Arching His Back in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog arching his back?

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog arching his back?

What is Arching His Back?

When you think of your dog arching his back as cause for concern, it should not be the leisurely stretch, repeated several times throughout a normal day, that is seen as problematic. A pathologically arched back, which can also be thought of as a tucked abdomen, is a semi-permanent posture that a dog adopts in an attempt to relieve pain of some kind. Along with an arched, humped back and tightly tucked abdomen, your dog’s rear quarters may be lowered, with head and tail hanging downward. 

  • Nausea 
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloat)
  • Anal sac disorders
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Spinal trauma

While the conditions occur in different parts of the body, they all have the same result: some kind of pain in the dog’s midsection, resulting in him arching his back in an attempt to relieve the pain. While nausea might be temporary, it can also indicate a more serious underlying condition, necessitating a veterinary assessment and possible treatment. Each of the other conditions are potentially life-threatening, depending on degree of development, and require immediate veterinary assessment and treatment.

Why Arching His Back Occurs in Dogs

A dog arches his back because he is in pain, and is attempting to relieve that pain. The pain can originate in various parts of the dog’s body, including the gut, anal area, and spine. 

Nausea

Nausea tends to be much less complicated and dangerous than gastric dilatation-volvulus, also known as bloat. A dog can become nauseous from things as simple as motion sickness, eating something that obstructs its intestines, or eating something toxic to its system, or the cause may be as involved and serious as gastroenteritis or parvovirus. Dogs of any breed, age, or gender can develop nausea. 

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Gastric dilation-volvulus, on the other hand, is a condition in which the stomach rotates from its normal position. It is mainly seen in large breed dogs with deep chests. In each condition, the dog’s stomach area hurts, so the dog may arch his back and tuck in his abdomen to alleviate the pain. 

Anal Sac Disorders

Anal sac disorders can occur as impaction, infection, or abscess of the anal sac. Your dog needs to be able to express fluid from his anal glands. If the fluid cannot be released, the impacted fluid inside the anal glands creates increasing tension, causing the dog to tilt his hind quarters down to relieve the tension. When the dog’s hind quarters are tilted down, his back may be arched. Any dog can develop an anal sac disorder.

Intervertebral disc disease and other spinal trauma can cause your dog potentially unbearable spinal pain. As in digestive and anal sac disorders, the dog arches his back to try to relieve the tension and pain produced by the disorder or injury. Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) occurs when discs between the dog’s spinal vertebrae put pressure on the spinal cord. This can be very painful, possibly even leading to loss of sensation and paralysis. 

Spinal Trauma

Spinal trauma can also come from external causes, such as bites, car accidents, and other injuries. While any dog can be injured by an external source, intervertebral disc disease is more likely to occur in breeds which carry genetic dwarfism, such as Dachshunds, Pekingese, Beagles, and Lhasa Apsos.

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What to do if your Dog is Arching His Back

A proper therapeutic response to your dog arching his back will depend on the cause. Your dog’s nausea signs should be carefully watched, and you should withhold food and water to see if the signs subside. Signs may resolve within 2-3 hours, but if not your dog should receive a veterinary assessment. The veterinarian may conduct blood tests to discern the exact cause. Parasites can often be resolved with a short course of oral medication. Dogs suffering from parvovirus will require immediate IV fluid treatment, followed by a special diet of easily digestible foods.  Intestinal obstruction may require surgery to remove the blockage.

Unlike nausea, there is no easy case of gastric dilatation-volvulus; it is always an emergency. Your dog will be initially stabilized with administration of oxygen and IV fluids, then the stomach will be decompressed by releasing fluid and air via a tube, catheter, or needle. Surgery will then be performed, followed by restricted exercise, dietary management, and long-term monitoring. 

Anal sac disorders require the built-up fluid to be released from your dog’s anal sacs. Your veterinarian may express the anal glands, flush out infected glands, or lance abscessed glands, followed by a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. 

Spinal disorders will be treated depending on the severity of the situation. Mild cases of intervertebral disc disease can sometimes be managed with anti-inflammatory or corticosteroid drugs, but more severe cases will require surgery.

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Prevention of Arching His Back

Prevention of nausea is a practice you should adopt for the normal everyday care of your healthy dog. Keep toxic substances away from him. Keep a close watch of his environment, including making sure his yard is free of anything dangerous. If any potentially dangerous elements, such as bees and wasps, can not be removed from the yard, then you should always supervise your dog when he is in the yard. Make sure his toys are safe and unbreakable, without any easily ingestible parts. Because other dogs may carry dangerous viruses, such as parvovirus, always supervise your dog’s canine social visits and make sure that your dog is up to date on preventive care. Because gastric dilatation-volvulus, or bloat, is often related to age or genetics, it is not always preventable, but you can reduce the chances of it developing by keeping your dog calm and unstressed, and separating his meals into feedings of at least twice a day. 

You may be able to learn to express your dog’s anal glands at home; discuss this with your veterinarian. Regularly check your dog’s anal sacs to make sure they are not becoming impacted with excess retained fluid. And while some forms of spinal trauma are genetically-based, such as intervertebral disc disease, generally keeping your dog out of harm’s way will prevent trauma from car accidents, gunshot wounds, and bites.

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Cost of Arching His Back

While the average cost of treating anal sac disorders can be between $75 and $500, the average treatment cost of gastric dilatation-volvulus and spinal trauma are much higher, at $6000. The total cost of the various procedures involved in treating intervertebral disc disease can be between $500 and $15,500, with an average of $100 per month afterwards for medication.

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Arching His Back Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Schnoodle

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Seven Years

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18 found helpful

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18 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Abdomen Pain

This morning my small dog has a hunched back and is walking slowly with his head, tail and butt are down and his back hunched.

Oct. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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18 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Sometimes abdominal pain and back pain are difficult to tell from each other, as both cause hunching and tense abdomens. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they will be able to see what is going on with him and get him the right treatment. I hope that he is okay.

Oct. 6, 2020

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Boxer

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Eighteen Months

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8 found helpful

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8 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Not Eating, Not Drinking, Arched Back Has Become Extremely Clingy

Hello my dog is a female boxer 18 months old she hasn’t eaten anything in 24 hours, I have managed to get her to take some fluids and she appears to be walking around with a arched back she isn’t crying at all but she’s been wanting a lot more cuddles than normal which is perfectly fine by me but I’m concerned that’s she maybe trying to tell me something is wrong she has passed urine and had a BM today not as many BM as normal as she hasn’t eaten in 24 hours, I will be calling my vet in the morning to try and get her seen to or is this something that I would need to do now?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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8 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I do not think that there would be anything that I would do at home, other than not feed her until you can see your veterinarian. She may have an intestinal infection or back pain, and your veterinarian will be able to help figure out what's going on and get trailer for her. I hope that she is okay and feels better soon.

Oct. 3, 2020

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