Walking with an Arched Back

Dogs and cats are much more flexible than humans and can bend their backs in some surprising ways. When they are walking, however, their spines are nearly flat -- unless they are in pain. Then the back may arch upward like a camel's.

Dogs and cats with belly pain will instinctively pull up on the abdominal muscles to relieve it. Since the belly is attached to the back, raising one naturally raises the other, says Thomas Schmidt, D.V.M. a veterinarian in private practice in Fort Washington, Maryland.

Most bellyaches, especially in dogs, are caused by eating the wrong things, like yesterday's garbage or even stones from the yard, and the discomfort will go away fairly quickly. But belly pain and back arching can also be caused by painful internal problems like pancreatitis, peritonitis, or bloat, says Dr. Schmidt. Kidney or prostate gland infections, which may cause bloody urine as well as back arching, can also be responsible. If your pet is arching his back and is vomiting or has a fever, you need to call your vet immediately, he advises.

Arthritis of the spine or a ruptured spinal disk will often cause a pet to arch his back, adds Dr. Schmidt. Minor muscle strains and sprains can cause it, too.

See Your Vet If...

  • Your pet is vomiting or has a fever
  • There is blood in his urine
  • He has recently taken a hard fall
  • Your pet has been hit by a car or has taken a bad fall, even if she seems fine afterward
  • She is acting confused and disoriented
  • The joints are swollen or tender
  • Her sleep patterns have suddenly changed
  • She is fainting or having seizures
  • Your pet has gotten wobbly or clumsy
  • She is stiff or sore for no apparent reason
  • Her abdomen is bloated or feels tight
  • Your pet is pregnant and overdue or has passed a dead kitten or puppy
  • Her feet are cold or swollen
  • Her skin, gums, or mucous membranes are turning yellow
  • Your pet is reluctant to move or can't stand up
  • She is shivering or shaking even when it isn't cold

Next Steps:

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