canines can still be trained to socialize well with other dogs and humans. What’s important is to slowly introduce them to it to avoid getting them stressed.

Don’t forget to check out: 17 Reasons Why Your Dog Barks At Certain People + 5 Tips

#5: They are feeling pain in their body

Your Dog's Body Is In Pain

Another reason why your pooch flinches is that they have body pains. When they experience this, it can make your dog involuntary wincing.

This especially happens if the pain canines feel suddenly increases regularly. Kinda like having spikes of aches every few minutes.

Your dog could also be feeling the pain all throughout the day. This is a way to keep others from touching the aching body part.

They flinch when someone is near them because they anticipate that the touch will cause pain.


One reason why your dog winces all of a sudden is that their teeth are aching. If you’ve had a bad tooth before, you’ll know how painful it can get.

I had one before and it got so bad I developed a fever. The level of pain your dog is feeling might also be at an intolerable level.

And because of this, they’ll want to stay away from people and other dogs touching them. 

“What could be causing my dog’s dental problems?”

Poor dental hygiene can lead to painful diseases such as gingivitis and abscesses. Other issues like broken teeth can also cause dogs to flinch suddenly.

To avoid problems like these, you need to regularly check your pooch’s dental health. If they display the following symptoms, they might have toothache-related problems:

  • Slow chewing.
  • They constantly paw their mouth.
  • Food drops out of their mouth when eating.
  • Aversion from kibbles and favoring wet food instead.
  • Decreased appetite; no longer eating treats they used to love.

Getting them a comprehensive dental health check from your vet would be best for your dog. 

Through this, you’ll know the reason for their problem. And appropriate treatment will be given.

A vet might order a pre-anesthetic test to see if your dog is healthy enough for anesthesia. Once done, your fur baby will undergo dental cleaning.

An assessment of their mouth’s health will also be clearer after an x-ray of their teeth. Your vet might also check each of your dog’s teeth and gums.


According to the AKC, arthritis is a pretty common disease in canines. 1 out of 5 dogs has it and the chances of them getting it to grow as they age.

Just like in humans, it can affect their movement and can restrict the places they can go. So if you think your pooch is flinching due to arthritis, try and look for other symptoms as well.

Here are some signs that you can check:

  • It’s hard for them to stand and hesitate when they do.
  • Their rear legs are closer than usual when they stand.
  • Visible signs of smaller and weaker muscles in their hind legs.
  • Couches and stairs are already getting too challenging for them to climb on.

Once these symptoms are becoming more frequent in your pooch, take them to the vet. This way, you can be sure whether or not they have arthritis.

Vets will use either of the following treatments to manage your dog’s pain:

  • Physical therapy.
  • CBD oil.
  • Medications e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)

Warning: Never give your dogs NSAIDs designed for humans. These are toxic to them and can cause serious damage to their bodies.

Check out next: My Dog Acts Like It Hurts To Sit: 7 Alarming Reasons + 3 Tips

#6: They are feeling disoriented

Has your dog been acting strange lately? I mean aside from them flinching all of a sudden?

If this has been happening to your pooch, then they might be disoriented.

They might stumble on a few objects here and there. You might even see your dog lose balance.

And in an attempt to stay still, they look like they’re flinching. Kinda like when you’re balancing on a small ledge.

To distribute your weight throughout your body and not fall, you do quick movements. A dog who’s experiencing disorientation might also look like this.

“What could be causing their disorientation and loss of balance?”

One reason would be vestibular disease. 

This illness is more common in older dogs.

As the name suggests, this disease affects a dog’s vestibular system. That part of their body is the one responsible for a dog’s balance.

Disturbance of the vestibular system can cause disorientation and consequently, flinching in canines. If you think your pooch has this, here are a few symptoms you need to look out for:

  • Tilting their head excessively.
  • Sudden loss of balance while standing or walking.
  • Jerking movement of their eyes. This motion is irregular for dogs with vestibular disease.

Once you see these symptoms on your fur baby, try to remember what happened to them in the past. Head trauma is a major cause of disorientation.

Ask your housemates too in case you’re busy and weren’t around when they hit their heads.

Here are other causes of vestibular disease according to VCA:

  • Having tumors.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Ingesting toxic drugs.
  • Infections located in the middle and inner ear.

