7 Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Stretching Its Neck And Looking Up

dog keeps stretching neck and looking up

Is your dog constantly stretching its neck and looking upwards? This behavior could be a sign of various health conditions, from minor discomfort to more serious issues like stomach problems.

It can range from simple throat obstructions to serious conditions like Canine Stomach Bloat or Pancreatitis. Prompt veterinary attention is needed for diagnosis and treatment, especially in severe cases.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and preventing access to hazardous objects are key to prevention and overall well-being.

In this article, we’ll explore the potential reasons behind this behavior and provide insights into the effective solutions for your dog’s well-being.

1. Difficulty Swallowing

Dogs often explore the world with their mouths. This can frequently lead to them swallowing dangerous objects out of curiosity or eagerness.

When your dog ingests a foreign object, it may become lodged in its throat, esophagus or digestive system, leading to noticeable discomfort. 

It could also have sharp edges or create a burning sensation in the mouth.

Symptoms Of Difficulty In Swallowing

Signs of this issue include:

  • Dog stretching its neck in an attempt to dislodge the item
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Excessive drooling

Frequent neck stretching is a sign that may suggest esophageal pain or discomfort in your dog.

Treatment And Prevention

To prevent such issues, don’t leave foreign objects lying around the house that your dog can easily reach.

It is a good idea to inspect your dog’s mouth to check for and possibly remove any visible obstruction.

However, do not try to forcefully remove the obstruction if it’s firmly stuck.

It would help if you got your dog to the vet right away for medical attention.

Tumors or lesions in the throat are also potential causes of swallowing difficulties and require immediate veterinary treatment.

To prevent such issues, avoid leaving foreign objects lying around the house that your dog can easily reach and monitor them when playing outside.

Regular health checks can also help detect any abnormalities in your dog’s throat.

2. Canine Stomach Bloat

dog cross section

Canine stomach bloat is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs.

It occurs when the dog’s stomach fills with gas, fluid or food, leading to an expansion that exerts pressure on other vital organs.

Causes Of Stomach Bloat In Dogs

Several factors contribute to the development of stomach bloat in dogs.

These include:

  • Eating too large a meal
  • Gorging on dry food
  • Excessive activity after eating
  • Drinking too much water at one go
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Genetic predisposition (Certain deep-chested breeds like Great Danes1 and Saint Bernards are more susceptible)

Symptoms Of Bloat In Dogs

In severe cases, the stomach may twist on itself, cutting off blood flow to that region.

The symptoms of canine bloat can develop rapidly and are often severe.

These include:

  • Swollen or rigid abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty breathing

In severe cases, the stomach may twist on itself, cutting off blood flow to that region.

This condition is called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) which can turn fatal very quickly.

Make sure to pay attention to your dog if it does show any of the above symptoms.

Treatment And Prevention For Stomach Bloat

If your dog is suffering from stomach bloat, you need to seek veterinary attention immediately.

Treatment typically involves stabilizing your pet with fluids and pain medication to alleviate discomfort and prevent shock.

One of the crucial parts of the treatment is the decompression of the dog’s stomach

This involves releasing the trapped gas and fluid to relieve pressure.

For dogs with a twisted stomach, surgical intervention is critically necessary.

This surgery aims to untwist the stomach and if needed, attach it to the abdominal wall (a procedure known as gastropexy) to prevent the recurrence of bloat.

Preventive measures include:

  • Feeding smaller and more frequent meals
  • Avoid playing with your dog right after meals
  • Elevating the food bowl 
  • Use a slow feeder food bowl if your dog is a fast eater
  • Regular check-ups for dog breeds prone to bloat

3. Pancreatitis

The exact cause of pancreatitis is yet to be known and it can happen to any dog regardless of age, sex and breed.

The pancreas is a vital organ in the dog’s body that secretes enzymes for digestion and for maintaining proper hormonal levels.

Pancreatitis leads to inflammation of the pancreas due to the digestive juices or enzymes attacking the pancreas.

Causes Of Canine Pancreatitis

The exact cause of pancreatitis is yet to be known and it can happen to any dog regardless of age, sex or breed.

Several factors can contribute to the development of pancreatitis in dogs.

  • A diet high in fat
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Medications and toxins
  • Abdominal trauma

Symptoms Of Canine Pancreatitis

This condition is painful and dogs with this problem are constantly stretching their necks and front paws to try and get some relief.

You will notice other symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Hunched back
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite

Treatment And Prevention For Pancreatitis

There isn’t a complete cure for pancreatitis in dogs. Medication and supportive care can be given to help with the symptoms.

Treatment for pancreatitis typically involves:

  • Intravenous fluids to manage dehydration
  • A low-fat easily digestible diet.
  • Pain management and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Treatment of underlying causes or contributing factors

Preventive measures include:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet with regulated fat content.
  • Regular exercise to manage weight.
  • Regular veterinary check-ups for high-risk dogs
  • Routine wellness lab work

4. Chest Or Neck Injury

italian greyhound

A dog that has sustained a recent chest or neck injury might be constantly stretching its neck.

Chest or neck injuries in dogs can range from mild to severe and can significantly impact their health and mobility.

Causes Of Chest Or Neck Injury

Chest and neck injuries in dogs can be caused by:

  • External trauma
  • Rough play
  • Jumping down from a high place
  • Collar or leash-related injuries
  • Degenerative diseases that affect the spine

Symptoms Of Chest Or Neck Injury

The symptoms of chest or neck injuries in dogs can vary based on the severity of the injury and may include:

  • Swelling or bruising in the affected area
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Whining or vocalizing in pain.
  • Reluctance to move
  • Behavioral changes like aggression or depression

Treatment And Prevention For Chest Or Neck Injury

Using appropriate collars and leashes can significantly reduce the risk of neck injuries.

