I have a 14-year-old Irish Setter who seems to be losing muscle tone in his back legs. Is there anything that can be done to slow this down or stop it in its tracks?
Concerned about Muscle Tone in Oak Forest
Dear Concerned about Muscle Tone,
As dogs get older, changes in diet and amount of exercise can cause a reduction in muscle mass — most often in their most muscular areas, such as their hind legs. While age-related muscle atrophy is sometimes just a fact of growing old for your pet, there are a few things you can do to ease any discomfort related to this loss of muscle mass as well as things you can do to slow down the muscle atrophy.
One way to help your senior pet with muscle atrophy is to make sure he’s getting adequate protein for his age. As dogs age, their nutritional needs change. Dogs have a harder time metabolizing protein later in life, so a special diet with easily processed proteins may help him to retain the needed protein for muscle maintenance. Ask your vet for guidance in finding a nutritionally appropriate food for your senior dog.
Exercise to build muscle
Just like with humans, diet and exercise are among the most important factors in combating many age-related ailments. For dogs, exercise has a whole bevy of benefits, paramount among them, muscle building and maintenance. If your dog doesn’t already have regular exercise in his life, start slowly (perhaps with a walk about the block) and build upon this regimen until your dog is getting about 30 minutes of brisk activity every day.
Supplements for muscle atrophy
Assuming your dog’s muscle atrophy isn’t caused by any underlying medical conditions (a visit to the vet can rule that out), with more attention to his diet and exercise, you should be able to greatly reduce the muscle atrophy. Some experts also recommend supplements to slow muscle atrophy. Fish oil is a supplement that is beneficial to dogs for a variety of health concerns, muscle atrophy among them. Fish oil also helps to lubricate your dog’s joints, which can make exercise more comfortable for your pooch, which in turn helps to build muscle.
While muscle atrophy is common in your dog’s later years, you can help make his remaining time more comfortable (and engaging) by making sure he’s on a good, age-appropriate diet and exercising him often. The time spent improving your pet’s health will strengthen your bond and help you to make the most of your time with your four-legged friend.
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