Why does my dog tense up when I scratch his back? Expert Advice


A twitching back is not a stand-alone reason to take your dog to the vet. Unfortunately, if your pup has back twitches in combination with foaming at the mouth, passing a bowel movement, vomiting, or urinating, then get to the vet as soon as possible. Also, chronic or continuous twitching may signify that something is wrong. If in doubt, its always best to check with the vet. If you have exhausted all of your options and you want to try something all-natural, you can look into CBD for your dog. It is important to understand that not all CBD products are created the same. Some are made with lower manufacturing standards and little to no oversight. The guide below will help you avoid these low-standard companies. References

Im Chris; I started Relievet to help my dog Biscuit deal with her mobility issues naturally. Relievet is a family-owned business composed of a team of passionate pet parents that includes a Doctor of Pharmacy, a dog trainer, a writer, a psychologist, and more. We make natural products that help dogs maintain balance and deal with the issues they face, and we do our best to educate people on natural pet health. Beyond that, we are conducting research in hopes of improving the lives of many more animals.

In a world of giant corporations, we favor the personal approach. Reach out to us any time, whether just to tell us your pets story or for your vet to consult with James, our in-house Pharmacist; we would love to hear from you.


Here are some of the most common reasons a dog twitches when touched on the back.

  • Muscle Spasms – Muscle spasms may cause sharp movements in the Latissimus Dorsi (dog back muscle). These spasms can be signs of IVDD (intervertebral disc disease).
  • Abuse Response – Dog behavior may be a response to abuse. Food aggression, people aggression, and nervousness are often attributed to prior abuse. Some dogs manifest their abuse in twitches that run up and down their bodies like their human counterparts. CBD calming chews may be a good natural option for relaxing an abused dog.
  • Anal Gland – Signs the anal gland are causing discomfort of the perineal area are inflammation, scooting, twitching, and pain.
  • Bumps on dogs back – Skin irritations may cause bumps an your dog. These bumps can be abscess, alopecia, blister, cyst, pimple, puncture, scab, tick, benign or malignant tumor, which can all cause twitching.
  • Fleas – Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) may irritate a dog leading to itching and twitching.
  • Inflammation – muscular inflammation can cause a dogs back to twitch. CBD for dog pain may be an option to treat muscular inflammation.
  • Injury – Injuries that may account for rapid back muscle movements are disc disease, muscle strain, infection, fractures, Hemivertebrae, Meningitis, Stenosis, and cancer.
  • Itchy Skin – Itchy skin is usually a sign of another problem, including several listed in these bullet points. However, itchy skin can cause a dog to twitch. Our CBD skin-soothing balm may be all your dog needs for relief as it may be a minor issue.
  • Mange – Mange is a highly contagious nasty infection caused by mites. A dog will persistently itch the affected area and cause follicle loss. The itching, biting, and twitching are all symptoms of Mange.
  • Nerves – Nerves can cause back twitching—both the physical nerves in the body and the dogs disposition may be associated with an abuse response.
  • Neurological Issues – Brain activity can be interrupted by a brain tumor, injury, or strokes causing involuntary twitching like Shakers Syndrome. The Permanente Journal published an article stating that a CBD oil taken sublingually has proven efficacy and safety in treating some neurological disorders. However, only your vet can diagnose these, so you should always consult them for treatment advice.
  • Seizures – Uncontrolled electrical signals send the brain into overdrive, causing temporary abnormalities in muscle movements like limpness, stiffness, and twitching.
  • A great place to start is a healthy diet and good hydration; these are key to keeping your dog healthy. If you notice your dog is twitching, first consider how often it is happening. Second, has the dog done this before, and does the animal stop jerking after its rest. Third, is the dog in pain before, during, or after spasms. If your dog shows constant twitching in conjunction with pain, it is most likely an underlying condition.

    Signs of Canine Scabies

    Canine scabies result from a superficial burrowing mite (sarcoptes scabiei var canis). Importantly, it is highly contagious not just to other dogs, but it can also be passed to humans and other animals depending on the conditions.

    There are a handful of symptoms associated with canine scabies, most of which represent various stages of progression:

  • Intense itching
  • Small, solid bumps on the skin
  • Thick, crusted sores
  • Yeast or bacterial infections on abdomen, chest, ears, elbows, or legs
  • Given the ease with which these symptoms can worsen and spread, it is very important to identify and treat canine scabies as early as possible.

    Initial diagnosis of canine scabies requires a veterinarians expertise, who will typically begin by collecting skin/stool samples and performing a blood test.

    Proper treatment requires the removal of dirt and crust using medicated shampoo and anti-mite dip. Other treatment includes internal or topical medicines, as well as treatment for secondary infections as needed.

    The Real Reason Dogs Kick When You Scratch Them

    Have you ever noticed that when you scratch your dog’s belly, something unusual occurs? It happens every time you hit the “sweet spot.” You know the one. Suddenly, your dog starts kicking his back leg like he’s running on his side.

    Dogs are full of quirky habits, but this one is puzzling. What is it about that sweet spot that makes a dog’s leg twitch or kick? Are they ticklish or is it something else?

    Oakland Veterinary Referral Services takes a look at this funny mystery of why dogs kick when you scratch their belly.

    What happy dog doesn’t love a good belly rub? Most pet owners will agree that their pets love being scratched. They all have their favorite spots. For most, the belly is a favorite – from the smallest to the largest dogs, it’s true. And what happens when you scratch…sometimes your dog’s back leg starts to shake or kick. These kicks, caused by the belly scratch, look like a running or swimming motion.

    Well, it isn’t so mysterious. We call this response the scratch reflex. It’s an involuntary response, much like the one that occurs when the doctor taps below your knee (the “knee-jerk” reflex). Our reflexive kicks are similar to our dogs’ kicks.

    Nerves under the skin connected to the spinal cord relay a message to your dog’s leg to kick without it having to pass through the brain.

    When your pet kicks in response to a scratch, it looks pretty funny to us, right? Is it funny for our pets too? Not so much. It actually startles your pet. Like a bug landing on their nose. That’s probably why your dog looks just as puzzled by their own behavior. It’s the same type of reflex that occurs when your cat lifts its butt high when you scratch the tail’s base.

    What’s even cooler about this reflex is that it can help your veterinarian uncover potential problems. By activating this reflex, your vet can determine if there is nerve damage or neurological damage occurring in certain areas.

    Does your dog kick when you scratch their belly? Should you stop? If your dog enjoys a good belly rub, continue to reward them that way. There’s no need to deny your pet the attention or deny yourself the joy of seeing your pet’s enjoyment of a belly scratch. The interaction is good for them and you!

    If you have any questions about your dog, our friendly and knowledgeable team is here! Please give us a call.