Why Does My Dog Arch His Back? 9 Causes and Solutions


Sometimes we treat our dogs too much like kids that we forget that they are a different species entirely, and that this species is kind of different in its own right.

So, every now and then your dog will do something kind of strange that you don’t fully strange, such as suddenly arching his back, making you wonder if he’s happy, sad, mad, or in pain.

I’ve also wondered the same thing when my dog first did it, and I did my research.

So, Why does my dog arch his back? Your dog could be arching his back because they are in pain and that’s their way to relieve that pain, the pain can originate in different parts of their body such as the spine, gut, and anal area, it might also indicate gastrointestinal distress or back pain.

This was the 30-second answer, but there are actually 6 more reasons that are also quite common. So, keep reading to learn more about them, how to identify each of them, and what you need to do in each case.

Why Does My Dog Arch His Back?

dog arching back on a red background to illustrate why does my dog arch his back

As explained in the short answer, the most common reason is that their back is hurting and this movement allows them to relieve some of the pain.

However, the reason could be something else. So, to be able to identify the real reason, let’s first take a look at the 9 most common reasons your dog does this cat-like movement;

9 Causes Why Your Dog Arch His Back 

  1. They are in pain 
  2. Abdominal issues 
  3. Stretching 
  4. Spinal conditions 
  5. Spondylosis derformans
  6. Scared 
  7. Heritage 
  8. Nausea 
  9. Anal sac disorders 

They are in pain 

If your dog arches his back several times throughout the day then they are probably in pain.

That’s their attempt to relieve the pain, you know how when we have a stomach ache, we arch our back while hugging our belly, well, it’s the same thing.

If you want to make sure that they do it because they are in pain and not a false alarm you can check these signs and notice one or a few of them, you need to take your dog to the vet.

The other signs:

  • Yelping 
  • Becoming depressed 
  • Showing signs of agitation 
  • Limping 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Growling 
  • Being quieter 
  • Eating less or stop eating in general
  • Crying out 
  • Becoming grumpy 
  • Hiding 
  • Shallow breathing 
  • Resenting normal handling 
  • Being less active 
  • Snapping at you 
  • Tucked abdomen 
  • Head and tail hanging low 
  • Rear quarters lowered 

Abdominal issues 

Most dogs arch their backs to give them relief from abdominal pain and that abdominal pain can come from many factors.

Here are the factors that can cause them abdominal pain:

  • Anal sac disorder 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Internal bleeding 
  • Enlarged organ 
  • Viral infections 
  • Bloating 
  • Intestinal intussusception 
  • Cystitis 
  • Ischemia (inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body)
  • Obstipation (severe constipation)
  • Peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal lining)
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction 
  • Cancer 
  • Gastritis 
  • Leptospirosis 
  • Parasite infection 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Distension of the gastrointestinal tract 
  • Intervertebral disc disease 
  • Prostatitis 
  • Gastrointestinal ulcer 

Stretching 

It could be your dog arching his back because they are stretching their muscles if your dog arches his back for a few seconds and it’s accompanied by leg stretches then they are probably just stretching and there’s nothing to worry about.

If they do it just after they wake up, then it’s probably that and you have nothing to worry about.

Spinal conditions 

Your dog could be arching his back because they have a spinal condition and that’s the worst of all because it means that your dog is in incredible pain and they find that arching their back lessens the pain.

If it’s a spinal condition, you will notice an abnormal curvature of their spin, it appears in their cervical or their neck area and their upper back.

The kyphosis:

There are two causes of kyphosis; if your dog is senior then the cause could be wear and tear or trauma.

If your dog is less than a year old, they could have inherited kyphosis.

Your dog might experience a herniated disc (also known as intervertebral disc disease or IVDD) in their lower back, and if their disc is inflamed, it puts pressure on their spinal nerves.

There are other types of trauma that can cause your dog to arch his back, it includes accidents that can affect their spine.

Symptoms to help you know if it’s a spinal condition.

  • Loss of movements to their rear legs
  • Hesitation to jump up or down.
  • Stiffness or tightness 
  • Bladder dysfunction 
  • Abnormally curved back 
  • Weight loss 
  • They may have a fever 
  • Depression 
  • Rare spread of infection on their spinal cord 

The average cost of treating spinal trauma is around $6000.

Spondylosis derformans 

Spondylosis deformans or arthritis of the spine can be the reason why your dog is arching, you can notice them in these areas.

