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Dogs are funny creatures that have a few quirks of their own, though they also have a lot of similarities with us. One of these similarities is that both humans and dogs see the value of a nice, relaxing stretch, although dogs seem to stretch a little more frequently than even we do.
In today’s guide, we’re going to take a look at why dogs stretch and whether excessive stretching is a sign of poor health in your pet. We’re also going to discuss a few stretching methods that you can use with your dog to ensure that they stay spry and healthy, even when they start getting older.
Why Do Dogs Stretch?
There are many reasons why a dog may stretch, and they range from the same reasons why you or I may stretch to cases where excessive stretching may be cause for concern. In most cases, you have nothing to worry about if your dog stretches a little more than usual, but let’s look at it on a case-by-case basis.
The Same Reasons We Do
The majority of the time, dogs stretch for the same reasons that people do. Maybe your dog feels like its body is a little tight. Your dog may also have been lying down in the same position for an extended period of time, and it may feel like it needs to stretch to restore some mobility to its limbs.
Much like when humans have a nice, relaxing stretch, dogs also feel that same sense of satisfaction when they stretch themselves out. Keep in mind that many dogs lie down on the hard floor, unlike humans, so they may feel the need to stretch more frequently because of that.
As dogs get older, you’ll likely see them stretching more frequently, as their bodies won’t be as mobile as they once were. As long as your dog isn’t exhibiting any other complementary symptoms, then you likely won’t have to worry about why they stretch more as they get older.
In rare cases, your dog’s excessive stretching may be caused by digestive issues. These problems are typically relatively minor, though if they persist, you should take your dog to the vet to determine whether or not the digestive discomfort is due to a more serious condition that needs to be cured.
Dogs will typically stretch to relieve some of the bloating that they’re experiencing. Bloating is typically caused by gas buildup in the digestive system. Bloating can cause discomfort because the digestive system expands and starts pushing up against the other organs, and stretching can help reduce this discomfort.
One of the best ways to tell if your dog is suffering from bloating that is causing its excessive stretching is by checking your dog’s tummy. If it’s a moderate case of bloating, you may not be able to see the difference, but you’ll likely hear a gurgling sound coming from your dog’s tummy.
Female Dogs That Haven’t Been Fixed
If a female dog hasn’t yet been fixed, then you may be mistaking their mating posture for excessive stretching, since both of them look relatively similar. If an unfixed female dog is ready to reproduce, it will typically assume a bowed position in which it presents its hind quarters.
While this looks very similar to a stretch, it is done for an entirely different purpose. One of the easiest ways to determine whether your dog is trying to stretch or assuming this position is taking note of the times when your dog does it. If your pet only does this around male dogs, then it’s a safe bet to assume that your pet isn’t actually trying to stretch.
Keep in mind that your pet won’t necessarily only do this around potential mates, as it’s an instinctive reflex. If your dog is in heat, then you may notice that she assumes this position even when there aren’t any other dogs around.
Splooting may sound like a silly term, but it’s used to refer to the position that dogs lie down in when they have their belly on the floor and their legs extended behind them and to the side. This is a little more common in male dogs, but animals of both sexes tend to exhibit this kind of behavior.
Splooting is technically a form of stretching, though it isn’t a traditional doggy stretch, so you may not associate it as such. This is common with breeds like labradors and greyhounds, as they both have relatively long legs for their body size, and lying down while splooting helps keep them comfortable.
This is more common during the summer, as splooting allows a dog to have more of its body pressing against the floor, which is typically cooler than their body. This will allow the dog to cool off its underside, and you have no reason to be concerned if you see your dog splooting frequently.
Stretching While Dragging Hind Legs
If your dog stretches out and starts moving in the stretched position while dragging its hind legs, you may be concerned. Don’t worry if you notice this, as there’s probably nothing suddenly wrong with your pet’s legs (though it is possible, so make sure that your pet is okay regardless).
This is done by more flexible dog breeds that are able to do so, and they’ll assume a position that’s similar to when they’re splooting. If you notice your dog suddenly doing this and you want to make sure that it’s not being caused by an issue, gently squeeze your dog’s rear limbs and look for a reaction.
If all is well with your dog, then your pet is just engaging in its own little stretching routine. A lot of the time, a traditional stretch may not be enough to give your pet the relief it needs, so it will leave its legs dangling behind it as it stretches out its ligaments.
In very rare cases, your dog may be suffering from pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas that can result in discomfort in their abdomen. Your dog may try to stretch itself out to relieve some of the strain of its enlarged pancreas on the organs surrounding it.
Since these two conditions are often confused for one another, it’s essential to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible to see whether or not either one of them is causing excessive stretching. There are a few symptoms that typically accompany pancreatitis, so don’t assume that your dog has come down with a case of it every time it stretches.
Some of the accompanying symptoms include fevers, a hunched posture, or an enlarged belly that you’d expect to see in a dog that’s suffering from bloat. The case of pancreatitis can either be chronic or acute, and each of them has a varying treatments that seek to reduce the effects and symptoms.
Helping Your Dog Stretch
If your dog is getting older and it can no longer take care of its body on its own, then it may appreciate some help with stretching. Since older dogs are often overcome by many different aches and pains, stretching properly may be the last thing on their mind, so you may have to manage it yourself.
Be sure not to help your dog stretch too frequently, but you may wish to do so at least once a day to help your pet retain mobility in its limbs. Helping your dog stretch can help minimize the effects of arthritis that typically develop as canines age, and it’s particularly helpful with this due to the limited number of treatments that are available for canine arthritis.
Leg stretches are some of the most common stretches that you can perform on pets, and they come in two varieties: front leg stretches and rear leg stretches. Each of these stretches is relatively similar, but as you may have guessed, they’re dependent on which set of legs you’re stretching.
To perform a rear leg stretch, hold your dog’s rear leg next to the knee and gradually pull it back and extend it. Be sure to move gradually but firmly, and always make sure that your pet is comfortable with the motion to ensure that your canine friend doesn’t end up snapping at you.
A front leg stretch or shoulder stretch can be accomplished in much the same way. Grab hold of your pet’s front leg near the knee and pull it towards you from the front. Once again, do this slowly and surely to give your dog confidence that you’re not about to hurt it.
You’ve likely already done some variation of the chest opener when you’ve been playing around with your dog.
Have your dog on the floor, with its back on the floor and its legs facing up, and take hold of its two front legs. Slowly spread the front legs apart. Be sure not to spread the front legs too far, as you may reach the limit of how far your dog’s front legs can comfortably move.