When a dog has a muscle spasm, it may be due to a localized problem. For example, if a dog injures its leg, the result may be involuntary movements known as muscle spasms. The spasms can also result from a misfire in the dog’s brain where involuntary and voluntary movement is controlled. Some conditions that cause muscle spasms in dogs may be due to neurological problems that cause seizures.
Type Of Seizures Dogs Can Experience
Epileptic and non-epileptic seizures can occur in our canine pets. Both types of seizures in dogs can cause muscle spasms. A dog’s muscle spasms that isn’t seizure-related, is usually the result of a less serious health problem or medical issue, such as an injury. It’s essential to understand the cause of the spasm before attempting to treat it.
What Dog Owners Should Know And Do
There isn’t one specific reason for dogs to have muscle spasms. Each type of spasm has a particular cause and treatment.
1. Canine Stress Syndrome
Canine Stress Syndrome is a neurological disorder. Certain breeds, including Labrador Retrievers, are more susceptible to the condition than other dogs. Canine Stress Syndrome is hereditary. In some dogs, CSS manifests as psychological distress also referred to as hyperthermia syndrome. Studies have concluded that CSS can be induced by too much exercise. Treatment is successful if done aggressively and early. Common symptoms of CSS include:
- Severe seizures
- Involuntary muscle spasms
Distemper is a contagious virus that can affect dogs and puppies that aren’t up-to-date on vaccines. The virus can be spread by contact with a food bowl or bedding of an infected animal. The virus attacks the nervous system, which can cause seizures.
Dystonia is a serious neurological disorder that can develop or be inherited in a canine. The most common symptom of this disorder is involuntary, chronic muscle spasms that can disable a dog. The constant muscle contractions and twitching can cause depressive disorders and anxiety in pets.
When a dog is hypoglycemic, a rare side effect is low blood sugar can cause seizures and spasms . It isn’t common, but some dogs that are diabetic will experience twitching and muscle spasm symptoms.
A dog’s bones, cartilage, muscles, nerves, and veins connect and form a complex bodily system. The connection is the reason worn cartilage can lead to atrophy or wasting of muscle. Injuries may also be responsible for joint and muscle problems being connected. When a dog has a muscle or joint that’s injured, the muscles around it will cramp or get stiff, causing the dog to walk with a limp. When there’s trauma that affects the activity of the dog’s brain and changes in movement, muscle spasms can occur.
The symptoms dogs can experience after strenuous exercise are similar to what humans experience with overexertion. When a dog runs and plays too hard or for too long, the lactic acid that overexerted muscles produce naturally can build up. When there’s an excess of lactic acid in the muscles, dogs can experience muscle cramps and soreness.
7. REM Cycle Twitching
Dogs experience REM sleep cycles the same way humans do. If you see your dog’s muscles twitching during sleep, it’s likely nothing for concern. When a human or animal is in a REM cycle, there’s heightened brain activity. REM is the deepest level of sleep which is why an animal or person experiences muscle twitching.
Toxicity or poisoning is what dogs experience when they get into a substance not meant for canine consumption. Body spasms are some of the common signs of poisoning in dogs. If the dog doesn’t get veterinary treatment immediately, it can lead to over-activity in the central nervous system and/or kidney failure. If you suspect your dog may have ingested something toxic, you should seek emergency veterinary care immediately.
When To See Your Veterinarian
If your dog is experiencing problems like vomiting, immobility, or walking, you should contact your veterinarian. However, if you’re aware of the cause of the muscle spasms, such as REM cycle twitching, there likely isn’t a cause for alarm. If you have any concerns, it’s best to discuss them with your veterinarian.
What To Expect If You Need To See The Veterinarian
When you take your dog to the vet, the veterinarian or vet tech will ask about your pup’s medical history and what’s causing your concern. If your veterinarian suspects a neurological disorder like epilepsy, your dog’s brain activity will be monitored with an Electroencephalogram or EEG. If the diagnosis is epilepsy, your veterinarian will discuss medication options. Antiepileptic drug therapy is designed to lessen the severity of the seizures.
Caring for Muscle Spasms At Home
When you get a diagnosis and instructions from your veterinarian, you’re ready to care for your dog at home. When you know what causes the disorder, you’ll know what to do to alleviate the spasms and discomfort. Depending on the cause, you may even be able to prevent future muscle spasms. Here are some steps to take while your dog is having a spasm:
- Using a gentle touch, pet and massage your dog. Applying gentle pressure to a muscle that’s inflamed or tight can help to alleviate the tension. When there’s less tension in the muscles, spasms are less likely to occur. In some cases, physical therapy helps.
- Apply cold compresses. A cold compress or an ice bag on a sore or stiff muscle constricts the blood vessels and reduces the inflammation.
Focus And Stay Calm
While watching your dog experience a seizure can be scary, it’s vital to remember that when your pup isn’t conscious during the episode, they aren’t experiencing it mentally. You can take comfort in that most seizures only last 10 to 30 seconds and at the most 60 to 80 seconds. Seizures that last five minutes or longer are considered to be life-threatening but are very rare. The good news is that even dogs that have mild to more severe spasms can live happy, healthy lives with the proper care and medication.
Preventing Dog Muscle Spasms
1. Knowing how to keep your dog comfortable by massaging muscles and providing medication prescribed by your veterinarian can help to prevent problems. Knowing how to avoid muscle spasms makes you more prepared. If your pet does experience an episode, you’ll help your pet by remaining calm while handling the situation.
2. Keep your dog hydrated. Dehydration can make muscle spasms worse. You should always keep a bowl full of cool water for your dog in the house and the yard. If your dog is older or has mobility problems, it’s a good idea to keep bowls of water in several locations around your house.
3. It’s a good idea to keep a close watch over your dog during playtime with other animals in your yard or at the dog park. Injuries can happen quickly, even with other dogs your dog knows well. Careful supervision of your dog may reduce the risk of injury or allow you to act quickly if an injury does occur.
4. Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of a seizure can help you prepare for muscle spasm attacks. The most common warning signs are:
- Anxious behavior
- Excessive licking
1. How can I help my dog with muscle spasms?
You should always talk to your veterinarian before you administer medication to your dog. Two of the most common medicines for dog muscle spasms are Diazepam and Methocarbamol. Diazepam is one of the many muscle relaxants that has a calming effect. Methocarbamol is helpful for muscle spasms associated with IVDD.
2. Why is my dog twitching all of a sudden?
When a dog starts twitching, the cause could be medical, like a muscle contraction. If the dog has a seizure, the limbs are usually rigid and stiff, and the movement is more violent. If your dog is sleeping and in a REM sleep cycle, the actions will be more of a slight twitching, which is normal. REM twitching usually lasts about 30 seconds or less.
3. What can cause spasms in dogs?
A thiamine deficiency can cause spasms in dogs. Another cause could be Myoclonus, a muscle disease. A physical injury, muscle strain, or pinched nerve can cause twitching. Another issue may be dehydration if your dog has been playing hard or getting strenuous exercise. A veterinarian can check for neurological disorders, a pinched nerve, or a slipped disc. The veterinarian will also ask about recent injuries, lameness, depression, or pain your dog is experiencing.
4. Is muscle twitching normal for dogs?
Although muscle twitching may be caused by a medical problem, a physical injury, or too much exercise, normal muscle contraction is pretty common in many cases. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to twitching or having tremors. They include:
- Chow chows
- Doberman pinschers
- English bulldogs
- Springer spaniels
These breeds should see a veterinarian for issues with pain and their muscular system.