What is it

Atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass. It may be due to a disuse, reduced nervous input or simply not using those muscles as much.

What it means

This is often seen in cases where the animal decides to avoid using certain muscles due to injury or pain or when there is a problem with the nervous system. When an animal compensates for an injury by adjusting how they move, they neglect certain muscles, or groups of muscles, and this can lead them to atrophy. 

Atrophy of a muscle makes it weaker, which tends to create a cycle, the other muscles take over the job and the atrophied muscles then atrophy more. 

What we do about it

Tackling atrophy requires targeted therapy. The muscles that are atrophied don’t want to work, and there is a tendency for stronger muscles to take over the job. The dogs still want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible so they just go with the muscles that are currently working. We need to create exercise and therapies that don’t let the dog use the wrong muscles, and bias them to use the muscles that have atrophied so thy grow strong again. 

Dr Jaime Jackson