Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Seeing Pain in Dogs: Reading the Waist


Seeing Pain in Dogs WaistWhat do dogs’ waist lines have to do with seeing pain in dogs? Sometimes a lot once you’ve trained your eye.

In a lean dog, the waist is a smooth, slightly curved line from the dog’s ribs back to the hip area. Well muscled, strong rear quarters will then curve out nicely when viewed from above.

  • Ribs wider than waist.
  • Hips wider than waist.
  • Waist one smooth sweeping line.

In overweight dogs, the waist line may not curve in anymore and that can make muddy the picture but, let’s assume a normal weight dog. What can the waist show us?

Sometimes it holds a big, obvious clue of discomfort. Here’s the nitty gritty: If a dog has pain in the hips, they can start to avoid that pain by swinging their rear legs forward by bending their waist rather than using hip joints. This creates a telltale “hip-swinging”,  side-to-side movement of many a dysplastic dog. As the dog moves like this more and more, the muscles in their waist develop. They bulk up and round outward. And that’s the “tell” as is seen here.Seeing Pain in Dogs Hips

While both sides of the lean dog pictured here show some outward rounding, the left side (red arrow) shows more. This dog appears to be compensating more on her left.

What to do if you notice this on your dogs?

  • Get to the veterinarian for diagnosis and support.
  • Supplement with fatty acids and a good joint supplement.
  • Keep your dog lean.
  • Avoid activities that torque the dog’s rear or cause slipping such as fetch on wet grass or hard surfaces or spinning types of play.
  • Use a good orthopedic dog bed.
  • Talk to a dog chiropractor or physical therapist.
  • Swim and walk your dog as the veterinary experts recommend. Fitness is important, just done carefully to support, rather than stress, the body.

Cared for properly, many dogs can live long happy lives with orthopedic issues. The key is seeing the signs as early as possible so you can adapt their lifestyle accordingly.


  1. Wow! Good to know, I’ll keep an eye out for that in my dog. Thanks Sarah!

  2. What can I do for a partially blind dog. I adopted her three years ago and two years ago I discovered she can’t see well. She is scared of going out side alone or in the dark.

  3. We have a old dog he’s around 12 years old he is starting to have trouble with back legs can’t stand very long or walk very far he has had seizers for about 8 yrs what can we get to help him so far don’t think he is in pain

  4. Mine has diabetes and cushing. I’ve been giving him methyl b 12 . I hope it helps his rear leg weakness.

  5. Thanks for reposting this Sarah. At almost 8 I’m struggling to keep weight off my well exercised Golden.
    All my Goldens have always done the wiggle waggle walk. Never considered it was to aid momentum forward.

  6. My 5 yr old pit bull drops on her bottom and rocks back and forth.. What could cause her to do that?

    • Sounds like she may have either an itchy bottom or irritated anal glands (which are inside her anus just under her tail). I’d ask her vet.

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