Allie was a sweet, loving senior Maltese. She had not lost her appetite, and her weight seemed stable. However, Allie had been losing muscle. So much so that she looked like skin and bone.
How could she be wasting away before her owner’s eyes and yet her weight remaining the same?
I will not include a photo, but it was as bad as your scariest imagination. Allie’s hair was thinning too. Otherwise, she didn’t seem to have any other symptoms.
Allie did have an annual vet visit.
She received a physical exam. They checked her heart and ran a mini blood panel. I don’t know what their mini-panel included, but it didn’t show anything alarming. Allie’s muscle wasting was attributed to age.
Does age cause loss of muscle?
Muscle atrophy or muscle wasting can have some causes related to age. In general, it’s either because they don’t get sufficient stimulation to be maintained or they don’t receive the nourishment they need. Either of those can mean a bunch of things.
For example, pain or neurological conditions can make the dog unwilling or unable to move. In addition, because muscles are a high-maintenance tissue, the body won’t tend to them if they are not used.
Changes in metabolism and various systemic diseases can also result in muscle atrophy.
Allie’s veterinarian didn’t seem to make much of her condition, though.
I have friends whose dogs looked like Allie due to either diabetes or kidney disease. Allie’s owner was urged to seek a second opinion. So often, people see the same veterinarian their dogs’ entire lives and can’t even imagine going to another. It was the same with my brother-in-law. Sometimes, though, getting a second opinion is a must.
Allie’s owner did decide to see another veterinarian.
The new veterinarian ran comprehensive labs. Allie’s liver values were over the roof. The veterinarian recommended following up with an ultrasound, which they did.
Unfortunately, Allie had liver cancer. At this point, there was more cancerous tissue than the actual liver. As a result, Allie had virtually no liver function. Amazingly, she was not showing much of any signs apart from muscle loss.
Allie spent her remaining time being spoiled to get the best out of her days. But would her chances had been better if her liver cancer got caught early?
What do muscle wasting and weight loss tell you about a case?