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Why Your Dog Gets Muscle Spasms and What To Give Them To Help

Muscle spasms aren’t life-threatening and may only last a few seconds, but they can be incredibly painful for your dog. Worse yet, if they happen regularly, muscle spasms can interfere with your pup’s quality of life.

No pet parent wants to see their fur family in discomfort and pain. But it can be tricky to know how to help them, especially since our dogs can’t outright tell us where they’re hurting. So what’s a dog mom or dad to do if their pup gets muscle spasms?

What is a Muscle Spasm?

Have you ever had a painful “charley horse” while you were sleeping, or spasms in your lower back? The pain may have only lasted a few seconds or minutes, but it can be intense! Now imagine your dog suffering through similar pain, repeatedly throughout the day or night. Any loving pet parent would do all they can to help their best fur friend. But it can be tough to know what to do.
a dog with painful muscles

Well, one of the first steps to helping your dog is understanding what muscle spasms are and why they happen.

Muscle spasms are involuntary contractions of the muscle. In some cases, the spasm is visible and can look like harmless twitching. As we mentioned, oftentimes they are harmless but still painful.In order to truly help your dog, it’s important to note that spasms, twitching, and tremors are not the same thing.

Twitching is an uncontrolled minor muscle contraction, whereas a muscle tremor is an uncontrolled rhythmic contraction that happens in one area of the body. Knowing the difference can help as you seek solutions for your dog’s pain or even when you talk to their veterinarian about their symptoms.

In general, muscle spasms aren’t a cause for major concern. But if they’ve been happening for a long time and in the same area, they can be especially painful for your dog. So don’t let it go untreated!Sometimes they’re a symptom of a serious underlying medical issue such as a pinched nerve, muscle damage, or even a slipped disc.

For these reasons, if your dog regularly has muscle spasms, visit your veterinarian. They can perform a full examination and recommend a treatment plan.

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What Causes Muscle Spasms in Dogs?

Now that we know what they are, the next question is why does your dog have muscle spasms? The truth is, there are a host of reasons:
  1. Overtraining and overuse. Some dogs live very, very active lives or participate in agility sports. And while we love this adventurous lifestyle, soreness, and muscle strain can lead to spasms.
  2. Injury. As we mentioned earlier, muscle damage or a slipped disc can be the root cause of muscle spasms. Less serious injuries like sprains or damaged joints can also result in spasms. When there is an injury, the muscle will tense and spasm as it tries to protect the affected area.
  3. Dehydration. Your dog’s body needs lots of water to work properly. When they become dehydrated, they’re more prone to develop muscle spasms.
  4. Nutritional deficiencies. Your pup also needs the proper nutrients to keep their muscles at peak condition. Deficiencies in magnesium, potassium, and calcium can cause spasms.
  5. Toxins, poisons, and medications. If your pup ingests something they shouldn’t, like chocolate or your medication, they may exhibit symptoms that look like muscle spasms but are in fact tremors. Call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline right away at (888) 426-4435.
  6. Distemper. Distemper is a highly contagious, even deadly, viral disease that spreads among dogs and other wild animals. As the disease progresses, some dogs develop neurological symptoms such as twitching and spasms. Distemper vaccinations are widely available so, if your dog has been vaccinated, chances are their muscle spasms are not caused by this virus.
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When to See a Veterinarian

When it comes to your dog’s health, it’s always best to consult the experts. If your dog has been suffering from muscle spasms, visit your veterinarian. They’ll complete a full exam and let you know whether there is an underlying cause for their muscle spasms.

Your vet can also prescribe a treatment plan that might include muscle relaxants to relieve your pup’s pain and help them get back to normal.

Especially if your dog is showing any additional symptoms, such as vomiting or weakness, don’t take any chances. Head to the emergency clinic to be on the safe side!

They can do a full exam and provide emergency care if needed.

How to Help Your Dog with Their Muscle Spasms

If your veterinarian determines that your dog is in good health, there are still steps you can take to help your dog with their muscle spasms.

If your pup is very active, they could be at risk of overworking their muscles. As much as they love to run, jump, and play, you may need to force them to have some downtime and give their body a rest.

Proper resting time can allow their body to recover and actually prevent muscle spasms.Also, be sure to keep your dog hydrated! Did you know that dogs should drink about one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day? And if the weather is especially warm, they should drink more.

Dehydrated muscles are more susceptible to cramping and spasms. Keep fresh water bowls around your home to help your dog stay hydrated.

a woman hugging a dog

Inflammation is at the root of many injuries and muscle spasms. If your dog suffers from chronic inflammation, then it can really exacerbate the issue.Try using a natural supplement like Omega-3 to help calm the inflammation in your dog’s body. Omega-3 fatty acids help create hormones that regulate inflammation. When used over time, they can support your dog’s active lifestyle and help them with their muscle spasms.

a bottle of Omega-3 by Pawsomely Healthy
Supplementing your dog’s nutrition with a nutrient-rich life-stage supplement can also provide relief from muscle spasms.

Magnesium, calcium, and potassium are essential for strong, healthy muscles. When the body lacks these nutrients, muscle spasms are more likely.

Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in your dog’s cells (potassium ranks as number one). It works in harmony with calcium. Not enough magnesium can cause your dog\'s muscles to spasm, and it can also prevent calcium from doing its job of supporting muscle function.

FAQs About Dog Muscle Spasms

Is my dog having a seizure or a muscle spasm? Typically, a dog who is having a seizure will show more symptoms than muscle spasms. If you observe any of the following symptoms, take your dog to the vet right away:
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Incontinence
  • Trouble walking
  • Loss of consciousness

Are certain dog breeds more prone to having muscle spasms? While muscle spasms can affect any dog breed, some are more prone to muscle tremors. Chow Chows, Springer spaniels, Samoyeds, Weimaraners, Dalmatians, Doberman pinschers, English bulldogs, and Labrador retrievers are all believed to be prone to tremors.

The Final Woof

Muscle spasms are a literal pain to deal with. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to alleviate your dog’s discomfort and give them relief. Visit your veterinarian to rule out any underlying conditions and to get an expert treatment plan. In the meantime, take preventative measures by giving your dog enough rest, proper hydration, and nutrient-rich supplements.
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