For every dog, cat, and horse owner, making sure their beloved animal is fit, healthy and happy is a top priority.
Our furry friends are active creatures, who love to run, jump, chase, hunt, and play with us. Watching them frolic and have fun will always put a smile on our faces – but what if they become injured?
Dogs, cats, and horses can be prone to injury. Every animal’s muscles need adequate exercise, diet, and supplementation to work properly – but what’s the best way to keep your pet’s muscles healthy?
In this blog, we’ll be covering animal muscles and how they contribute to the overall health of your pet. Read on to learn about muscle ailments in dogs, cats, and horses, and find out ten ways you can look after your pet’s muscles.
How Do Animals’ Muscles Contribute To Their Health?
An animal’s muscles, including a human’s, are essentially the ‘meat’ of the body. Muscles are joined to the bones at each end and enable the bones to move by contracting and lengthening.
The most important functions of an animal’s muscles, and the first thing you’d think of, are to support the skeleton and facilitate movement. Our pet’s muscles enable them to run, jump and play with us.
But for all mammals, including humans, muscles enable several other bodily functions that are essential for overall health:
- Weight management
- Blood circulation
- Organ protection
- Temperature regulation
Basically, muscles enable animals to do things that keep them healthy – physically and mentally. This includes breathing, eating, playing, and moving.
The importance of certain muscle groups and the individual muscles recruited for certain tasks vary across species.
When we think of our domestic animals – dogs, cats, and horses – certain muscle groups are more important than others for their day-to-day health and wellbeing.
Dogs – Muscle Animal Ailments, Diseases & Impact On Overall Health
Dogs are highly active, social, playful animals that love to run, bound, chase, and even work for their owners. This highly mobile lifestyle is dependent on the health of their muscles and joints.
Unfortunately, dogs can become prone to muscular ailments and diseases. There are a number of factors that contribute to a dog’s risk of muscular problems, and often owners simply don’t know how to prevent, avoid, and treat these issues.
Dogs can get muscular ailments due to:
- Overexertion as a puppy
- Breed-specific problems
- Injuries during play
- Old age
We’ll explain some of the most common muscular ailments in dogs and their impact on your dog’s overall health.
Sadly, some breeds are prone to specific injuries and diseases. Perhaps the most obvious breed-specific problems are a Pug’s encephalitis or a German Shepherd’s elbow dysplasia.
Myopathy is a disease in the muscle tissue. It can be caused by a vast range of issues, from cancer to poison ingestion, stunting the animal’s muscle growth and mutating the animal’s muscle cells.
Here’s some information on how breed-specific myopathy manifests in Labradors, Great Danes, and Hungarian Vizslas.
|Dog Breed||Myopathy Type||Details||Diagnosis||Prognosis|
|Labrador||Labrador Retriever Myopathy||Urine test or biopsy||Symptoms stabilize once the animal is mature and life span is unaffected|
|Great Dane||Great Dane Myopathy||Blood test or electromyography||Therapy is essential to relieving symptoms.|
|Hungarian Vizsla||Vizsla Inflammatory Polymyopathy (VIP)||Non-life threatening so long as it is diagnosed and treated early.||Immunosuppressive therapy is required.|
Although these breed-specific animal muscle problems are not life-threatening (as long as they are diagnosed and treated early), experiencing these problems with your dog can be heart-wrenching for any owner.
Otherwise known as Achilles Tendon Disruption, this is a nasty muscle animal trauma most commonly experienced by:
- Working dogs – sheepdogs, hunting dogs, police dogs
- Sporting dogs – agility, racing, endurance
When we think of a torn tendon, we might think of a human athlete such as a football player experiencing this excruciating and often career-ending injury.
Dropped hock is the same scenario for animal muscles, where a dog’s Achilles tendon can be ripped away from the bone – sometimes completely.
It’s most common in dogs who undertake rigorous exercise on a regular basis, essentially the athletes of the dog world. A fall, overextension, or misplacement of weight can be all it takes for a dog to cause extreme damage to the muscle.
Dogs who experience this injury will:
- Yelp and cry (obviously)
- Limp dramatically
- Be unable to touch the affected paw to the ground
- Have swelling
While a dropped hock can be treated with extensive surgery, the success of this procedure varies. In most cases, the dog will never return to peak performance again.
This is why the prevention of animal muscle damage, such as dropped hock, is essential. Using a joint supplement like TRI-ACTA provides animal muscle protection by improving mobility, protecting joint tissues and decreasing stiffness.