#7: They have cough

As simple and kinda obvious as this reason is, some fur parents might overlook the fact that their dog has a cough.

Try and cough as you’re reading this. Your body flinches a little bit, right?

This might also be the case in your pooch – body flinching because of phlegm.

And the harder your dog’s mucus is, the more effort they have to exert to relieve their throats. And you’ll see this in canines more often during the cold weather season.

Dust, allergies, germs, and viruses will also cause your pooch to cough according to WebMD. This is easily caught by dogs who are naturally curious.

Have you seen some dogs while they’re out on a walk? 

It’s like they’re investigating their surroundings. And just sniffs anything their way.

Well, we don’t mind if they do it anyway… especially if their curiosity leads them to a pot of gold. But, unfortunately, it can sometimes lead us to a pile of fox poo they want to roll in. Ugh.

“Yeah, they’re really curious. But did you say it can lead them to getting a cough?”

Yes, definitely. Especially if they’ve been roaming around unclean places.

Or have been playing with dogs who are infected with viruses. Sharing of bowls can also increase the chances of your dog getting a cough.

Listed below are other causes of your dog’s illness:

  • Distemper.
  • Heartworms.
  • Lung issues.
  • Kennel cough.
  • Heart disease.
  • Fungal infections.
  • Weakened trachea.
  • Congestive heart failure.

“Oh, those things sound serious…”

Yes, but don’t panic. There’s a chance that your dog’s cough will just go away in a few days.

Wait for when these signs come up before you see the vet:

  • Their cough worsens.
  • It lasts more than a week.
  • Your dog developed a fever.
  • Your fur baby no longer wants to eat.

Until then, give your pooch extra treatment to help them with their cough. Here are a few things that might help:

  • Nutritious dog food.
  • Peaceful place to rest.
  • Lots of fluids e.g. fresh water.

Read next: 9 Odd Reasons Why Your Dog Sneezes In The Morning + 5 Tips

Bonus: Their hearing has weakened

This is closely similar to #2. The degradation of a dog’s senses can make them extra careful of their surroundings.

When they move around, any sudden stimulation of their senses can scare them. And this fear will consequently make them flinch.

If your pooch is already advanced in age, they likely have poor hearing. As a result, most of them will sometimes be unresponsive to your calls and vocal cues.

And when this happens, most fur parents tend to make their voice louder. I mean, it’s totally understandable… the higher the volume, the more it can be heard.

But sometimes talking this way to your pooch can startle them. Especially if they didn’t notice that you’re around.

And this flinching from the loud sounds they hear isn’t only applicable to your speaking voice. Here are other sources of loud sounds that might scare your dog:

  • Doorbells.
  • Car door alarm.
  • The squeak of their toy.
  • The sound coming from the T.V.
  • Rumbling wheels of a huge truck.
  • Loud objects falling in your house.

“Oh, poor baby… does the loss of hearing happen to young dogs, too? What causes it?”

Yes, it does. One major reason why younger dogs lose their hearing is because of trauma. For example, if your pooch got into an accident and had head injuries, their ears might go weak.

You’ll know when your fur baby has bad hearing if they do the following according to the AKC:

Sign #1: They’re ignoring your vocal cues.

Sign #2: Your dog looks like they’re confused with their surroundings.

Sign #3: Not getting excited when they hear sounds that make them hyper.

Sign #4: Your canine sleeps unusually deep and isn’t bothered by loud noises.

To help your pooch you can try utilizing their other senses that are perfectly working. By this I mean when you’re communicating or are approaching them, do the following:

Tip #1: Using your hands to point at objects.

Tip #2: Stomp your feet from afar when you’re walking to them.

Tip #3: Train them to understand that holding their back means you want them to turn to you.

Should I be worried if my flinches all of a sudden?

You shouldn’t worry if your dog flinches all of a sudden. However, you must try and check first what caused them to behave this way.

Panicking and worrying will cause you to fail in giving them the right treatment. Especially in cases when their life can be in danger, like seizures.

If you still can’t figure out what caused their flinching, try going to the vet first. Medical professionals will be able to run the right tests to find out what’s wrong.

And through this, your dog will also receive the right meds and other methods of treatment.