Muscle Wastage in Dogs

Canines that experience muscle wasting are most often showing symptoms of a larger problem. Muscle wasting is a symptom of many different canine diseases and should be taken very seriously. If dogs are showing any symptoms of muscle wasting it is best to get them to a veterinarian for a more thorough examination.

Disseminated Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis is a fungal disease that usually affects the nasal passages and respiratory system. Dog breeds with large snouts are the ones most likely to contract aspergillosis. If the disease spreads throughout the body it is known as disseminated aspergillosis. This type can cause muscle wasting in canines. Other symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, vomiting and paralysis. According to the website Pet Place, disseminated aspergillosis is treatable by veterinarians through the use of systemic antifungal drugs.

Thyroid Disease

Thyroid disease is a lifelong affliction that begins to affect dogs most often around puberty. The most common form of thyroid disease is autoimmune thyroiditis, which is typified by the antithyroid antibodies that appear in the canine’s blood and tissue. Muscle wasting, seizures, a dull and coarse coat and a slowed heart rate are all signs of thyroid disease. The most common treatment for thyroid disease is daily injections of the T4 hormone; the brand names for T4 hormones are Soloxine and Synthroid.

Myositis

Myositis is an inflammation of the muscles and can be a sign of a more serious illness. Myositis can affect just one muscle, such as the jaw, or it can affect groups at a time. Generalised myositis, known as polymyositis, shows signs of muscle swelling followed by muscle wasting. Veterinarians can confirm whether or not a dog is suffering from myositis through a sample of tissue. Treatment is generally steroids and immunosuppressive drugs.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a slow developing disease that has no cure. It most commonly affects ageing German shepherds and on occasion other large breeds of dogs. Although degenerative myelopathy is a spinal cord disorder, it also causes muscle wasting and loss in the hind legs. Any loss of coordination or weakness in the rear legs, particularly in middle-aged German shepherds, should be checked out by a veterinarian. While the cause of degenerative myelopathy is  unknown, it is thought to be an autoimmune disease.

Tick Disease

The term tick disease is used as an umbrella term that includes Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and basesiosis. When a dog is bitten by a tick it can contract any one of these diseases. Symptom of tick-related disease include muscle wasting, swelling of the extremities, nose bleeds and fever. In order to avoid having dogs contract tick diseases, treat them with a monthly tick repellent such as Frontline or have them wear a tick collar such as Preventic.

Old age in dogs

Mild loss of muscle mass, especially the hind legs, may be seen with old age. Some muscle loss, notably on the head and the belly muscles, can signify diseases such as masticatory myositis and Cushing’s Disease. Be sure to have your vet check this out if any muscle loss is noted.

Treatment

Treatment may include drug therapy, surgery, physical therapy and muscle support products – the best being our Spero harness. Prognosis for some diseases is very poor, these include CDRM as well as those caused by cancer. Other diseases have a good prognosis with correct treatment and support especially swimming. It is important to note that treatment may be prolonged and it can take several weeks before you will see conditions beginning to improve.

    • About the Author

      In 2003 my Newfoundland – Quincy, had his leg amputated at the young age of 2. It's not easy to envision your best friend as an amputee, but that was the exact position in which I found myself.

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