8 Reasons Why Is My Dog Arching Its Back? (Explained)

Dog Arching Back. Photo of a dog arching its back

If you’ve noticed your dog arching its back suddenly. In that case, you might be wondering if this often cat-like behavior is normal. In short, it could be normal or abnormal. Find out what you need to know below.

There are both normal and abnormal reasons for your dog to be arching its back. Normal reasons include stretching, excitement, happiness, and using the bathroom. Abnormal reasons could include stomach upset, spinal pain or damage, and anal sac disorders.

Understanding the difference between normal and abnormal arching will help keep your dog in the best shape possible and feeling great, not to mention pain-free.

8 Reasons for dogs arching their backs

The first thing to do is take a detailed look at why your dog is arching their back. Most reasons will look different, and it can help you know right away whether you need to worry or not. These include, as introduced:

  1. Stretching
  2. Excitement
  3. Happiness
  4. Using the bathroom
  5. Stomach upset
  6. Spinal pain
  7. Spinal damage
  8. Anal sac disorders

Unlimited claims, No credit checks, No upper age limit & Multiple pet discounts

Compare the best rates on pet insurance

1. Stretching

When waking up from a nap or just from lying down on their bed, dogs will need to stretch just like us, humans! This often includes arching their back and shaking out their legs and tails.

Quite often, there will be a yawn there, too. If your dog does this consistently after getting up. In that case, this is perfectly normal and yet another endearing trait to love about them!

2. Excitement

Another perfectly normal reason for a dog to arch their back is excitement! This could be excitement related to a W-A-L-K or for anything else that has gotten their attention. For male dogs, it could also be excitement relating to arousal.

Even after neutering, they are still capable of getting aroused, and arching their back is a normal reaction of this, as well as other more obvious ones…

While often embarrassing to us pet parents when we are out and about at the dog park, it’s a perfectly natural behavior!

3. Happiness

A happy dog getting lots of excellent scratches and pets and treats from their favorite human will arch their back and wiggle toward you. If they are looking at you with slitted eyes and trying to get as close to you as possible, an arched back is their way of saying “more, more!”. It’s adorable and nothing to be concerned about.

4. Using the bathroom

When dogs are pooping, they will arch their backs to make the experience more comfortable. Humans do this too, though the toilet often disguises the motion since we’re sitting! Perhaps that’s a little “TMI,” but there it is.

If you notice them arching their back when pooping. In that case, this is perfectly normal and absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Even if they do it multiple times in a “poop dance” routine that many pet parents are familiar with.

5. Stomach upset

An arched back can be a sign of an upset stomach. It could be anything from mild indigestion from eating something they shouldn’t have eaten or severe stomach bloat. You can pair this kind of arching with other pain markers (more on that later) and restlessness. 

If your dog is arching their back for no reason that you can figure out, it’s a sure sign that it would be an abnormal reason.

Mild indigestion should pass on its own, along with some diarrhea, after 24 hours. Remember that a vet should assess anything that lasts longer than that.

If your dog’s symptoms are severe enough in showing pain, along with an arched back, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet, even if you aren’t sure what the cause is.

When it comes to an upset stomach, it’s better to be safe than sorry — time is of the essence when it comes to bloat and a twisted stomach. This can be fatal very quickly in dogs.

6. Spinal pain

Another reason for an arched back is spinal pain. Whether it’s an injury such as a slipped disc or something like joint pain as they get older, proper diagnosis of the problem is necessary. For example, a slipped disc is treated differently from spondylosis deformans (arthritis).

Repairing an injury is about understanding what is causing it, whether it’s a short-term condition or a lifelong one, and understanding just how much pain your dog is in.

Dogs arch their back when they have pain because arching relieves the spine’s pressure and tension. The more they are in pain, the more they will do this to help relieve it.

It’s important to note that spinal pain only shows an underlying cause, not what the underlying cause and its treatment should be. An injury will require different treatment than a damaged spine or diagnosis of a spinal disorder. 

7. Spinal damage

There are quite a few kinds of spinal damage. The most likely two are Kyphosis and Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

Kyphosis is often diagnosed within the first few years of life. Still, it can happen at any point in your dog’s life, including senior years! This is a condition where the spin is not straight, as it should be. The curve causes your dog’s back to arch since the spine is not behaving as it should.

Typically, surgery is required for this since it can lead to paralysis as the curve continues and progresses. This will also enhance your dog’s quality of life, as Kyphosis is very painful and continues to worsen as the condition goes unchecked.

Certain dog breeds are more prone to this, so those breeds impacted will often get more specialized checkups at your vet to watch for early signs of it. Your vet can also tell you more specific symptoms to watch for at home, too.

IVDD is the most common complication in spinal health for dogs. It is widespread in larger dogs and older dogs of all sizes. The term can be applied to various conditions/causes that all lead to the same diagnosis.

