Muscular atrophy in dogs is quite common and refers specifically to the loss of muscle tissue. This muscle wasting usually begins early when it is associated with a process of injury or illness. Initially, it can go unnoticed, especially if your dog has a longer coat.
If your dog limps or has had surgery on a limb, the atrophy will be more noticeable and faster. Actually, it can get worse a little before it gets better. In this article, we tell you the most common causes of muscular atrophy in dogs.
Why is it common for muscle atrophy in dogs to be detected late?
Because dogs move using their four limbs, their balance is quite delicate. If they have a small discomfort in one arm, they can transfer their body weight to the other three to relieve the sore leg.
For this reason, in the early stages, this may go unnoticed. However, if we palpate the limbs, we can find a difference in muscle size. This indicates some atrophy in the affected leg.
Commonly, muscular atrophy in dogs occurs when both disuse and pain are present.
Mainly, muscular atrophy manifests itself with thinning and signs of weakness. Muscle loss can be a sign of a wide variety of conditions and diseases, so if you notice muscle loss, be sure to talk with your veterinarian about the state.
The normal canine aging process
In aging, it is natural for moderate but progressive muscular atrophy to appear. This process is caused by the lack of growth hormones and the decrease in body metabolism.
As a dog’s age, their nutritional needs change, and they cannot process proteins in the same way. Therefore, older dogs will generally need a specialized diet with quickly processed protein sources. To help them maintain muscle mass.
The lower activity in the older dog, due to lower energy levels, also leads to muscle loss. It should be noted that this muscle loss associated with aging is healthy, is mild and appears mainly in the hips, where the muscles are more evident.
Muscular atrophy associated with arthritis
Muscle atrophy in dogs also occurs for a variety of different reasons. It turns out that atrophy is a typical symptom if you have a painful condition.
Although arthritis attacks joints and not muscle tissue, it is common to cause muscle atrophy. It is an inflammatory process that degenerates the joints, often in the hips and knees, and produces intense pain and disagreement.
Constant pain reduces your mobility. In the long term, the decrease in activity leads to muscular atrophy.
Physiotherapy and pain control medications can minimize the effects of arthritis and improve the activity of the sick dog. Go to your veterinarian to prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Genetic predisposition to suffering from associated diseases.
It is necessary to be attentive to the conditions to which specific races are predisposed. For example, Labrador retrievers are prone to type II muscle fiber deficiency; Generally, they will show muscle loss before one year of age.
German shepherds, on the other hand, are more likely to develop fibrotic myopathy, which usually manifests more in the dog’s thigh muscles. Other breeds, such as greyhounds, will develop stress myopathy if they are forced to use their muscles too much.
Degenerative myelopathy is another disease that affects the spinal cord and then the extremities. This condition is common in German shepherds, but it is also found in other races.
Muscular atrophy in dogs associated with inflammatory diseases
Muscular atrophy may occur associated with other types of inflammatory diseases, be they infectious or autoimmune. This involvement can happen only to one muscle or a group of muscles. Usually, these diseases present with other symptoms that will help your veterinarian to diagnose the condition accurately.
What you should know is that many times, myositis – or inflammation of the muscle – can cause atrophy. Myositis is caused by an abnormal reaction of your dog’s immune system against his muscle tissue.
There is myositis of the chewing muscles, also called eosinophilic myositis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease, which is a severe condition. The dog develops antibodies that recognize and attack the M2 fibers of the masticatory muscles, which causes their atrophy.
Signs and symptoms of muscular atrophy in dogs
To help your pet on time, you can watch for the following signs and symptoms:
Lethargy and apathy. The dog does not want to move so much.
Flaccid state. Look for flabby muscles in your dog that are not as hard as they usually are. You may notice that your dog feels ‘softer’ and also thinner.
Sometimes, this type of muscle loss will only affect certain parts of the body. For example, if your dog has arthritis or an injury to the hind legs, you may notice that the back legs become thinner, while the front legs are enlarged to compensate. If you suspect that your dog is losing muscle mass in one leg, compare it to the other side.