Animal Muscle Tumor
Feeling or noticing a lump on your dog can send you into a panic – is it malignant? Do they have cancer? Can it be removed, or is it too late?
There are two types of tumors that can be found in your dog:
A lipoma is a benign tumor composed of fat and largely found in older dogs. They can be unsightly, but they won’t harm your canine companion. If they get too big or they’re in an uncomfortable place, they can cause discomfort and limping. In such cases, a vet can remove them.
Sarcomas, on the other hand, are dangerous and cancerous. Thankfully, they are rare – occurring in 35 out of 100,000 dogs. Treatment effectiveness depends on how quickly the sarcoma is found, as it can sometimes spread quickly throughout the body. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also options.
It’s easy to be alarmed by tumors in your precious animal’s muscles – such as on their legs, tail, or belly – but sometimes these lumps and bumps are totally benign.
Either way, it’s important to get them examined by your vet.
Cats – Muscle Animal Ailments, Diseases & Impact On Overall Health
Unlike dogs, cats are far less social and far more sedentary. Because cats sleep 15-20 hours per day, they don’t spend a lot of time exerting themselves or their muscles.
But that doesn’t mean your feline friend is safe from muscular ailments. Cats are often at risk of muscle problems if they are:
- Overly sedentary
- Exposed to dangerous situations
Let’s dive into some common feline muscle problems.
Yellow Fat Disease
If you let your cat indulge in canned tuna, liver, or other fatty food for humans – watch out, you could be putting them at risk of yellow fat disease.
Otherwise known as steatitis, this animal muscle disorder occurs in young cats who are:
- Fed a high-fat diet
- Deficient in vitamin E
This is a serious problem that, without treatment, can lead to death. Without vitamin E, the feline animal’s muscle cells can’t regenerate and they can’t metabolize fat.
Cats can easily become addicted to fatty foods like tuna and avoid healthy food, so it’s essential to step in quickly.
Symptoms of the yellow fat disease include:
- Appetite loss
- Signs of pain
- Sensitive skin
Treatment for this condition involves a drastic diet change, supplementation, and exercise to get your cat back to health.
Feline Hypokalemic Polymyopathy
This nasty condition targets the feline animal’s muscle cells, causing weakness, limping, pain, weight loss, and ventroflexion of the neck:
The disorder is thought to be the most common cause of animal muscle weakness in cats and is caused by a potassium deficiency. Potassium is a vital part of the cat’s diet and a significant drop in potassium levels in the blood can be life-threatening.
Hypokalemia is more common in older cats and caused by kidney failure, but chronic vomiting can also be a contributing factor.
When it comes to treating Hypokalemia and associated animal muscle weakness in your cat, your veterinarian can either:
- Provide an oral potassium supplement, or
- Administer potassium intravenously
Both options can be tricky because over supplementing potassium can cause further damage to your cat’s heart. Proceed with caution and discuss treatment options with your vet.
Horses – Muscle Animal Ailments, Diseases & Impact On Overall Health
Whether you have a pony for leisure riding or a sport horse for eventing, all horse owners know that these beautiful creatures are strong yet delicate animals. Taking care of a horse is a huge responsibility, especially if it is training for a big event.
Horses can be affected by many different types of animal muscle problems with a vast range of causes – from a dietary deficiency to an infectious disease, or even ingesting a toxic plant.
|Type of Animal Muscle Ailment||Example|
|Nutritional||Selenium/Vitamin E Deficiency|
|Exertional||Sporadic Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (Tying Up)|
|Breed-Specific||Myopathy in Quarter Horses|
Nutritional – Selenium & Vitamin E Deficiency
Selenium and Vitamin E are essential for metabolic health and the protection of animal muscle cells. Some soils are low in Selenium and it is thought that 30% of horses are deficient.
Symptoms of a Selenium & Vitamin E deficiency include:
- Dull coat
- Sore muscles
- Weak hooves
- Poor athletic performance
Supplementation is necessary for horses to improve their Selenium levels, but owners still have to be careful as over-supplementation can be toxic.
Annual blood tests are often necessary to keep an eye on these levels and make sure the horse is getting all the nutrients they need.
Exertional – Sporadic Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (Tying Up)
Sometimes, horses are pushed beyond their physical limits – especially when competing or racing.
