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Rebekah Haferbecker
Rebekah Haferbecker, Pet Care Provider
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 95
Experience:  Have been caring for pets and shelter animals for over 10 years.
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What causes muscle atrophy in dogs

Customer Question

My golden retriever began having shaking in her left back leg
about 18-20 months ago. At first it was intermitant, then more
frequent and finally affected both back legs. A neurologist in
Maine - who did not know the cause - suggested I try anipryl
30mg to stop the trembling. I began this treatment last August
and it did stop the tremors. However, her back legs are literally
wasting away. They are thin, no muscle tone and very weak. No
one seems to know why or what to do.
I am very worried that an otherwise healthy dog is becoming a
cripple and desparate to know what to do.
Submitted: 12 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Rebekah Haferbecker replied 12 years ago.
 One possibility:

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) occurs mostly in middle-aged or older German Shepherd Dogs, although other breeds have been diagnosed with it.  It is characterized by a progressive rear limb weakness and ataxia (drunken sailor walk) which leads to the inability to support the animals weight.  Common signs include paw dragging, crossing the rear limbs, and muscle atrophy.  It is believed that this disease is either an immunodeficiency or autoimmune disease (the body attacks the nerves and conductive covering).  Diagnosis is made by history, ruling out Intervertebral Disc Disease and tumor by radiographs, myelogram, MRI, or CT scan.  Treatment options for DM include:  1) acupuncture if there are painful joints or muscles, 2) hydro-treadmill for strengthening, and 3) nutritional supplements.  Currently, there is not a way to reverse this disease.  The normal progression is decreased nerve input leading to decreased use and concurrently decreased muscle mass.  The dog's pull their weight forward to compensate for a weakness in the rear limbs leading to progression of the disease.  Our treatment goal is to increase strength in the rear limbs thereby increasing muscle mass.  When this is accomplished the decreased nerve input has more muscle mass to work with making it easier for the animal to compensate.


Take a look at the above site as it lists other neurological and degenerative diseases.

Hope this helps!