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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 will 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 is often temporary, and can resolve with some rest and a good drink of fresh water, 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.

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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 is 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, and more often in older dogs than young. 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, but it is more likely to occur in small dogs. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease

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 rupture. 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 nauseous symptoms should be carefully watched, and you should withhold food and water to see if the symptoms subside. Symptoms 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 parvo will require immediate IV fluid treatment, followed by a special diet of easily digestible foods; if they survive the first 3-4 days, prognosis for recovery is good. Intestinal obstruction may require surgery to remove the blockage.

Unlike nausea, there is no easy case of gastric dilatation-volvulus; it is always serious. 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 parvo, always supervise your dog’s canine social visits. 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 is just $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 over $15,500, with an average of $250 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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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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12 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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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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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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0 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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Cocker Spaniel

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Seven Years

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3 found helpful

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Vomiting

He keeps stretching his body with tummy pushed down and doesn't want to walk.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. The behavior that you are describing is something that dogs will do when they have an upset stomach. If he is still having this problem, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Golden Retriever

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18 months

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3 found helpful

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Not Able To Walk

Dog was playing in the evening but now he is difficulty walking and is limping

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Large breed dogs can have knee and hip disorders, and that is certainly not normal for such a young dog, I agree. It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet and see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment might help.

Oct. 11, 2020

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Six Years

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Arched Back

Sudden pain with hunched lower back. Abdomen tense

Aug. 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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4 Recommendations

So sorry to hear about your dog. Your dog may have a back issue causing him to arch his back like this or even GI issues. If he is vomiting or having diarrhea I would think that he may have gastroenteritis or pancreatitis. Unfortunately there are no really good over the counter pain medications. You can try to make him rest for the rest of the day and see if he improves, it not, he will need to see your vet. They would be able to distinguish between back issues or GI issues and start him on medication to help him feel much better. Good Luck.

Aug. 16, 2020

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Abby

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chihuahua mix

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Arched Back
Lethargic
Stretching
Pain When Touched On Back
Posture Change

My dog has been arching her back for a couple of days. She also stretches out of the normal. When I touch her back and stomach, she immediately arches her back. She is lethargic and doesn’t play like she use to. She is eating normal and drinking water. No diarrhea or vomiting.

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Charlie

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Australian Cattle Dog

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16 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Got my red heeler as a puppy and she is now 1.5 yr old. as a puppy she would wake up in middle of night and move around trying to get comfortable, looking at her back end and eventually curls into a ball and yelps. I assumed she was just having growing pains and would try to rub her back or back legs to relieve it. It seems to last for about 2-3 minutes. then she seems to be fine. I have noted she does have a slight arch in her back just before her hips. Has been their even when she was puppy.

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Vincent

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Dachshund

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Arching Back

My Dachshund puppy is 6 months old and knowing the high probability of spinal issues in this breed I am always looking out for signs of a problem. I was petting his back and went along his spine down to the base of his tail. He arches his back suddenly and I stop because it seemed that it was uncomfortable. But I went to pet him again the same way and reacted as before. It’s worrying me because I don’t think something like that should trigger pain. Maybe it’s just a reflex? Thank you for your time!

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Kronk

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Newfoundland

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Contracting Muscles
Hunched Back

My dog Kronk is three years old and over the past couple of months he has started to hunch his back awkwardly, it is very arched and he sort of wiggles his body, i'm not sure if this is his muscles contracting or what but it sort of looks like he is humping the air. (he has never done this before) He does not appear to be in any pain and I have pressed on his back and abdomen to see if he is tender anywhere and he is not. The episodes occur for maybe one or two minutes before his back goes back to normal and he stops the "wiggling". He appears to be unfased when this happens but it seems like he can't control it and is stuck in this weird hunched position. He is still eating and drinking fine and plays like normal. Other then this he is in good health, he is a big dog weighing at around 140 pounds or so and I am concerned this could indicate something more serious for him. Thanks for the help in advance!

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kit

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Whoodle

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10 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Back Arching

my pup kit arches her back randomly sometimes, she can walk perfectly after and she seems fine. this happens like 1 time everyday, i dont know if its normal so i would love some help with this. these episodes lasts like 5 seconds, her back just arches weirdly. Also her tail is up all the time even when her back arches thank you! Lia

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