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Matthew Sisk: Dog's weight loss and depleting muscle causes concern
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My brain works in funny ways. Yours is probably similar.

I know what I know, but sometimes I don’t realize what’s right in front of me until one little hint comes along. This is the perfect description for what happens with Lemmy’s next visit.

I go into the exam room and greet the humans. Then I greet Lemmy, patting him on the head before beginning the examination.

The exam is unremarkable, except for Lemmy showing some weight loss. He’s still a decent weight, but the muscle mass over his hips and pelvic legs is beginning to shrivel.

This happens with lowered usage. Muscle is costly to maintain, and if it isn’t working constantly, the body will reabsorb the nutrient constituents of the tissue. Use it or lose it, so to speak.

Many older animals, regardless of species, experience this. You may be familiar with the shrunken arm often revealed following cast removal in humans. Muscle is for movement. If it’s not needed, it’s eroded as a survival mechanism.

The bad news for Lemmy is the loss of muscle is probably related to arthritis. His hips or knees ache if he pushes it, so he refrains from full use. This avoids short-term discomfort, but the muscle slowly shrinks. Muscle is the main stabilizer of major joints. Without it, the joint becomes more unstable. That causes the joint to hurt more, which means less use. And the spiral begins.

At Lemmy’s age, it’s almost to be expected. We recheck blood work, and all appears well. We’ll keep Lemmy on his anti-inflammatory medication and encourage exercise as much as is comfortable.

Then my assistant drops a bomb on me. The innocent little comment causes a light bulb to go off.

“Lemmy must be mad at you after his last visit,” the assistant said. “He didn’t shake your hand.”

I return to the room and share the test results and ask a few more questions. Lemmy’s visual and hearing issues seem to be worsening. He isn’t as outgoing and even got lost in the yard.

Suddenly I’m worried about Lemmy’s brain.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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