Muscle atrophy is a loss of muscle tissue. This can be a sign of disease but is common in the older dog. I am really starting to notice this in Luke even though it has been happening for sometime. When we had Tilley and Jessie; they were who I had to compare Luke with. This meant that Luke didn't look too bad for an eleven year old. Now that we have a young'n in the house I am noticing Luke's muscle loss a great deal more. Elsa is getting older, filling out and muscling up so when I am giving her a hug and move over to hug Luke; I am more aware of the loss of his muscle mass.
As dogs age they have a natural amount of muscle loss, add into that some mild to severe arthritis and it can be worse. Most older dogs get what I call the old dog hollow; a spot on the back of their thigh that you can see and feel. It is where the large bicep femoris muscle joins the other smaller muscles in the back of the leg. There you can see a loss of muscle causing a hollow along the length of the muscle. It is a telltale sign of age and something that brings with it an age realization.
Depending on the dog and the life that they have lead will factor in on muscle mass. Tilley was a very well muscled dog she was squarely built with wonderful structure. Luke on the other hand does not have wonderful structure and because of this he has more muscle mass loss. Oh he is amazing to look at, gorgeous in every way but when you look down at him from above you see the problem. He is very narrow and because of it was never able to move like Tilley was; even as a young dog he could never make the turns that Tilley could do with her eyes tied behind her back as my husband would say. Muscle is important.
In our day to day lives we need muscle to do any sort of moving, the less muscle we have the more work those muscles have to do; making every movement that much more difficult. Our dogs, like us cannot build muscle as they grow older like they could when they were young so as much exercise as Luke gets his muscles are not filling in. He has always had a huge amount of exercise but even when he was running miles with my husband he was never buff so to speak. But Tilley was all together different, after a big run or frisbee outing her back legs looked much like The Incredible Hulk's legs.
Elsa is very similar to Tilley in structure and she is filling in to be quite the buff girl. This one of the main reasons that I am noticing Luke's loss of muscle mass, Elsa's muscle gain. Luke has also always been extremely skinny, as you all know he is the official Mr. Picky Pants. This lack of fat also draws attention to the lack of muscle now as he ages but that lack of weight will actually help him as he grows older.
It is very important as our dogs age to keep weight off of them. No dog should be fat; in fact lean is much better for all dogs no matter what their age. But old dogs have a tough time getting around and every extra pound makes it that much more difficult. As Tilley got up in age I cut back on her food amounts, she was moving less so her caloric requirements changed. Even though Tilley was never heavy, she weighed between 45-47 lbs her entire life but I wanted to make it easier on her joints so a few pounds shed was a great help.
I know when I am pumping iron, I feel great. So it will be to the gym for me this morning and then to the beach for a rip roaring romp for the dogs. Have a great day.