Muscle Spasms in Dogs: What to Do?

June 10, 2020
While muscle spasms in dogs don't pose a potential threat to an animal's life, they can be painful. Their appearance can be the indication of a serious condition that requires medical attention.

Muscle spasms in dogs can appear as the consequence of a localized problem. It’s common for them to come from excess effort, neurological damage, or physical injury.

Although muscle spasms in and of themselves aren’t dangerous, they can be painful–especially if they persist for a long period of time. They can also be an indication of a more serious condition, such as a pinched nerve, a slipped disk, or brain damage.

Some issues that cause muscle spasms in dogs are directly related to neurological disorders that often cause convulsions.

What are muscle spasms in dogs?

It’s important to keep in mind that convulsions in dogs, whether epileptic or not, are formed by a multitude of recurring muscle spasms. The origin of these spasms has to do with electric activity in the brain.

At the same time, muscle spasms that occur in dogs can have no association at all with convulsions. When they take place in an isolated manner, then they’re generally a less serious symptom.

Therefore, it’s important to know the specific cause of muscle spasms in dogs before trying to give treatment of your own accord. Therefore, if you suspect your dog is having spasms, then you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. In the article below, we’ll talk about aspects you should keep in mind for your appointment.

The causes of muscular spasms in dogs

The first thing you need to understand is that there’s not just one cause for muscle spasms in dogs. Each cause has its own set of systems and types of treatment.

A French bulldog sleeping.

1. Muscle contractions while sleeping

During the deep sleep phase, the canine brain experiences a greater level of activity. This could explain why some dogs (and human beings) tend to twitch in their sleep.

If you suspect you’re dog’s having a convulsion while sleeping, try to wake your pet gently. If nothing’s going on, the animals will wake up right away. However, if your dog is experiencing a non-epileptic seizure, it will be much more difficult to wake your pet.

2. Lesions

Muscles, bones, veins, and cartilage in dogs come together to form a complex system. Therefore, problems with muscles often coincide or cause problems with an animal’s joints.

When a dog suffered an injury to a joint or muscle, the surrounding muscles will tighten up and harden, which can lead to muscle spasms. In general, these lesions will cause dogs to limp or change the way they walk.

In the case of head trauma, an altered capacity of the brain to calculate movement of the extremities can produce muscle spasms in dogs.

3. Hypoglycemia

While this is an uncommon secondary effect, low blood sugar levels in hypoglycemic canines can cause muscle spasms and convulsions.

4. Overexertion

Convulsions in dogs.

When dogs play or run too hard or for too long, their muscles can suffer from intense activity. The time animals spend outdoors without water can cause severe dehydration and heatstroke in dogs, which are also possible causes of convulsions.

5. Poisoning

Poisoning is common in dogs since they tend to try substances that aren’t safe for consumption.

Wobbling is a defining characteristic when it comes to poisoning in dogs, but owners often confuse this symptom with muscle spasms.  If poisoning in dogs goes untreated, then it can lead to kidney failure and serious complications.

6. Canine distemper

This is a viral illness that affects puppies and dogs whose vaccines aren’t up to date. Distemper can produce symptoms that include muscle spasms.

7. Canine stress syndrome

This a neurological disorder that certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, are susceptible to. Studies have shown that excessive exercise in dogs can also lead to this condition.

Veterinary attention for muscle spasms in dogs

Unless you’re sure that muscle spasms in dogs are isolated, you should speak with a veterinarian right away. It’s especially urgent if spasms are constant or if your dog is vomiting or lethargic.

  • If your veterinarian suspects poisoning, then your pet will receive injections to induce vomiting as well as intravenous hydration.
  • Any time a dog has muscle spasms or convulsions, veterinary personnel will conduct blood tests in order to verify enzyme levels of important internal organs.
  • If your dog is limping or has suffered from a recent fall or another sort of injury, the vet will order X-rays or Cat scans.
  • In the case that a veterinarian suspects epilepsy or any other neurological disorder, the professional will likely carry out tests such as an EEGThese tests observe and register electric activity in the animal’s brain.
  • If the veterinarian diagnoses your pet with epilepsy, then he or she will apply treatment involving antiepileptic medications to stabilize the animal. This medication seeks to reduce your dog’s seizure threshold as much as possible.
  • Other laboratory tests may include urine tests, stool tests, and the analysis of cerebrospinal fluid.

How to care for your dog at home

A veterinarian examining a dog.

With the diagnosis and guidance of a veterinarian, you can apply proper measures to relieve your dog. These measures can even help to prevent your dog from suffering from muscle spasms in the future.

Depending on the source of muscle spasms, additional treatment may be necessary to deal with the root cause. These can include physiotherapy sessions, massage, or surgery in order to eliminate the affected nerve or source of cramping.

The best way to treat muscle spasms in dogs is to prevent them. Both during exercise and after, make sure your dog has access to plenty of water and stays hydrated, especially on warmer days.

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