Arched Back in Dogs – 7 Causes and Solutions

Sick pet

If you have recently noticed that your dog has started arching its back, you might wonder why this behavior has started. 

As it turns out, there are some natural reasons why dogs arch their backs and some abnormal reasons for this behavior. Some dogs arch their back as a way of stretching, but it can also be a sign of an injury or ongoing back pain.

This is why it is so important to get to the root cause of your dog’s arched back. To help you figure out what is going on, we will explain the top 7 causes of arched backs in dogs. We will also suggest solutions you can follow to help your dog if their arched back has an abnormal cause.

Table of Contents

The Top 7 Reasons Why Dogs Arch Their Backs

As you will see, some causes are completely normal and require very little action, while others can be a sign of a serious issue. How you should take action will depend on the specific underlying cause of your dog’s back arching.

Remember, whenever your dog displays any abnormal behavior, it is never a bad idea to make an appointment with a veterinarian. Not only can they quickly get to the bottom of the issue, but they can also prescribe medication or a treatment plan if the issue is serious.

That said, the following are the most common reasons why dogs arch their backs:

1. The Dog Is Experiencing Nausea

Sick-Ill-Sleeping-Dog

Just like a human, a dog can experience an upset stomach. A dog can become nauseous for a wide range of reasons. Some dogs get motion sickness, so a simple car ride can upset their stomach. Others have sensitive stomachs and get nauseous whenever they eat anything new.

As you may have guessed, many dogs arch their backs whenever their stomach feels upset. This is an involuntary response to stomach bloat and pain. The stomach is pulled inwards, which causes the dog’s back to arch upwards while they are standing.

Along with an arched back, you may notice other signs of nausea. These could include diarrhea, whimpering, a refusal to eat, lethargy, and vomiting. 

What to Do About it

If you suspect your dog is arching its back as a response to nausea, it is important to figure out why they feel this way.

While it can be obvious if your dog got into the garbage or is on medication that lists nausea as a side effect, it can be troubling if you cannot think of a cause. If you are unsure what is making your dog feel nauseous, play it safe and visit a veterinarian. 

A veterinary appointment is very important if nausea lasts more than 24 hours. What may seem like a simple upset stomach could be a life-threatening issue, like a twisted stomach.

If your dog’s symptoms seem mild, keep an eye on them. Also make sure that they drink water, especially if they are vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. Again, if they have not recovered in 24 hours, or the issue comes back, see a veterinarian!

2. The Dog Is Experiencing Constipation

Dog-at-home

You have probably noticed that your dog arches its back while it is pooping. This is a natural posture that helps them eliminate waste.

If your dog is not producing a bowel movement but seems to be arching its back in that familiar posture, it could be suffering from constipation. There are many causes of constipation in canines, so you will have to narrow it down if it keeps happening to your dog.

What to Do About it

Recurring constipation and straining during defecation could signal that your dog’s diet is too low in fiber. Make sure your dog is consuming high-quality dog food appropriate for both their breed and life stage. Also, make sure it contains a high volume of dietary fiber.

Constipation can also be caused by mild to severe dehydration. So, it is important to make sure your dog is drinking enough water. A lack of exercise can also block a dog up, which is just one of the reasons why regular activity is important.

For temporary relief, there are canine stool softeners, as well as pumpkin fiber supplements that can help your dog. Speak with your veterinarian if the constipation issue is ongoing.

For more information, we recommend the American Kennel Club’s thorough guide – Dog Constipation: Causes, Diagnosis, & Treatment.

3. The Dog Is Suffering from an Anal Sac Disorder

Dog-at-the-Vet

Anal sac disorders can occur for a variety of reasons. The anal sacs can become inflamed due to impaction, infection, or even an abscess of one or more anal sacs.

If you are unfamiliar with their purpose, the anal sacs are on either side of a dog’s anus, and they perform some important roles. 

When the dog defecates, fluid produced within the anal sacs can help the stool pass. This same liquid also has a strong scent, which dogs use to mark their territory.

Unfortunately, the anal sacs can become blocked. This causes the buildup of fluid, which can be uncomfortable for the dog. More severe and long-lasting blockages can become incredibly painful.

The pain and tension will often cause the dog to arch its back. This posture can take some of the pressure off of the anal sacs. By tilting the hind quarters downwards and the back upwards, the dog may experience temporary relief.

What to Do About it

If blockages and impactions continue, the dog can develop an anal sac disorder. Abscesses can form, and serious infections can occur.

Treatment involves expressing or forcefully emptying the anal sacs. In more severe cases, the anal sacs also need to be flushed out, which can require a sedative.

While you can express the anal glands yourself, most people will seek the help of a veterinarian or a veterinary technician. A veterinarian may also prescribe antibiotics if they notice that the anal sacs are infected and swollen.

To prevent the issue from recurring, make sure that your dog remains at a healthy body weight. Anal sac issues are far more common in overweight and obese dogs than in those that are at a healthy body weight.

For more information about anal sac issues in dogs, check out FETCH by WebMD’s informative guide to Anal Sac Disease in Dogs.

4. The Dog Could Be Suffering from Spondylosis Deformans (Arthritis of the Spine)

Dog-Receiving-Chiropractic-Spine-Treatment

If your dog has an arched back while sitting and standing, it could be a sign of spondylosis deformans. This term refers to a form of arthritis that impacts the spine.

