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Yelps

Chihuahua Yelps When Picked Up

Overview

We received a question from a concerned owner regarding her Chihuahua yelping out for apparently no reason when being picked up. With an 'all-clear' from the vet, she is left confused and wondering what to do.

Question: 

My Chihuahua yelps when picked up. He acts as if he is in pain sometimes for no reason or when we carry him up from the floor. We brought him to the vet but the vet couldn't detect any problems. This leaves us not knowing what to do to help him. He also shivers and appears to try to stay very still. Why does he yelp and do this? Is something very wrong?

Owner: Sheena, Chihuahua: Bebe.

Answer:

A puppy may yelp when picked up for one of several reasons, ranging from age related lack of socialization to health issues that are causing pain. 

We will cover the simple and easily resolved issues first and then tackle the possible and more serious ones:

1) He is startled. Puppies that are not yet accustomed to their new home and the people in it, need time to get used to being handled. This is particularly true for pups that were not handled much by the breeder; they will have little to no socialization skills and being touched up and cuddled is often something that a puppy learns to accept. Liking it is not always automatic, especially if it is unexpected.
A puppy may also shake due to fear and stress, which fits your description.

To fix this:

You can help a puppy by approaching him from the side. Never come up behind a pup and scoop him up without warning.

Once you are close, speak his name and make sure that you have his attention before you reach out to hold him.

If a young puppy needs to learn that being handled is not such a bad thing, make the sessions short and over time, extend them. It can help to sit on a sofa or chair as opposed to standing.

Most Chihuahua puppies act nervous or fearful at first until they become accustomed to their new home. Be sure to follow all care guidelines and before you know it, a pup will be fully integrated into the family.

2) Temporary discomfort from not being picked up properly. It's not always easy to handle a tiny Chihuahua puppy. Some weight less than a pound and this can make handling the pup a bit tricky.

How to Fix this:

After making your presence known as described above, kneel down to his level. Pick the puppy up with two hands. One should be place on his rump; the other spread wide to support the chest, with your thumb and pointer finger supporting the dog's underarms.

Do not allow the pup to hover; you'll want to pull him close to you and gently hold him against your chest, keeping one hand under the rump and the other over his back. Use only enough force to keep him safe from wiggly free.
Speak in a matter-of-fact manner. Many times, owners will use a soothing voice; after all it is human instinct. However, when a person does that, it sends a signal that there is a reason to be soothed. You'll want to teach a pup that being picked up is a normal, every day occurrence and certainly not an event that warrants worry of any sort.

For household with children, kids should be taught how to move toward the pup from the side and how to hold a puppy. Young children should do this while sitting down to prevent a wiggly pup from accidentally being dropped.

It should be noted that trauma (including being dropped or stepped on) is the 2nd leading cause of death for the Chihuahua breed. This is an 'under the foot' dog that needs to be carefully watched and taken care of.

3) An Injury or Medical Problem. While you did state that the veterinarian performed a checkup and did not find any medical issues, we must still point out that this is a possible reason for a Chihuahua to let out a loud yelp with being picked up. In addition, the shaking that you mentioned may also be due to pain.

There are many 'unseen' health concerns that can cause quite a bit of pain; though usually there are other signs aside from yelping.

Possible reasons are:

Luxating patella - This is not uncommon with the Chihuahua breed. Dogs can have a genetic predisposition to this and even an action as innocent as jumping down from a sofa can trigger it. With some dogs, it will be a slow, progressive condition; the hip joint and socket wear out over time.

Many dogs will act fine and only yelp out in pain when touched. If the condition is not resolved, inflammation will develop and it is usually at that point that the Chihuahua will show other signs such as limping and reluctance to exercise.

A experienced veterinarian can often diagnose this by manipulation of the leg alone; however x-rays are almost always performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Back problems - While not probable, it is possible. There are some back problems that are acute and will go away with time. Sometimes when an injury involves the back, a Chihuahua will only yelp when the back randomly spasms or when touched, including when being picked up.

While rare, the back issue of Intervertebral disc disease (IDD) is always a possible cause.

Other - There are countless other health conditions that would show up with a combination of blood work and x-rays. If the veterinarian only performed a quick 'once-over' and did not do any testing, we would highly recommend seeking out another vet for a second opinion. 
Summary

While barking is to be expected - though it should be dealt with - and whining may occur due to a puppy being young, the vocalization of yelping is more times than not, a cry of pain. The pain may be due to an injury, sickness or health condition. 

Never assume that yelping while being picked up is normal. 

It is always best to have the Chihuahua evaluated by an experienced and reputable veterinarian. In addition, if you feel that your concerns are not being taken seriously or if you feel that a full examination was not performed, never be shy to speak up or to locate a different vet. It may be a matter of finding one that has a better understanding of the Chihuahua breed.
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