After watching your dog try to emulate the giraffe on the Discovery channel for the umpteenth time today, you find yourself wondering,
“Why does my dog keep stretching her neck?”
There are actually reasons for this behavior that seemingly makes no sense- 6, in fact!
Without further ado, let’s get straight into it…
1. Canine Bloat
Some dogs stretch out their necks because they’re suffering from stomach and digestion problems.
Many dogs suffer from canine bloat, triggered by excessive drinking, overeating, age, and genetics. Bloat makes your dog’s stomach look round and distended as uncomfortable gasses build up in their system.
Dogs ease bloat pressure on their stomachs by lengthening their necks and stretching the abdominal muscles away from the internal organs.
A bloated stomach may emit gurgling noises, look visibly swollen, and feel warm when you put your hand to it. Before you call the vet to ask, “why does my dog keep stretching her neck?” check if your dog is drooling. Excessive saliva is a tell-tale sign of canine bloat.
This condition can be deadly if it isn’t treated quickly- even leading to a dog’s stomach flipping over. It’s critical to call your veterinarian if you think your dog is stretching out her neck because of canine bloat.
If your dog suffers from bloat frequently, you can prevent future episodes by limiting your dog’s water intake right after exercise or serving her food in a puzzle bowl to slow down the speed of mealtime. Your dog should only eat and drink when her breathing is steady and she is calm.
Neck stretching is among the first tell-tale signs that your dog has pancreatitis.
This condition happens when the inflamed pancreas begins to digest itself. It causes sharp pain and discomfort that your pet is attempting to relieve by stretching her neck and abdominal muscles away from the pancreas.
It can be easy to confuse pancreatitis, a serious medical condition, with canine bloat or benign stomach troubles.
One way to verify this condition is to note if your dog is acting feverish or weak. If your dog is hunched over while standing up, and her belly looks swollen like it does with bloat, she could be dealing with pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis will worsen without medical help, so it’s better to be safe than sorry if you notice these symptoms.
As the condition progresses, your dog will feel severe pain and may vomit up blood. Contact your veterinarian for emergency medical attention if you believe this is why your dog is stretching her neck.
3. Difficulty Swallowing
If you’ve been wondering, “why does my dog keep stretching her neck?” you may be observing your pet trying to ease pain in her esophagus.
Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, often happens when food or fluids get trapped in the dog’s throat. Lesions and tumors also develop in this part of the digestive system, causing pain and discomfort when your dog tries to swallow.
If you notice your dog stretching her neck or regurgitating food after meals, these are signs that she is suffering esophageal pain. She may avoid food or have trouble getting it down, so watch for weight loss and shifts in appetite.
Difficulty swallowing can be a mild or serious issue, depending on the cause.
For some dogs, it’s an occasional issue that goes away on its own without medical intervention. If your dog keeps stretching her neck and showing dysphagia symptoms that don’t get better, you should bring her to the veterinarian for an exam.
4. Chest Injury
If you’ve ruled out digestive issues as the cause, your dog may be stretching out her neck to manage a chest injury. If your dog sustains a blow to the heart or lungs, it may interfere with her breathing ability, so she stretches her neck to ease the pain of inhaling.
To determine if your dog is stretching because her chest is injured, look for changes in her breathing. If the breath is unusually shallow or more labored and fast, these are clues that the dog’s chest is in pain. Of course, if your dog falls or suffers an impact like a car accident, these are obvious signs that she may have a chest injury.
Chest wounds are serious, so seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect this is why your dog keeps stretching out her neck.
You should perform first aid if your dog has serious injuries, such as bleeding wounds. Keep her calm and warm until you reach the veterinarian to avoid shock, which can be deadly.
5. Compulsive Behavior
These behaviors accompany anxiety and seizure disorders in dogs. Just like humans, our pets sometimes deal with cognitive issues by self-soothing with compulsive behaviors.
As we’ve learned more about canines and how they signal their feelings to us (such as by barking non-stop), we’ve discovered that dogs communicate emotions like boredom and stress through repetitive, obsessive motions.
A dog that gets plenty of exercise and stimulation from toys may lick the furniture less often.
While many compulsive behaviors are considered normal, it’s never a bad idea to check with your vet if your dog’s neck stretching habit is concerning to you.
6. Normal, Healthy Stretching
Sometimes, the answer to “why does my dog keep stretching out her neck?” is… no reason at all!
While neck stretching sometimes signals gastrointestinal problems and injuries, it could just as easily be a quirky habit that your dog has picked up.
Dogs of all ages like to stretch, but you may see more of this behavior as your pet grows older and needs to move her stiff limbs.
If your dog is doing an excessive amount of neck stretching, but the vet has given her a clean bill of health, try taking her out for some exercise. She may appreciate going swimming, which is an opportunity to move her legs without putting stress on her joints.
Overall, dog neck stretching is rarely a reason to panic. As long as you’re taking her to yearly vet exams and watching her closely for symptoms of gastric distress, trouble swallowing, or chest injury, you don’t need to worry about this normal and healthy behavior. Your dog likes to stretch, just like lots of humans do.
As explored in this article, dogs will stretch their body and necks for a wide variety of reasons.
While some of these reasons point to a major problem that may be happening with your dog, most of the time a dog will stretch its neck as a part of its normal behavior.
If your dog does keep stretching her neck for hours or days on end, it may be a good idea to pay the vet a visit for a thorough examination.
If it happens to be suffering from conditions like pancreatitis, chest injury, bloat, or neurological issues, you may very well save your pup’s life by acting quickly!
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.