This occurs when the disc space that separates the vertebrae becomes damaged and worn. Unfortunately, it can appear throughout various parts of the back. 

Dogs can suffer from spondylosis deformans along the lumbar spine (lower back), thoracic vertebrae (upper back), and lumbosacral spine (end of the spine near the tail).

This condition tends to be more common in active dogs as they reach their senior years. It is common in greyhounds and other breeds known for their speed and high energy levels.

What to Do About it

To start, your first action should be to take your dog to a veterinarian. A veterinarian can examine the dog using radiographs and diagnose your dog’s exact condition.

Once your dog has been diagnosed with a specific type of spondylosis deformans, it can be put on a treatment plan. This could include prescription medication for pain management, joint supplements, and dietary changes.

A vet may also recommend physical rehabilitation exercises to help relieve tension in the dog’s back. In extreme cases, it may need surgery. 

This condition can cause significant pain and discomfort, so it must be treated as a serious issue. As the dog ages, it may begin to reduce its mobility and coordination. This can lead to muscle loss and further joint deterioration.

5. The Dog Could Have Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat

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Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, or GDV, is a rapidly progressive condition that can be life-threatening in dogs. After the stomach has become over-filled and inflated, it can get to a point where the dog’s digestive system cannot function correctly.

As the stomach continues to expand, pressure increases. The increased size of the bloated stomach can cause significant and growing discomfort for the dog. 

Most dogs that are experiencing bloat or full-blown GDV will arch their backs. The arching offers some relief from the pain and discomfort. You may also notice the dog drools and seems anxious. 

As the issue becomes more severe, it can cut off the blood supply to vital organs, put serious pressure on the diaphragm and lungs, and eventually cause a rupture of the stomach wall. When the stomach has ballooned enough, it can rotate, which is the Volvulus stage of GDV.

If this occurs, it can be extremely dangerous and surgery is almost always required.

What to Do About it

The most important thing to do is stabilize the dog. In other words, visit a veterinarian immediately!

The veterinarian will put the dog on an IV drip and oxygen supply. From there, they will try to reduce pressure in the stomach by releasing trapped air and fluid with a stomach tube. In severe cases, a catheter might need to be placed into the stomach.

If the stomach has rotated, surgery is required. Once the stomach returns to its original position, it can be permanently fixed to the abdominal wall using a technique called gastropexy. This will prevent the issue from occurring in the future.

Carefully portioning your dog’s food into smaller meals can help decrease the chances that the issue will occur again. A diet that is lower in fat can also help. Many veterinarians recommend avoiding walks immediately after the dog has eaten a meal.

For more information, consider reading the American Kennel Club’s thorough guide – Bloat (or GDV) in Dogs – What It Is and how it’s Treated.

6. The Dog Is Experiencing General Pain and Discomfort

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For many dogs, arching their back is a natural reaction to all types of pain. Rather than being attributed to a certain condition, they will arch their back whenever they are experiencing pain and discomfort.

It could be a cut on a paw pad or an irritating ear infection. No matter where the pain is located, the dog will arch its back while they stand. 

Think of how some people will ball their fists or clench their jaw when they are in pain. For dogs, the arched back can be a similar response.

An arched back as a pain response is particularly common if the dog is experiencing pain in the stomach, neck, legs, or back. It is also more common in larger breeds with longer backs and deeper stomachs.

What to Do About it

The first thing you will want to do if you suspect your dog is in pain is to find the source. Watch out for other signs of pain, like limping, a lowered head and tail, and whining.

You can perform a quick inspection of your dog’s body. Gently feel for lumps, cuts, and other signs of physical injury.

You should also inspect the mouth. Oral pain can be common in dogs, as they tend to chew and bite objects that can shatter and become lodged in their gums or crack their teeth.

If you cannot locate any source of pain, take your dog to visit a veterinarian. They will be able to perform a more thorough inspection. It is also possible that your dog is experiencing an internal injury or illness. These would be difficult to detect without the proper know-how.

7. The Dog Is Just Stiff and Needs to Stretch

Sleepy-dog-french-bulldog-stretching

Not all causes of an arched back are serious. In many cases, a dog will arch its back simply as a way to stretch the spinal column. 

If you notice that your dog has an arched back right after they wake up from a nap or just stands up after lying down, it probably isn’t anything to worry about. You may also notice that the dog yawns and shakes its legs and tail as it arches its back.

If the dog seems like they are stretching constantly, it could be a sign of some sort of spinal alignment issue. Certain breeds, like French bulldogs and dachshunds, are more susceptible to back problems, so owners of these breeds will have to keep a more vigilant eye on these behaviors.

What to Do About it

If your dog is simply stretching and arching its back after sleeping and napping, it is nothing to be worried about. Allowing your dog to stretch can be a good thing, as it can reduce the chances that they will pick up a muscle injury.

If you notice that the back arching is becoming increasingly frequent, you may want to look out for other signs of a back injury. These could include a lowered tail, reduced mobility, a slower walking pace, and difficulty standing and sitting.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s back health, book an appointment with a veterinarian immediately. They will inspect the back and look for signs of injury.