A common reason for a dog yelping in pain randomly is a slipped disk. This condition requires prompt treatment to reduce the chance of devastating nerve damage.
It’s understandable why some dog owners delay going to the vet when a dog is yelping in pain randomly for no apparent reason.
Unfortunately, a delay in treatment can result in permanent nerve damage and paralysis if the cause of the yelping is a slipped disk.
Knowing what symptoms to look for and what to do if you suspect your dog has a slipped disk is critical.
In this article, we answer questions about what to do if your dog has slipped disk, how to prevent it from happening again and what else can cause your dog to yelp in pain.
- What is a Slipped Disk?
- What Causes a Slipped Disk in Dogs?
- Symptoms of a Slipped Disk in Dog
- What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has a Slipped Disk
- How Is a Dog’s Slipped Disk Diagnosed?
- How Is a Dog’s Slipped Disk Treated?
- How to Prevent a Slipped Disk in Your Dog Again
- Is It Kinder To Put Your Dog To Sleep?
- Other Reasons Why Dogs Yelp in Pain Randomly
What is a Slipped Disk?
A slipped disk occurs when the shock-absorbing discs between the spine bones degenerate and bulge, putting pressure on the spinal cord.
A slipped disc is the most common reason for a dog to start yelping in pain randomly and is formally known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).
This condition causes intense pain, also known as a “pinched nerve”. It can occur anywhere along the spine, from the neck to the lower back.
What Causes a Slipped Disk in Dogs?
A slipped disk can be caused by trauma, like being hit by a car or the impact of jumping or falling from a height. Some dogs can suffer from premature age-related disk degeneration. Their condition can worsen if the dog does a lot of jumping or puts on too much weight.
Older dogs are more prone to a slipped disk than younger dogs. Short-legged dogs are more prone to being affected at a younger age.
The following dog breeds have a high risk of a slipped disk:
- Bassett Hounds
- Cocker Spaniels
- French Bulldogs
- Shih Tzu
Symptoms of a Slipped Disk in Dog
Your dog yelping in pain might be the first symptom of a slipped disk that you notice, but there is more to look out for.
Here are 12 signs of a slipped disk in dogs:
- Yelping when picked up under the chest.
- Yelping when jumping off a sofa or step.
- Yelping and whining when lying down.
- Reluctant to move and has difficulty getting up.
- Lowered head when standing.
- Stiff neck or limbs.
- Shivering, shaking, or muscle spasms.
- Weakness in one or more legs.
- Limping, stumbling, wobbling, or falling when walking.
- Paralysis of both rear limbs or all four limbs.
- Loss of feeling in toes.
- Holding tail down.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has a Slipped Disk
If your suspect your yelping dog has a slipped disk, confine it to a small space. This reduces the risk of more damage to the dog’s spinal cord before you have a chance to get to the vet.
According to Southeast Veterinary Neurology, a dog with a slipped disc has a 95% chance of recovery when treated early.
A slipped disc can rapidly progress from a mild to a severe condition. Delay in treatment can cause irreversible spinal cord damage, so it’s important to contact a vet immediately.
Move your dog into a confined and comfortable space, like a dog crate. Doing this reduces the chance of your dog making a potentially damaging movement while you make an urgent appointment with the vet.
Related: Dog Whining In Crate All of a Sudden
How Is a Dog’s Slipped Disk Diagnosed?
A vet or veterinary neurologist can diagnose a slipped disk in a yelping dog using an MRI, X-ray, spinal tap, CT scan, or blood tests.
Your local vet can order and read an x-ray. X-rays reveal the bones but not the nerves and spinal cord. A veterinary neurologist can order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and rule out other neurological conditions.
An MRI scanner is expensive and usually only available at specialist veterinary clinics, but it provides a detailed picture of the spinal cord and the nerves.
This enables the vet to make an accurate diagnosis and prognosis.
How Is a Dog’s Slipped Disk Treated?
Treatment of a dog’s slipped disc can include strict bed rest, veterinary painkillers, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, physiotherapy, or surgery. In severe cases, euthanasia is considered an option.
