older labrador with muscle wastingMuscle atrophy is the loss of muscle due to injury or disease. The wastage of muscle is a result of not being able to exercise. Muscle atrophy happens as a result of pain and disuse. An example of disuse would be a dog limping and not using a limb because of a prior injury, surgery or arthritis. Because a dog stands and walks on four legs, weight can be redistributed if one of those limbs is sore. The effect will be muscle wastage to the injured area and possible hyper tension to other parts of the body compensating for the injury.

Muscle inhibition can be a compounding problem when dealing with muscle atrophy. Essentially inhibition is the partial or complete shutting down of a muscle due to the nerves that normally send and receive signals that are no longer or not properly performing. The result is an imbalance of muscle forces which causes other muscles to tighten and become over used, causing joint movement limitations, misalignment within the joint and altered movement patterns.

The problem of muscle atrophy can be addressed with a structured rehabilitation program, targeted to meet the individual needs of the dog. In order to treat the wastage, inflammation must first be controlled by a combination of medication, ice and safe and controlled exercise. A Veterinarian will decide how best to get the muscles to receive and send the neurological inputs again. Hydrotherapy is an effective aid to rehabilitation for this condition because it provides non-weight bearing exercise Once the inflammation is under control the affected muscles can be targeted with the goal of returning as much muscle and normal range of motion as possible.