Exertional muscle disorders are highly dangerous and traumatic for the horse, so owners and trainers should pay attention to a horse’s fitness levels and always exercise a horse within its ability.
Tying Up is the most common form of Sporadic Exertional Rhabdomyolysis and can happen to any horse that is pushed too hard in training. The key sign is muscle cramping and stiffness immediately after exercise.
To treat this muscular disorder, owners should:
- Immediately stable the horse
- Provide soft bedding
- Allow access to freshwater
- Administer pain relief to reduce inflammation
- Allow plenty of rest before bringing back to work
Blood tests determine whether the horse is safe to return to exercise when enzyme levels are back to normal.
Infectious – Muscle Abscess
Sadly, horses often injure themselves in situations where:
- Their field has inappropriate or dangerous fencing
- They stumble on a hard surface
- They kick or are kicked by another horse
Muscular injuries, if left untreated or unhealed, can lead to abscesses. Depending on how deep the abscess is, treatment can be relatively simple or more complex.
- Topical ointment
- Flushing and draining
- Surgical removal
It’s important that horse owners check their horse’s body all over for any signs of injury or abscess. Early diagnosis and prevention are key to ensuring your horse stays fit and healthy.
Breed-Specific – Myopathy in Quarter Horses
Some breeds are more prone to certain muscular problems, especially when those breeds are used for specialized forms of work.
The Quarter Horse is famous for its use in Western riding. This strong breed has powerful hindquarters, hence the name, which enable it to accomplish impressive physical feats with its rider.
These movements can cause muscular trauma to the inner thigh muscles, resulting in a thickening of the connective tissue. The horse’s gait is affected, becoming jerky and awkward.
Treatment of this condition requires extensive X-rays and ultrasounds to determine the extent of the problem. Then, a vet must surgically remove the thickened animal muscle cells. Sadly, full recovery from this condition is rare.
Dogs – Tips On Maintaining Your Animal’s Muscle Health
To look after their dog’s muscles, owners should provide:
- Water therapy
Your dog should be walked at least once per day to keep them fit, healthy, and – importantly – happy.
Try to take them to new places and alternate between routes, as this will keep things interesting for your dog.
If you can’t walk your dog every day, make sure you incorporate some form of play that encourages them to run around.
Playing fetch and tug-of-war will help keep your dog’s muscles strong, and they’ll also love you for spending time with them!
We all love to spoil our dogs, but too many treats can make them overweight and cause excessive strain on their muscles.
Talk to your vet about the most suitable diet for your dog, as diets vary between ages and breeds, and try not to give too many unhealthy treats.
Healthy treats like vegetables and lean meat can be delicious – but only in moderation.
Supplementing your dog’s diet with products that protect and nourish their muscles is the best way to protect them from muscular problems as they get older.
Learn how to read a supplement label to make sure the supplements you’re giving your dog contain maximal active ingredients and minimal fillers.
Just like with humans, swimming is a fantastic low-impact exercise for dogs that helps with weight loss and muscle conditioning.
If you live near a beach or lake, and dogs are allowed, you should take your dog for swims in the water – they’ll love it, especially if they’re a water breed.
Alternatively, some vet centers offer water therapy services.
Cats – Tips On Maintaining Your Animal’s Muscle Health
To keep your cat’s muscles healthy, you should:
- Encourage play
- Provide outdoor stimulation
Cats are impressive hunters and are always on the prowl – even if they’re old! If you have a cat, it’s highly likely that she loves to chase little mouse-like toys.
Playing with your cat is essential for them to develop their hunting and defensive skills (if you let them outside), to build a bond with you, and to keep their muscles strong and healthy.
Encourage play where your cat has to jump onto different levels and be agile – use a toy on a long string to get them moving!
Once your kitten is three months old, has had its essential vaccinations, and been neutered, you can allow them outside to explore the neighbourhood.
This can be nerve-racking, but letting your cat prowl outside at night is perhaps the best and most natural way to look after their muscles and keep them fit and healthy.
If you can’t let your cat outside, consider building them an outdoor catio with plenty of space, toys, and different levels for them to jump and explore.
Horses – Tips On Maintaining Your Animal’s Muscle Health
Here are the best ways to look after your horse’s muscles:
- Regular riding
- Adequate warm-up
Regular Exercise & Riding
Although exercise requirements vary based on your horse’s age, physical ability, breed, and state of work, you should still be exercising them regularly to prevent muscular injury.