In most cases, vets prescribe bed rest and medications to reduce pain, and inflammation and ease muscle spasms.
How to support your dog’s recovery at home:
- Give your dog the veterinary painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants as prescribed.
- Ensure your dog is on strict bed rest for as long as required.
- Groom your dog regularly as it can not lick or scratch as it used to.
- Feed your dog according to the vet’s recommended weight loss plan if your dog is overweight.
- Take your dog to prescribed physiotherapy sessions.
The recovery process is a long challenging journey for both you and your dog. It can be expensive (especially if surgery is involved). For these reasons, some dog owners opt for euthanization.
Strict Bed Rest
The hardest part about the recovery process for both the dog and owner is the period of bed rest. It helps move your dog into a confined space to limit their movement. A dog crate is perfect as a dog can not jump out of it.
Add soft bedding to keep your dog comfortable and reduce the risk of bedsores.
Do not allow your dog to jump, climb stairs, run or walk. Carry your dog outside for toilet breaks and carry them back in.
The vet can recommend physiotherapy to help your dog’s recovery. The vet or a veterinary physiotherapist can also provide you with a plan to help ease your dog back into its regular routines once it has recovered.
How to Prevent a Slipped Disk in Your Dog Again
To prevent the repeated agony of a slipped disk, do not allow your dog to climb stairs, do strenuous exercise, or gain too much weight. They should be eased into exercise and be given a healthy low-calorie diet.
Ease Into Exercise
After a grueling recovery period, it is best to ease your dog back into an exercise routine with gentle walks. Your vet can advise you on how often and how long to walk your dog.
If your dog previously had a slipped disk in its neck, reduce unnecessary stress in this area when walking your dog by replacing your dog’s neck collar with a harness.
A Weighty Matter
Adjusting your dog’s calorie intake helps an overweight dog lose weight. This takes the pressure off the spine and helps prevent a reoccurrence of a slipped disk.
The vet can advise you on a weight loss plan for your dog while they are inactive, in recovery, and beyond.
Make Changes At Home
It can be challenging to teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s what you have to do if you want to avoid a reoccurrence of a slipped disc.
Here are examples of ways to help your dog avoid climbing and jumping at home:
- Add ramps to stairs to help your dog avoid climbing up and down.
- Lower your dog’s bed to remove the need to climb or jump.
- Never let your dog jump on and off the couch – always lift and lower your dog.
Is It Kinder To Put Your Dog To Sleep?
No one wants to face the decision to put their beloved pet to sleep but when a slipped disk is severe, it can be a kinder option.
The recovery process is long and tedious for both the dog and the owner. The dog must be confined in a dog crate for strict bed rest. Some dogs may struggle with this. For every potty break, the dog also needs to be supported and carried back inside.
When choosing between a treatment plan and euthanasia, consider the quality of your dog’s life during recovery, their age, overall health, prognosis, and your available resources.
Consult your vet about this.
Other Reasons Why Dogs Yelp in Pain Randomly
A slipped disk isn’t the only reason for a dog yelping in pain. Injury and illness can cause your dog to yelp.
General injuries and illnesses are common reasons why dogs yelp randomly.
The most common reasons for random yelping include the following:
- Joint or muscle problems.
- Cramps and spasms.
It is easy to see a dog is in pain when it yelps after putting weight on an area of its body. Here are less obvious signs of pain:
- Increased licking of the paws to self-soothe or licking a certain area of the body.
- Increased sleeping
- A loss of appetite.
- Fast and shallow breathing.
- Find it difficult to get comfortable when laying down.
- Hiding away or seeking attention constantly.
- Increase in aggression.
If your dog displays any of these symptoms, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
A dog that is yelping in pain from illness can be experiencing stomach cramps. Take your dog to the vet if your dog also has diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, or a loss of appetite. 
If your dog starts yelping in pain randomly, treat your dog like they have a slipped disk. Move your dog into a dog crate as a precaution and rush to your vet as soon as possible.
Treating a slipped disk while it is a mild condition is a better prospect than facing the treatment plan or surgery required when a slipped disk is severe.