If you lived with your dog long enough you’ve probably seen them stretching on multiple occasions and didn’t think much of it. However, a dog’s excessive stretching could be their way of telling you that something is wrong.
A dog that’s constantly stretching may not feel very well. It could be stress, gastrointestinal conditions, or another issue. Usually, stretching isn’t the only symptom in these cases and if you can tell that your dog is not alright, you should bring them to the vet.
What should you do if your dog is stretching a lot?
If your dog keeps stretching a lot for no reason, you should investigate, although often it’s just the sign of an upset stomach and it’s their attempt at stimulating digestion or getting rid of excessive air in the intestines.
Start by asking yourself these two questions:
– When your dog started stretching so much: there could have been some change in their daily routine, maybe less exercise, a new diet, a new house, anything that is out of the ordinary or new to them;
– When your dog stretches more: is it a recurring behavior in a particular situation? Maybe after eating a certain food or after doing a certain activity? Are they just stretching for a long time after waking up?
Check their abdomen to see if it’s bloated or if your dog feels pain when you touch it. In that case, you should immediately call your veterinarian because some GI tract conditions can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.
A dog stretching a lot after sleeping or being still for a long time, or even the so-called “dog greeting stretch” where your pet shows how comfortable they are with you, is normal behavior for your pet and not a cause of concern.
As dogs get older, they might need the extra-stretching because their joints and bones are not as good as they used to be. If you have an old pup, in the absence of other symptoms you can probably rule out the possibility of any concerning the disease.
Usually, when you’re in the presence of an underlying condition, your dog will not only stretch a lot but also show other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, or excessive salivation.
However, no one knows your dog better than you. Even if they’re not showing symptoms except an excessive stretching habit if you feel like your dog may be sick, then consulting your veterinarian is always the best choice.
Some health conditions, and especially gastrointestinal conditions, can have very subtle symptoms that are easily confused with many other things, so it’s always better to play on the safe side.
Why does your dog stretch so much?
Dogs can stretch for many reasons, which are usually similar to those that push humans to stretch.
Some dog breeds like the Greyhound are more prone to this behavior because they have long limbs and often suffer from joint issues.
Some reasons why your dog is stretching a lot even though they’re not sick include:
- They just woke up
- They’ve been still or sitting for a long time
- They are bored
- They don’t get enough exercise
- They’re trying to communicate with another dog (in this case, they only stretch around the other pet)
- They’re trying to communicate with you
- They’re calling for a mate
- They’re getting old
Some dogs may also be sprawling out and seemingly stretching because they’re splooting. Splooting is a habit that some dogs have to lie down on their belly and stretch. It’s very common in lithe breeds, but all dogs may get into splooting.
Especially during the warm seasons, some dogs like to dig holes and lay above them so as to get fresh air on their bellies.
Although gastrointestinal conditions are the most common among dogs that suddenly start stretching a lot, depending on the position they take there might also be other reasons behind the behavior.
Dog keeps stretching front legs
If your dog is stretching and bowing, they probably just want to play. This is a very common position that dogs use to communicate with other pets and with their owners that it’s playtime.
All dogs assume the same position: they stretch their front legs and lean on their elbows, pushing their chest down while their rear remains up in the air. It is usually accompanied by a wagging tail and an excited expression or even barking.
Dogs use this position to reassure the other party that they just want to play and they’re not going to engage in any aggressive behavior. This is especially important to them when dealing with other dogs because sometimes dog playtime can get rough.
You can also assume this position if you want to communicate with your dog in a playful way. They will be very happy to see you do it because you’re basically speaking their language!
In some cases, dogs also assume this position because of stomach discomfort or they’re trying to get more air into their lungs.
If that’s the case, the excessive stretching is accompanied by other symptoms:
- Abdominal swelling
- Lack of appetite
- Labored breathing
Your dog could be experiencing gastrointestinal blockage, stomach ulcers, or even peritonitis, so it will be fundamental to have them examined as soon as possible.
