I encounter dogs in my practice who are experiencing muscle loss and wasting fairly often.
Since owners must submit veterinary records to me for review as part of my intake process as well as update me on any subsequent vet visits, if there’s a diagnosis of chronic illness – such as kidney disease or cancer – then this muscle loss is understandable and classified as cachexia.
In the absence of a diagnosis of disease, and working with an aging dog, then the muscle loss is classified as sarcopenia.
Muscle loss results in a change of appearance, which owners often notice first around the shoulder blades, top of the head, and around the pelvis. Muscle wastage can be graded as noted below:
Exercise and good nutrition can be interventions with muscle loss. Chronically ill dogs need a high quality diet that is appropriate for their disease, for example. And aging dogs do need exercise that is targeted to their needs and abilities.
Owners should always be on the watch for signs of muscle loss – so early interventions that are medical and non-medical can be considered.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand