Why Do Dogs Arch Their Backs?



Why do dogs arch their back? To help alleviate pain or to stretch. The arching movement will help reduce the pain or tension they are feeling. The cause of the pain could be due to a spinal injury, abdominal issue, kyphosis, anal sac build-up, nausea, or due to their breeding. Read on to find out more.


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1. Spinal Pain - Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

IVDD is degenerative and can be caused by spinal trauma or age. 
The discs between a dog’s vertebrate are there to cushion and allow movement of the neck, spine, and tail. IVDD happens when the cushioning between the vertebrate no longer can cushion or act as a shock absorber. The disc can bulge or burst, leading to the nerves being pressed into. 
Other symptoms:
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Whining or crying 
What to do to help:
  • Drugs - Steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs can help with pain and swelling. 
  • Rest - Keep your dog in an area where they do not have to move too much, and they are comfortable.
  • Surgery - In more severe cases, surgery may be required.


2. Abdominal Pain

Dogs can get stomach pain for a whole variety of reasons, from ingesting something toxic to pancreatitis. 



If you know that your dog has eaten something toxic, such as a grape, chocolate, human medication, alcohol, etc., then they need to be seen by a veterinarian.
Other symptoms of poisoning:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Tucked up abdomen
  • Shaking
  • Breathing issues
What to do to help: 
Once you have seen your veterinarian, they will be able to decide the best course of action. These are common: 
  • Induced vomiting or ‘inducing emesis’ - If your dog has recently ingested the toxin, the vet may medicate your dog to induce vomiting, in the hope it can bring the poison back up.
  • Surgery - In more severe cases, surgery may need to be performed to remove the poison.
  • Activated charcoal - Depending on the toxin, this can sometimes absorb the poison.



Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. This happens as instead of the enzymes activating when reaching the small intestine, they active immediately after being released. This can cause damage to surrounding organs.
Other symptoms of pancreatitis:
  • Tucked up abdomen
  • Temperature
  • Rapid pulse
  • Nausea
  • Whining or severe discomfort when touched
What to do to help: 
Monitor your dog, if they are showing any of the symptoms, contact a veterinarian immediately as pancreatitis can be severe.
Once you have seen your veterinarian, they will be able to decide the best course of action. These are common: 
  • Fasting - This allows the pancreas a chance to rest.
  • Pain Relief - Medication can be prescribed to help relieve the pain.
  • IV Fluids - This will help maintain their fluid levels.


3. Bloat or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)

Bloat is life-threatening. It occurs when the stomach fills with air and can flip or twist, which blocks the blood supply and can cause death if not caught and treated quickly. It is thought that it occurs when a dog eats too quickly or does heavy exercise after eating.
Other symptoms: 
  • Hard, swollen stomach
  • Whining and severe discomfort when touched
  • Panting, agitation, and restlessness 
What to do to help:
Visit the vet immediately. Bloat can be fatal if left untreated. The vet may use several techniques to try and help; these include:
  • Stomach pump - This will help to relieve the build-up of gas.
  • Surgery - This may be required to physically move the stomach back into the correct position and remove the air.


4. Stretching

Dogs, particularly puppies, arch their backs when they stretch. 
Does your dog arch their back after taking a nap? Or after spending a long time in a particular position? Does a bowing stretch follow it?
If this is the case, and they don’t appear to be in any pain, only hold the pose for seconds, and aren’t having any trouble moving, they are probably just stretching, and it is nothing to worry about.


5. Nausea 

Feeling nauseous can occur for many reasons, from motion sickness to eating something bad to a more serious medical condition.
Other symptoms: 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Excessive chewing or drooling
  • Heaving
What to do to help:
To stop nausea, you will need to determine the stimuli: 
  • Sickness - If it has been caused by motion sickness or eaten something distasteful, or overeaten, then the likelihood is your dog will vomit and return to normal.
  • Medical help - If you are unable to determine the cause, then consider contacting your vet, the reason may be related to a more serious health condition.


6. Breed Standard

Some breeds are shaped with a curve in the spine. The curved toplines should help them to run faster. It allows them to almost curl their legs the whole way under their body and propel them like a sping. 
Some breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, are bred with a sloped back as it is thought to give them more force and improve their look in the show ring. For breed standards, check with the American Kennel Club. If you're interested in learning more about German Shepherds, in particular, choosing the right name, check out You Dog Advisor.
Dog Breeds With Arched Backs: 
  • Whippet
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Borzois 
  • Scottish Deerhound 


7. Kyphosis

Kyphosis is a congenital medical condition in which the spine is deformed. The deformity causes the spine to dip up and down, which can cause a hunch (link). 
Other symptoms:
  • Pain
  • Weakness in their legs
What to do to help: 
  • Speak with a vet - Kyphosis can be painful and may need more medical assistance.
  • Strengthen - Massage, exercises, and balances can help to strengthen your dog’s legs.
  • Don’t allow your dog to jump, go up or down stairs, or rough play.


8. Anal Sac

If your dog is unable to express their anal glands themselves, they may arch their back in response to the uncomfortable feeling.
Other symptoms: 
  • Holding bottom closer to the ground
  • Scooting on their bottom
  • Licking or biting at their rear end
What to do to help:
  • Empty the sacs - Your vet can do this for you, or can teach you how to do so.
  • Extra fiber - Increasing your dog’s fiber intake can help them express their anal glads naturally when pooping.




What does a dog seizure look like?
Seizures can present themselves in a variety of ways. It will usually include twitching, muscle spasming, drooling, loss of consciousness, uncontrolled toileting. They can also be limited to just one body part, like focal seizures. 


What causes sudden neurological issues in a dog?
If it’s sudden, usually, it will be bought on by trauma, injury, or as a reaction to a medication. Neurological issues can also be hereditary or health-related. 


How can I strengthen my dog’s back legs?
  • Keep their weight in check
  • Massage
  • Appropriate exercise, this can include lifting their legs, slow walks, swimming
  • Health check-ups



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Disclaimer: Each dog is different, and every circumstance is different. All efforts have been made to provide accurate information. However, it is not provided by a qualified Veterinarian, Veterinarian Surgeon, or Behaviorist. The information provided is purely educational. The information should not be used as an alternative or substitute for medical care. If you have any health or medical concerns, contact a qualified Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinarian immediately.


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