If your dog twitches when touched on their back, it’s usually because they were either startled or uncertain about the person touching them. Dogs don’t have the best vision, if you’re by their side or behind them, they may twitch when you pet them because they didn’t know you were there.
What dog doesn’t love getting a good belly rub? But have you ever noticed how sometimes dogs twitch when they are touched on their back? What does the twitching mean? Does it indicate they don’t like being touched on their backs? That they are in pain? Or that something is wrong?
All those are possible reasons which we will go over below. But the answer is usually much more straightforward than that. You know how you jump when you’re startled? The same thing can happen to your dog. A dog twitching is the equivalent of a human jumping.
Common Reasons Dogs Twitch When Touched On Their Back
In this list, we will start with the most common reasons and work our way down. In most cases, twitching when getting touched on the back is nothing to worry about unless it happens consistently.
Here are eight possible reasons your dog might flinch when touched.
Your Dog is Nervous
If the twitching only happens with certain people, it could indicate that your dog is nervous.
Perhaps your dog is being introduced to someone new and is surprised by the person’s attempt to pet them. Maybe you just brought your dog home and your dog is not yet used to being touched.
Usually, all it takes is a bit of time and additional exposure to the new person to help your dog feel more comfortable with being pet.
For some dogs, the enjoyment from getting touched comes naturally. For other dogs, touching might cause anxiety until they learn it’s a sign of affection.
Your Dog Has Trouble Seeing
In some circumstances, your dog could be twitching because he is not able to see very well.
In younger dogs, this could indicate a vision problem, while in older dogs, it may be a natural decline of vision associated with aging.
Either way, when dogs cannot see well, they will be surprised by any touch they are not expecting. Try talking calmly to your dog before touching them and see if that helps.
Imagine if you didn’t know someone was behind you and then you felt a touch on your back. It would be terrifying!
Your Dog Has a Neurological Issue
While neurological problems can be serious, medicine has come a long way.
If your little one flinches when you touch his back, he could be experiencing a seizure or having tremors. These are often small movements that your dog is not intentionally making.
In addition to muscle twitching, you might also notice your dog drooling, losing consciousness, stiffening his muscles, or having body movements that appear to be jerking.
Vets can prescribe anti-epileptic medication that can help manage your dog’s symptoms.
Your Dog is Experiencing Pain
Dogs sometimes twitch when touched because they are experiencing pain in some part of their body.
This could be anything from arthritis in older dogs to a toothache in a younger dog. Usually, with pain, there will be minimal symptoms with mild pain and more symptoms with more severe pain, such as yelping, favoring one foot, or refusing to go out for walks or to go potty.
For the most part, dogs do their best to hide pain. So if your dog is flinching due to pain, it usually means they’re really hurting.
Your Dog Is Confused
As dogs age, they are more prone to confusion and disorientation.
For example, cognitive decline can lead to confusion. When dogs are less aware of their surroundings or are experiencing disorders associated with Alzheimer’s, they will be apprehensive of being touched.
There may be times that they do not appear to recognize their owner or things around them. Make sure to alert your vet. In the meantime, keep your dog safe and comfortable.
When a dog’s skin feels uncomfortable, they may twitch or flinch. This can occur when a dog has allergies, eczema, or fleas.
Naturally, when their skin is itchy and uncomfortable, they will not want to be touched. Other signs that may point to itchy skin include excessive scratching, rubbing or rolling on grass or carpets, lots of licking, and biting at itchy areas.
Trauma, Neglect, or Abuse
Unfortunately, many dogs who have been adopted have experienced some type of neglect, abuse, or trauma.
These experiences are not easily forgotten and may leave a lasting imprint on the dog. If a dog has been hit repeatedly, he or she may shy away from being pet or from any human contact. The dog no longer associates being touched with affection. To them, being touched means punishment.
Likewise, dogs who have experienced trauma may be suspicious of being pet. Dogs may allow it in some cases, twitch in other instances, or refuse, mainly when there are other reminders of the trauma in the situation.
For example, if the previous (abusive) owner always wore a hat, the dog may not respond well to being touched by anyone who wears a hat.
Be patient and follow the dog’s preference with regard to petting. It’s best not to surprise a dog who has had a history of trauma.
I know you want to pet them and show affection as soon as possible, but in cases like this, it’s best to give it time. The dog will eventually learn that you pet them because you love them, not because you want to hurt them.
Your Dog’s Back Is Hurting
It can be difficult to detect new medical problems in dogs unless they show clear signs of an injury. When it comes to back pain, this is especially true.
Little dogs are prone to ruptured discs in their backs or have spinal pain after landing wrong, such as when jumping from a bed to the ground.
You may notice that your dog uses a hunched posture when you try to pet them, which results in the middle of your dog’s back sticking up in the air. Other signs that your dog may have hurt his back include refusing to eat or drink, difficulty getting up when lying down, limping, trouble going up or downstairs, yelping if petted, and shivering.
What Should I Do If My Dog Twitches When Touched on Back?
You likely won’t have to do anything unless you’ve determined that their flinching is due to pain. With that said, here are some things you can try that might put an end to the flinching.
Consider Supplements and Pain Medication
If your dog is twitching due to pain, consider adding supplements to their diet. Your vet can recommend supplements for arthritis.
Additionally, many inexpensive pain medications can be used on a short-term or long-term basis, depending on the cause of the pain.
An acute injury from playing may only require short-term treatment, while a spinal injury or arthritis may require longer-term management techniques.
Get Your Dog’s Attention Before Petting Him
Your dog may not like being surprised and thus will twitch. If that is the reason for the twitching, get your dog’s attention and allow him to see you before you attempt to pet your dog on the back. This will help calm your dog’s nerves rather than surprising him.
Talk Calmly to Your Dog
Dogs who have trouble with vision, cognitive problems, or aging may twitch when they are surprised by a touch they are not expecting.
One thing you can do is to talk calmly to your dog before touching him. This way, he will know that you are giving him attention and will come to associate you talking with him with touch.
All Dogs Twitch From Time to Time
Your dog isn’t the only one that twitches when touched on this back. This is normal and is typically the result of being startled. However, if you believe the reason for flinching is due to pain, take your dog to the vet for a checkup.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.