In essence: your dog has a herniated disc that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later to help relieve their pain! This is just as painful in dogs as it is in humans.

8. Anal sac disorders

Sometimes, a dog’s anal sac will become blocked. Their glands will swell to the point where your dog is highly uncomfortable. It’s often caused by eating something they shouldn’t or having an exciting injury to the area. 

You can easily fix this with a trip to the vet. They’ll be able to express the glands and relieve the tension and pain that builds up, much to your dog’s relief. This can happen from time to time, even in the healthiest dog! Your vet can give you specific symptoms to watch for and some tips on preventing it from happening again.

Photo of a dog arching its back in the street.

How do I know if my dog hurt its back?

It can be kind of unsettling to think that an arched back could mean so many scary things — how are you supposed to know what to look for?

Think of it this way: if your dog is simply arching their back and is otherwise fine, they are most likely fine. If they are showing pain markers and an arched back is one of the many things that seem “off” about your dog, it’s time for a trip to the vet.

As a loving pet parent, you are the most experienced person to tell when your dog’s behavior is off and when it isn’t. Trust your gut! When in doubt, call your vet and ask.

Is it normal for my dog to arch his back like a cat?

While it isn’t often seen as much in dogs as in cats, it’s typical for dogs to arch their backs for usual reasons like a cat would. As mentioned, stretching and emotional displays are common. 

The reason why it’s alarming for many pet parents is that cats are very obvious in the arching of their back, whereas dogs aren’t. In dogs, the arching tends to be more with them putting their head down in a literal downward dog. Their tails and paws will shake, too. Cats tend to simply arch their back up high.

In emotional displays, dogs will noticeably raise their fur on their backs. They will arch their backs too, but it isn’t as evident as cats when they pouf out. 

What causes a hunched back in dogs?

If you notice that your dog has a hunched back, it’s most likely the spinal condition that we talked about, Kyphosis. It can be genetics, or it can be “random” in setting in in your dog. You can often treat this with surgery and other corrective measures to help straighten your dog’s spine.

FAQ for a dog’s arched back

It could signify something abnormal when you notice seemingly new back arching with other symptoms. Some of the most common combinations and questions around them are below to help you get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Why is my dog arching its back and walking off balance?

If you notice the arching paired with walking off-balance, especially if it’s a new behavior, this could mean that your dog has had a Grand Mal seizure or that he is dealing with a spinal condition such as IVDD.

Sudden issues with walking off-balance typically mean the seizure, whereas a gradually unsteady gait typically means IVDD. Both require a vet visit as soon as you notice them.

Why is my dog arching its back and whining?

Whining is a pain marker, which you most likely know. They will whine to get our attention and to communicate the need for help. If your dog is arching its back and whining while looking at you, they are likely telling you that they are in pain. It could be from a stomach upset or something more chronic, such as a spinal issue. 

Why is my dog with a hunched back and tail between legs?

Like the whining, an arched back with a tail tucked between its legs means that your dog is in pain or uncomfortable, at the very least. It’s a sign that something is going on that should be checked out.

Why is my dog arching its back and limping?

If you notice your dog arching its back and limping, this often shows a spinal issue of some sort. Many consider it to be IVDD since this can impact their ability to walk correctly. This is the most common spinal issue in dogs, as well.

Why is my dog arching its back and panting?

This is another pain indicator. It doesn’t mean that it’s only a spine issue, but rather a pain issue. An arched back with panting could be a stomach issue, a spine issue, or even an issue with their anal sack. Panting, especially if they’re panting a lot, is showing pain.

Why is my dog arching its back and not eating?

This is another pain marker. Any time that a don’t won’t eat or drink, even a little bit, this is a symptom of severe pain. If your dog is to the point where they’ve stopped eating, a vet visit is essential as soon as possible to help relieve your dog’s distress.

In rare circumstances, the lack of appetite with an arched back could be a sign of stomach bloat. This, while sounding like no big deal, is a medical emergency in dogs. When in doubt, bring them in.

In brief

A dog can arch their back for usual reasons, such as stretching, showing happiness, and using the bathroom. They can also arch their back as a symptom of an underlying stomach issue, spinal issue, or a blockage in their anal glands.

Understanding what’s going on in your dog’s arching behavior is essential to help keep them pain-free and as healthy as possible. Make sure you know what to look for!

Being a responsible pet parent is about understanding signs of a stomach or spinal issue in your dog. It turns out that an arched back is something to keep an eye on to make sure that your dog’s health and safety are firmly in check.

Know someone worried about this very thing? Share this with them!

Unlimited claims, No credit checks, No upper age limit & Multiple pet discounts

Compare the best rates on pet insurance

Photo of author
Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.