Doubtless, you’ve seen your dog shiver and shake. If your dog is nervous, maybe of going to the vet or doesn’t want to take a bath. His entire body will shake, his tail will be down or even between his legs. Muscle spasms are not the same thing. We are talking about localized tremors.
For example, have you noticed your dog having some strange twitches coming from just under his skin? If so, your dog may be dealing with muscle spasms. They look like a shiver or fluttering, depending on intensity, running along with the muscles in a specific area.
If your dog hurts his leg somehow, that’s when you might notice these shivers and flutter in the injured leg. They are involuntary and can differ in their intensity and speed.
I’m using a leg as an example but, they can occur anywhere there is a muscle.
The muscle spasm themselves are not in any way harmful for your dog, but they show there’s an issue with that particular muscle. And, if they continue for any length of time, will become painful.
What Causes Muscle Spasms in Dogs?
There’s no set reason for muscle spasms. Something kicks them off, it can be any of these – muscle strains, any kind of injury, neurological disorder, allergies, lack of fluids, or a new medication responsible for side-effects.
Seizures may also cause muscle tremors, but there is a definite difference. Any kind of seizure will cause a dog to experience tremors over their entire body – muscle spasms are, as we mentioned earlier, more localized.
1. REM Cycle Muscle Spasms
During rem cycle sleep (deep sleep) human and dog’s brains experience higher levels of activity, which also might account for twitching while sleeping.
It’s well researched that dogs dream, so your dog is probably dreaming about the fun he had on your latest hike together or what he intends to do with the neighbor’s cat if he ever catches it.
But if you see something different about the twitching and you suspect it might be a seizure, then try to wake him. Doing so gently is best if he’s only sleeping you don’t want to shock him awake. If it’s a seizure, then you’ll not be able to wake him easily.
2. Muscle Spasms Caused by an Injury
All of a dog’s body systems must work in sync to keep him healthy. For example, his bones and muscles work in tandem to support and enable him to move. If any part of this complex system isn’t functioning as it should, that has a knock-on effect in other systems in his body.
Which is why if your dog injures a leg muscle, for instance, that can lead to a joint problem in the leg or worn cartilage in the knee can create problems with muscles around the knee.
If your dog damages a joint or muscle the surrounding muscles can cramp or go stiff, this will look like spasms, and most likely he will limp. Any serious head injury to the part of his brain controlling limb movement may also cause spasms.
3. Hypoglycemia and Muscle Spasms
This is not usually a common occurrence, but low blood sugar can sometimes bring on muscle spasms. Dogs with diabetes can suffer from muscle twitching.
If you know your dog is diabetic and you see this, try to make him eat something. If he refuses to make some glucose solution (glucose powder and water mixed), you can give it to him via a syringe.
He might not be capable of swallowing if that’s the case, rub the solution you’ve made on his gums and under his tongue. If the muscle twitching worsens, or he becomes unconscious, get in touch with your vet urgently.
4. Muscle Spasms From Over Exercise
If your dog over exerts himself his muscles can suffer. When your dog is exercising intensely his muscles will produce lactic acid, this leads to sore and even cramping muscles.
This will make his muscles twitch, but as he rests the muscles, the twitching will subside. While he’s outside exerting himself and if not taking on board any fluids, this will cause him to dehydrate and that can induce seizures.
5. EHIS/CSS and Muscle Spasms in Dogs
EHIS (exercise-induced hyperthermia syndrome) and CSS (canine stress syndrome) are possible in several dog breeds, for example, English Springer Spaniels and Greyhounds.
EHIS/CSS can be induced by over-exercising a gene susceptible dog. Any dog suffering from this syndrome will show signs of hypothermia, muscle spasms and will subsequently collapse. It requires very urgent medical attention.
Treatment of Dog Muscle Spasms
If you’ve exercised your dog vigorously and when he’s resting, he twitches or cramps, then you might try stretching and gently massaging the offending muscles. Makes sure you give him plenty to drink during and after an exercise session like this.
There are some electrolyte drinks and herbal muscle relaxants that your vet can recommend if it’s something that happens frequently. You might also consider dropping his level of exercise because he’s over-exerting himself.
If this is happening and you’re certain it’s not because of exercise then your vet may need to investigate to find the cause. It might be pinched or trapped nerves that require surgery. Or a senior might need some physical therapy, maybe hydro treatments or massages.
Prevention of Muscle Spasms in Dogs
It’s far better to limit the chances of him getting muscle spasms that trying to fix it afterwards. If he’s exercising and it’s a hot day, give him fluids before, during and after exercise. But as a general rule, dogs need fresh water easily accessible to them at all times.
If you’re taking him on a long run or hike, give him some mild exercise first, to warm up his muscles. In reality, what you would do for yourself before exercising is exactly the same for your dog. Muscles are muscles.
The Last Word
Most causes of muscle spasms in dogs are easily treatable. Keep your eye on him for any sign the problem is becoming more severe. If there is some kind of underlying disease, follow your vet’s advice and treatment regime. But don’t be afraid to get in touch with your vet if symptoms are not improving.
As a kid, I grew up with lots of dogs in my family. My earliest recollection was a Labrador mix called Bruce, and I must have only been about three years old.
When I was around seven, we began to move around frequently, so having a dog was very difficult until we adopted a baby long-haired Dachshund. I was thirteen by then. We called him Pepe; I have no idea why; all I can say was it wasn’t my idea. But he did seem to grow into the name.
I’ve personally been the parent of a Great Dane called Lady, a French Bulldog we called Spike. I have also had the privilege of being the parent of one of the gorgeous cats on the planet; a British Blue Shorthair called Ellie. Right now, we have an amazing little Havanese in our family; we call Biscuit; he’s four years old.
I pride myself on being the very best dog-parent I can be. I refuse to bring a dog into my life without investing as much time as possible to understand that dog’s particular needs. Every dog I have parented has been an experience, and they are all different with incredible personalities.
To understand dogs as much as possible, I have taken several courses regarding dog care and training. The most recent course is The Truth About Cats And Dogs, offered by The University Of Edinburgh.
My dogs and cat have been the funniest and most unique animals I have ever been privileged to spend my life with. They can teach human beings so much if we take the time to watch and listen to them. My ambition is to share what I have learned with other passionate dog lovers.
I am obsessed with writing and researching everything I can about dog health, care, psychology, and finding the best dog products available to help ensure a dog’s life is as happy and contented as possible.