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Dog Muscle Spasms: Everything You Need to Know

Dog twitching is typical behavior that every pup exhibits, particularly during an incredibly exciting dream that probably involved a few pesky squirrels. 

But have you noticed your dog leg twitching too often, with increasing regularity? It may be nothing at all. But, muscle spasms in dogs can also be signs of a severe underlying condition requiring some attention. 

Read below to learn more about muscle spasms in dogs, what they can mean, and how to prevent them. 

What are muscle spasms?

A muscle spasm, also known as a muscle cramp, occurs when a muscle involuntarily and rhythmically contracts and cannot relax. They can involve a partial muscle, an entire muscle, or a group of muscles.

They can last from just a few seconds to 15 minutes in length and may recur several times in a row.

Can dogs have muscle spasms?

Yes, a muscle spasm in dogs is a widespread occurrence, especially a dog back leg spasm. It’s usually a minor issue, but occasionally it may indicate an underlying problem that needs addressing. There are a ton of reasons why spasms happen, which we’ll delve into below.

Why is my dog having muscle spasms?

The reasons for a dog leg spasm or other spasms in dogs are usually relatively minor. If your dog has been experiencing more muscle spasms than usual, keep an eye on your pup’s behavior to see if any of the usual suspects are at play. 

Causes of muscle spasms in dogs

REM sleep twitching

Your dog has reached the deepest stage of sleep in which their brain is at its highest levels of activity, which can sometimes lead to dream-related twitching. These muscle spasms are entirely normal and absolutely nothing you need to worry about!

Injury and overexertion

Muscles twitch more often as they become fatigued. If your dog has been getting more exercise than usual, they may start to experience more dog muscle spasms. Give them lots of rest to recuperate and recover from all that hard work (and play).  

Excessive exercise can also lead to injury, like muscle strains, sprains, and stress fractures, causing muscle spasms. If your dog seems to be in significant pain, take it to the vet to get checked. 

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions are relatively common in pups and can lead to muscle spasms in dogs, as well as excessive itching, redness, and digestive issues. 

If you’ve recently introduced new food or medication to your doggo, try to take a few days off and see if the twitching improves.

Dehydration

If your pup hasn’t been drinking enough, they can experience quite a bit of muscle twitching. When muscles don’t get enough water, they cannot develop an organized contraction.

Get them clean water to drink asap, and make sure there is a full bowl with fresh water nearby to encourage regular drinking. 

Mineral Deficiency

Along with water, a dog’s muscles require sufficient levels of a few other elements - namely magnesium, glucose, sodium, potassium and calcium. If your dog is deficient in any of these, their muscles can become “irritable” and start to spasm. 

Poison

Our dogs are sometimes very good at sniffing out and getting into things that are dangerous for them. Wobbling and twitching are two signs of toxicity.

If you’re concerned that your pupper may have accidentally ingested a toxic substance, get them to the vet as fast as you can. Toxins need to be dealt with promptly, as every second counts. Damage becomes more severe over time in cases of poisoning and can even lead to death. 

Distemper

Distemper is a contagious, well-known virus that can affect dogs and puppies that haven’t been appropriately vaccinated. It concerns a pup’s nervous system and leads to muscle spasms, twitching, seizures, and even paralysis. It spreads so quickly that your dog doesn’t even need direct exposure to another infected animal to catch distemper. 

Keep your pup up-to-date on all shots and vaccinations to keep them safe from this terrible virus.

Dystonia

Dystonia is a severe neurological disorder that causes excessive and chronic muscle spasms, anxiety and depression. 

There is no cure for dogs with dystonia, but some methods can help minimize symptoms, like touching twitching areas. 

Canine stress syndrome

Canine stress syndrome is an uncommon hereditary condition that certain breeds are susceptible to, like Labs. This syndrome causes excessive muscle twitching, seizures, anxiety, and hyperthermia.

Preventing dog muscle cramps and dog spasms

The most common causes of dog muscle spasms are relatively simple and not harmful to your pup. You can work to prevent excessive muscle twitching by implementing some or all of the following:

  • Ample water intake. Ensure your dog is drinking enough water daily, and even more on high-exercise days to replenish their fluid levels back to normal. 
  • Icing and cold compresses. If your puppo’s muscles are tired or injured, applying ice can restrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation, preventing twitching.
  • Take a load off. Help your dog to minimize twitch-inducing strain and injuries by getting a bed ramp for dog. A ramp will help them get on and off your bed or couch without having to jump, preventing joint stress. 
  • Supervise playtime. Make sure your dog isn’t overexerting themselves during exercise. Watch your dog while he plays in the yard or with others, so you can improve your chances of seeing any injuries that might occur, and act accordingly to heal them.
  • Stretching and massage. If your dog commonly has muscle spasms, you can gently stretch and massage the affected areas to relieve painful twitching and promote better blood circulation. If the issue is severe enough, you can even take your pup to a certified canine massage therapist, who is specially-trained in puppy massage techniques to help your pup feel better.
  • Supplements. Electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and herbal muscle relaxers can all help control and reduce your dog’s muscle spasms. When nutrient levels are normal, deficiency-related spasming should subside. 
  • Muscle relaxers and pain relievers. Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers may help your pupper temporarily by reducing the symptoms of twitching. This is a temporary fix, and if the problem persists, you’ll want to find the root of the issue to determine the solution.

Final word: dog muscle twitching and muscle spasms

Muscle spasms in dogs, for the most part, are a pretty standard part of life. Some twitch-causing issues, like dehydration, create conditions in a dog’s body that build up over time. 

Luckily, these simple issues have equally simple solutions. By including some of the above in your dog’s routine, you can reverse and prevent muscle cramping problems. 

If you suspect a more serious cause, and the above tricks don’t help your dog’s twitching, take them to the vet clinic so a professional can examine them. 

We wish you luck getting to the bottom of your dog’s muscle spasms!

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