Dog keeps stretching back legs
It may be weird to see your dog stretch their back legs or even dragging themselves across the floor with their back legs seemingly lifeless beside them, however, be reassured that this is usually normal behavior and your pet only wants more flexibility.
If you want to check that your dog is indeed fine, you can gently apply pressure on their hips, legs, ankles, and paws to see how they react. If they show signs of pain or discomfort, do not touch them again and call your veterinarian.
In the case your dog keeps stretching his back legs and vomiting, this is a clear sign of abdominal discomfort and probably gastrointestinal issues, especially if your dog refuses to eat or drink or is unable to keep food and water down.
Sometimes dogs with gastrointestinal blockage or peritonitis will still eat and drink for the first few hours, and may even have a normal bowel movement for a day or two because they’re expelling what was already in their intestines from before.
Pet parents usually mistake normal bowel movements as a sign that their dog cannot have GI tract issues, but this is not always true and a delay in the diagnosis and treatment can sometimes be the difference between life and death for the dog, so do not underestimate any symptom.
Dog keeps stretching neck and looking up
Some dogs stretch their necks or look around frantically, seemingly sniffing the air at odd times and it’s important to understand when this sniffing behavior is normal and when there is something wrong.
Dogs that stretch their neck and sniff excessively may do so for different reasons, such as:
– Stress/avoidance: stretching and sniffing are indicators that your dog is not feeling comfortable. It may be because of a certain situation, a place, or even a person. By sniffing around and away, they’re trying to distract themselves from what’s happening around them. They may also start yawning, licking their lips, shaking, refusing to eat, or have sweaty paws. You should remove your dog from the stressful situation as soon as possible;
– Investigation/nervousness: when there is something or someone new, your dog may be feeling nervous and they will try to sniff out the new thing/person. They may also have smelled a strange scent that could provoke a stress-induced reaction. Dogs use their nose to investigate, but that doesn’t always make them nervous or stressed. It’s important to understand the difference in their behavior, which can be unique for every dog.
If your dog is stretching their neck and looking up, but they’re not sniffing, things may be related to their health issues. In fact, dogs who excessively stretch their neck may do so because they need to catch more air or extend their lungs.
This behavior may be related to several underlying conditions, including:
– Congestive heart failure: this disease prevents the heart from pumping the blood correctly through the rest of the body, which will eventually affect all the other organs. A dog that suffers from this condition will struggle for air and therefore stretch their neck. Other symptoms include pale gums, weakness, lethargy, weight loss, and changes in the blood pressure. Bring your dog to the vet as soon as you can;
– Pneumonia: it’s more common in old dogs, but also puppies and young dogs with compromised immune systems can suffer from severe pneumonia. The dog will most likely have a runny nose with green mucus, fever, labored breathing and will sit with their back legs out and their head looking up in order to extend their chest;
– Pleural effusion: This condition is commonly known as water in the lungs because fluids accumulate inside the chest. The dog can sit or stand, but they will keep their mouth open because they’re struggling to breathe. Their mucous membrane will turn blue because of the lack of oxygen. This is a medical emergency, so bring your dog to the vet right away.
Is stretching normal for a dog?
Stretching is normal behavior for a dog, they need to stretch their limbs just like we do, even though some breeds may show this behavior more often because of their long limbs.
If your dog is simply stretching after waking up, after playing, or after being still for too long, there is nothing to worry about. Even if your dog stretches at random times for no apparent reason, it shouldn’t be a problem unless they look in pain.
While stretching alone isn’t worrying, the presence of other symptoms is worth a trip to the vet for a proper diagnosis.
In fact, some dogs may be stretching because they’re suffering from various conditions or diseases that may compromise their normal bodily functions, like digesting or breathing.
In this case, you will notice that your dog is feeling weak, lethargic, not interested in their food, running a fever, or having pale/blue colored gums. They may also have a swelling abdomen that is painful to the touch.
Dogs that show this kind of symptoms should be examined right away to prevent life-threatening conditions and start the proper treatment as soon as possible.