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Losing muscle mass: how to treat your retired field dog.


I have a 13-year-old female Brittany with severe muscle loss in her right rear leg. The X-ray indicates the muscle/bone mass is almost missing. She has no pain and continues on although sometimes her rear end just collapses.

She was limping last fall but still hunted well, pointing both woodcock and grouse. The area was serviced by well-formed ATV trails and relatively flat, making it easy walking; she did not stray far from the path.

After visiting the vet, we realized her hunting days were long over and the focus now is on comfort and longevity. Besides the X-ray, the vet gave us a prescription of 4CYTE, with Epiitalis for joint and cartilage matrix support. It contains as active ingredients: green lipid mussel, abalone, marine cartilage (278mg), Epiitalis (22mg) and rosemary (7.2 mg).

The inactive ingredients are honey, molasses powder, nature identical chicken flavor, sodium caseinate and tartaric acid. We started her with two scoops per day, then four scoops after three days and she is now on four scoops a day.

Being a farm boy I am extremely skeptical of organic claims and would like to know if there are additional medications that can be given to assist our dog. I'm not against using the organic compounds; it's just I know the claims are often overblown. I trust our vet but I would like a second opinion.--L


The first issue to address is whether or not this may be a painful condition. There are neurologic conditions that affect our dogs that are not painful but do cause weakness, instability and loss of muscle mass.

The product your veterinarian prescribed suggests degenerative joint disease is the problem. This is a painful condition. Typically lameness suggests pain. Loss of muscle mass does not pinpoint pain but many of the causes of muscle atrophy are from painful conditions.

We need to realize most of our hunting dogs are much more stoic than their human counterparts. One way to evaluate whether our dogs may have a painful condition is to try a two-week trial of a NSAID pain reliever prescribed by your veterinarian. If the dog obviously feels better then they need the pain relief.

Too often we short-change our older dogs. I am not advocating having every older dog on pain medications, but many more could use them.

Second, nutritional supplements are not controlled by the FDA in the U.S. I'm not sure how the system works in Canada. In the U.S., their claims aren't held to any standard. So the buyer must beware and consider investigating the company's research. I would imagine in your case that if' your veterinarian is providing you with the product it will be safe and beneficial.

Please do consider giving additional medications if they are suggested by your veterinarian. Multimodal pain relief should be helpful. The supplement you are giving is intended to help the cartilage layer in the joint. NSAIDs can help decrease pain and inflammation from one pathway.

Opioid drugs like Tramadol may be able to help pain from a different direction. The right balance of Omega fatty acids also can help decrease inflammation in the body. Weight management in older, weaker dogs is very important also.

Make sure your dog is not overweight according to your veterinarian. Weight control can be as important as all the benefits of the medications.

Contact Dr. Holcomb with your questions at

By John Holcomb, DVM
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Title Annotation:Veterinary Clinic
Author:Holcomb, John
Publication:Gun Dog
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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