  • Lumbosacral spine (end of their lower back and the beginning of their tail area)
  • Lumbar spine 
  • Thoracic vertebrae (in their upper back)

It’s common in seniors because it’s an age-related disease except in the greyhounds, they can have it when they are adults or seniors.

It’s because the seniors’ lower back is strained when they are racing.

Other symptoms of spondylosis deformans:

  • Limping 
  • Stiffness 
  • Back pain 
  • Loss of muscle mass over the affected areas.

If you noticed any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with their vet.

Scared 

One of the reasons why dogs arch their backs is they are scared and they may use it to let you know that something is scaring them and it’s not the first time that a dog uses their body language to tell their owner something.

If this is the reason why then you shouldn’t worry about their health and here are some other signs to let you know if they arch their back just because they are scared.

  • Pacing 
  • Salivation
  • Inability to settle 
  • Panting 
  • Attempting to hide 
  • Being too distracted for you 
  • Shaking 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • You can’t even get their attention

I’ve made a simple guide on how to deal with a scared dog here, it’s mainly intended for golden retrievers but the advice there is solid for any dog breed.

Heritage 

It could be a heritage thing, well, because of the excessive inbreeding, some dogs got a roach back, it’s more likely if the dog is a german shepherd or mixed with one.

It was kind of a fashion thing for german shepherds to have an arched back, it made them popular and mostly for dog shows, so if your dog is either german or had a german in their family line, it’s probably just a heritage thing.

Nausea 

Nausea is also one of the reasons that could make your dog arch, nausea is less complicated than spinal conditions, and spondylosis deformans.

Your dog could become nauseous from things as simple as motion sickness or eating something bad or even toxic.

Here are some signs to help you know if your dog is nauseous.

  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Red gums 
  • Gagging 
  • Excessive urination
  • Runny eyes 
  • General lethargy 
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Sneezing 
  • Swollen gums 
  • Flaky skin 
  • Looking unwell
  • Runny nose 
  • Progressive changes in their weight 
  • Difficulty urinating 
  • Coughing  

Anal sac disorders 

Anal sac disorders can happen because their anal sac is too full or infected, also, it could be that your dog can’t express the fluid in his anal glands correctly which will also lead to an impacted anal sac because if the fluid can’t be expressed.

All of that will create increasing tension and will cause your dog to arch his back or tilt his hindquarters to relieve the tension.

It’s more likely to happen in small dogs.

The average cost of treating anal sac disorders is around $500. You can learn how to express your dog’s anal glands here.

Why Does My Dog arch his back when I pet him? 

When your dog arches his back when you pet him, it can mean one of two things; one their back hurts and they are arching their back to relieve the pain, or two; they are showing you that they trust you and they are enjoying the experience and hope to get more of the back scratches.

Why Does My Dog Arch His Back when he wakes up? 

Most dogs often arch their back when they have been asleep for a long time to stretch or they might have a health issue such as spinal problems, pinched nerve, gastrointestinal distress, or too-full anal sac glands, also, they might be just scared.

Should you be worried about your dog arching his back? 

Yes, when dogs arch their back, it might indicate serious health issues such as spinal injury or a pinched nerve.

It might be also a sign of too full anal sac glands and that’s why they are aching their back.

However, it doesn’t always mean a serious health issue and it can be they are scared of something or just stretching after a long resting nap.

So if you are worried, you should consult their vet to make sure that everything is okay.

What to do about your dog arching his back? 

If the arching is accompanied by shaking then you should see a vet immediately.

Your dog might be suffering from something and they are in great pain and you should not wait so you might want to check the symptoms that I mentioned above.

If it’s an abdominal issue then maybe, you need to change their diet or just check with their vet to see what is the cause of the problem and they will fix it professionally.

You can send this article to whoever their dog arches their back and they are worried about them, maybe it will relieve them or alarm them to take them to the vet.

Related Questions 

Why Does My Yorkie Arch His Back? 

Your Yorkie is probably arching his back because they are suffering from a digestive or anal sac disorder and that’s their way to relieve the tension and the pain, also, they might be injured or suffering from intervertebral disc disease which can be very painful and can lead to paralysis and loss of sensation.

Why Does My Dog Arch His Back like a cat? 

Your dog is arching his back because they are attempting to relieve pain and it could be an indication of kidney problems, arthritis, stomach conditions, or bladder issues or they have been asleep for a long time, it’s more likely the reason if they arch their back and then stretch it then you don’t have to worry.

Helpful Resources 

13 Warning Signs Your Dog is in Pain

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