Building Muscle in Older Dogs

There are many benefits to building muscle in an older dog. Building muscle is not just for athletic performance, but can lead to a higher quality of life in older dogs as well. Dogs, just like us, can suffer from muscle atrophy when they get older. Muscle atrophy is when the muscle basically wastes away and reduces in size and strength. There are several diseases that can cause this but also just good old father time. When dogs get older, they cannot process protein as efficiently as they once could. Protein is the building block for cells and muscle so it is a key macro nutrient in any diet, especially if you are trying to build muscle in your dog.

Muscle Atrophy

As stated before, sometimes muscle atrophy is caused by age but there are also several conditions that can cause it to accelerate or start earlier than usual. If you notice a sudden or rapid change in your dog you definitely want to take him or her to your veterinarian for a full check up. Some examples of serious underlying conditions causing muscle atrophy or weakness are degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia, and spine or nervous system issues such as wobblers syndrome. It is very important to have a proper diagnosis so you are treating the root cause of the problem, not just covering up symptoms.

Another common reason for muscle atrophy is simply pain. Sometimes old injuries can catch up with an older dog or they may have developed arthritis. Muscles deteriorate more quickly the less they are used. If a dog is in more pain they are less likely to be running around playing, walking as great of a distance, or any other activity that kept them active and working


Once you have either a clean bill of health or the proper diagnosis, you are ready to start treating your dog. You should always follow the advice of your vet especially if there is a serious health condition affecting your dog.

Arthritis and other joint pain

Arthritis is common amongst older dogs. It is not the only source of joint pain but the most common. Once a joint has been damaged due to arthritis, there is no way to heal it outside of surgery. Your vet may prescribe steroids or NSAIDS, and if they do you should follow their advice but there are several all natural nutritional treatments you can use alongside medication (not in place of medication) to help decrease inflammation as well as reduce pain.

Improving quality of life

When older dogs lose muscle for whatever reason, their quality of life can suffer. We all want our pets to be pain free and have the best life possible, even at advanced ages. If your dog is having difficulty jumping up to his favorite spot on the couch, or she can’t run after that tennis ball anymore it is possible for them to become depressed. A healthy mind comes with a healthy body. The last thing we as pet owners want is an unhappy senior dog that is not themselves anymore.

One of the best ways you can combat muscle atrophy in your dog is to build muscle. The best way to do this is through diet and exercise. If you have a dog with joint pain or one that has lost muscle, you will not be able to exercise the dog as much as you once could. You may notice the dog moving slower, or becoming tired and stopping earlier into an exercise than they would in their prime. While you do want to exercise your senior dog, you do not want to push them too hard as this can and will result in injury. Make sure you are keeping an eye on the dog and ending the exercise session when they have had enough. Possibly the best exercise for senior dogs is swimming. There is no impact on their legs as there is with running, jumping, and pulling so it will not increase inflammation in their joints. Swimming is highly recommended for dogs with arthritis or any kind of joint pain or weakness.

Diet is just as important in building muscle as exercise. You should have your dog on a high quality food for life anyway, but if you have not always had the dog on a premium food it is never too late to switch. A high protein, no filler food is the best. Meat should be the first ingredient and there should be no corn, wheat, or soy. If your dog is not as active as they once were, switching to a better food can help them regain their lost energy.

How supplements help build muscle and ease pain

Supplementation is another great way to help an older dog build muscle. Putting your dog on a muscle building supplement will help them regain a little bit of their youth and can help ease pain as well. Omega fatty acids, or fish oil, can help reduce the pain associated with arthritis and other ailments. It does this by helping to lubricate the joints and reducing inflammation. Protein will help build the dogs muscle back up. A product like Gorilla Max which contains both is fantastic for an older dog with muscle atrophy. There are many companies that make a fish oil pill which can be taken with any dog food.

Also many premium dog food brands will have fish oil in their food already. If you are using a food like Bully Max, and a supplement like Gorilla Max, it would not be necessary to also give your dog fish oil pills.

While supplementation is a great way to help your dog build muscle and get back to its old self, there is unfortunately no magic cure all for aging. It is normal for a dog to lose muscle and slow down when they get old. Using a muscle builder and having your senior dog on a well thought out and not too rigorous workout regimen can absolutely help your older dog live the rest of their life to its fullest.

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