This initial step often usually involves diagnostic tests such as X-rays or advanced scans to assess the extent of the injury.

Veterinarians may prescribe medications to alleviate discomfort in your dog.

In some cases, immobilizing the injured area is necessary to prevent further harm.

Severe injuries may require surgical intervention to repair damaged tissues or bones.

Prevention of chest and neck injuries in dogs involves careful supervision during play and outdoor activities to avoid accidents.

Using appropriate collars and leashes can significantly reduce the risk of neck injuries.

5. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in dogs is when they keep doing the same actions over and over again.

The University Of Purdue estimates that 2% of the canine population suffers from this behavioral issue.

Your dog might be stretching its neck due to having obsessive compulsive disorder.

Similar to humans, OCD can manifest in many weird actions and behaviors.

These actions are out of place and can really affect how your dog’s quality of life.

Causes Of OCD In Dogs

OCD in dogs can be attributed to a variety of factors:

  • Certain breeds, such as German Shepherds and Bull Terriers, are more susceptible to OCD.
  • High levels of stress or anxiety can trigger OCD behaviors in dogs.
  • Lack of mental stimulation
  • Past trauma or abuse
  • Neurologic condition

Symptoms Of OCD In Dogs

Even though your dog might be stretching its neck and looking up due to having OCD, there are other common symptoms to look out for.

  • Excessive grooming
  • Chasing its own tail
  • Barking excessively without a clear trigger
  • Eating inedible objects (Pica)
  • Snapping at the air or “fly-biting”

Treatment And Prevention Of OCD

It’s crucial not to encourage OCD behaviors inadvertently, as they are not enjoyable for your dog.

To help your dog, start by visiting the vet to rule out any medical issues.

Your vet will help you identify and reduce your dog’s OCD triggers.

Increasing your dog’s exercise through enjoyable activities can reduce anxiety and release endorphins, promoting relaxation.

Mental stimulation is also important.

Provide puzzle toys or food-dispensing games to keep your dog engaged.

It’s crucial not to encourage OCD behaviors inadvertently, as they are not enjoyable for your dog.

Make it a point to teach behaviors that counteract OCD tendencies.

For example, if your dog spins or chases its tail, redirect it to play fetch or practice commands like “sit” or “down”.

Reward your dog with praise and treats for avoiding OCD behaviors.

6. Your Dog Is Bored

lab dog looking bored at home

Dog boredom is a common issue that occurs when dogs don’t receive enough mental or physical stimulation.

This lack of engagement can lead to various behavioral problems and affect their overall well-being.

Causes Of Boredom In Dogs

Boredom in dogs can stem from several factors:

  • Lack of exercise (some breeds require more exercise than others)
  • Insufficient mental stimulation
  • Repetitive and unvarying routine
  • Absence of social interaction (with both dogs and humans)

Symptoms Of Boredom In Dogs

Signs that your dog may be bored include:

  • Destructive behavior
  • Excessive barking
  • Lethargy
  • Separation anxiety

Prevention Of Boredom In Dogs

To tackle boredom in dogs, a combination of increased physical activity and mental stimulation is key.

Regular exercise, including walks and playtime, is essential to keep a dog engaged and happy.

Providing mental challenges through puzzle toys and training sessions can further enhance a dog’s behavior.

Socialization with other dogs and humans can enhance their quality of life too.

7. Canine Dementia

This condition is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans and affects a significant number of dogs as they age

Canine dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is a condition affecting older dogs.

This health problem causes a decline in a dog’s mental faculties.

In fact, up to 35% of dogs that are older than 8 years of age are at risk of getting canine dementia2.

This condition is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans and affects a significant number of dogs as they age

Causes Of Canine Dementia

The exact cause of canine dementia is not fully understood but several factors are believed to contribute to this disease.

  • Age
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Accumulation of free radicals
  • Lack of mental stimulation
  • Head injury
  • Brain tumors

Symptoms Of Canine Dementia

Dogs with CCD often experience disorientation, even in familiar settings.

The act of stretching the neck and looking up might be a response to confusion or an attempt to better understand the surroundings.

Other symptoms include:

  • Becoming clingy or aloof
  • Sleeping more in the daytime and awake at night
  • Pooping and peeing inside the house
  • Pacing about the house
  • Staring at walls

Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Dementia

Treating and preventing canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) or dog dementia, involves a combination of

  • Lifelong therapy
  • Environmental adjustments
  • Medical interventions

While there is no cure, creating a stimulating environment can help slow cognitive decline in your dog.

This includes:

  • Regular exercise
  • Mental stimulation
  • A strict daily routine

Making your home more senior-dog-friendly is also beneficial.

Installing night lights, providing potty pads near doors and using orthopedic foam beds can enhance their comfort and safety.

Dietary management plays an excellent role in supporting cognitive functions in dogs with CCD.

Prescription diets rich in antioxidants, vitamins B, selenium, flavonoids, beta carotene, carotenoids and omega fatty acids are beneficial for brain health.

Regular check-ups, especially for senior dogs, are important to address any new issues or changes in behavior promptly.


1. Glickman, L. T., Glickman, N. W., Schellenberg, D. B., Raghavan, M., & Lee, T. (2000). Incidence of and breed-related risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

2. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Dewey CW, Davies ES, Xie H, Wakshlag JJ

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