Horses get bored easily and grow accustomed to the routine very quickly – they are highly intelligent animals. You should switch up your riding to introduce different exercises and drills, new terrain, and additional obstacles.
Try new forms of exercises like lunging and pole work to keep your horse’s muscles healthy and their mind active. They’ll love you for it!
It doesn’t matter if your horse is a showjumper or an old schoolmaster, they should always be warmed up before doing any kind of exercise.
Avoid rushing your horse’s exercise and diving straight into cantering and jumping.
Take the time to:
- Ride gently through each gait
- Trot and canter on both reins
- Practice stopping to make sure they’re listening
This ensures that their muscles are warm before you start jumping, a dressage routine, or go for a hack.
Massage can be just as effective for horses as it is for humans for muscular health – and horses, like us, love a good massage! Massages promote circulation and help relax muscles which reduce the chance of injury.
After a ride, or even when you go out to see them in their field or stall, take the time to massage your horse’s muscles.
If you’re nervous about this or your horse can be flighty (some mares aren’t as interested in physical touch) talk to your vet about safe and effective methods to massage your horse’s muscles.
You can even call in a specialized horse masseuse, physio, or chiropractor!
Equine supplements that contain the following are a powerful way to prevent muscular injury, arthritis, muscle soreness, and promote fast recovery for sport horses:
- Glucosamine – for cartilage regeneration and formation of collagen
- Chondroitin – for preventing cartilage breakdown and supporting glucosamine efficacy
- MSM – an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
- Hyaluronic Acid – to lubricate joints
Supplements like TRI-ACTA H.A. are especially effective for ageing or arthritic horses that need a little extra care for their muscles and joints.
Muscle Animal – FAQ’s
“What Kind Of Exercise Is Best For My Pet?”
Because of their highly social nature, playing with your dog or taking him for a walk is the best kind of exercise that prevents muscle injury but also enhances your bond.
The best kind of exercise for cats is to let them outside to hunt on their own terms. It keeps them healthy and happy while allowing them to release pent-up energy and behave naturally.
Alternatively, mimicking the hunting environment using mouse-like toys in your home and playing with your cat for at least an hour each day is highly beneficial.
The best exercise depends on your horse’s age, ability, and whether they are competing.
Either way, an activity that is stimulating for their brain and enhances your working relationship is the most fulfilling kind of exercise that looks after their muscles.
Here are some ideas:
- Mini-endurance rides
- Lead rope walks (if your horse is very old or retired)
“How Much Exercise Is Too Much?”
This depends on the breed – working dogs like Border Collies, Huskies, and Blue Heelers should go for a long walk twice a day (if they’re not working). Lap Dogs like Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus require less exercise.
Your dog will likely tell you if they’re too tired and they’ve had too much exercise by:
- Lying down
- Losing interest
With cats, excessive exercise isn’t so much of a concern because cats are very good at lying down boundaries with their owners and protecting themselves. Your cat will run away, curl up to sleep, or show no interest in you if they are tired of playing.
Overexercising your horse can be dangerous and your horse’s physical limits vary greatly depending on its breed, age, and level of work.
It’s best to consult with your vet to double-check that your horse’s exercise routine is healthy and sustainable.
“What Kind Of Supplement Is Best For My Pet?”
This is because our products contain only the highest quality active ingredients that are highly concentrated, which means:
- Only small doses are required
- No harmful filler ingredients
- More cost-effective
Our range of products include:
|TRI-ACTA for Pets||Young dogs and cats to prevent muscular ailments and injuries|
|TRI-ACTA H.A for Pets||Older dogs and cats to treat muscular conditions and arthritis|
|TRI-ACTA for Equine||Young horses to prevent muscular ailments and injuries|
|TRIACTA H.A for Equine||Older horses, those competing or under a heavier workload to treat muscular conditions and arthritis. We recommend Integricare supplements for dogs, cats, and horses—we have specific formulas no matter the size or age!|
Conclusion: Start Maintaining Your Animals’ Muscular Health Today
Preventative measures are always best to make sure your beloved pet is at low risk of muscular injuries.
With consistent exercise, play, healthy diet and supplementation, your animal’s muscles will stay in top condition, helping them make the most of life.
At Integricare, we’re dedicated to helping pet owners find the highest quality supplements for their animal’s muscle health.
Talk to our team for more information and advice on which supplement is best for your dog, cat, or horse.