Weakness in Pets – Exercise Intolerance

Pets can experience changes in their strength and stamina from a number of causes. The generic term for it is “exercise intolerance”. Sometimes, animals are referred to specialists for declining ability to walk as far as they used to, for weakness on stairs or inability to jump into the auto, for changes in muscle mass, stiff muscles, for generalized weakness and lethargy, or specific weakness in one or more limbs.

Some dogs and cats have nervous system disease, musculoskeletal disease, cardiovascular disease, or metabolic disease causing weakness, and some animals seem to be slowing down, moving less, and generally not doing as well even when no obvious systemic disease has been found. There are some observations that may be helpful in categorizing the kind of problem that is present. For example: Is there a specific time that the weakness is at its worst: first thing in the morning, after rest vs. during light exercise or strenuous exercise? Does the weakness occur within seconds of starting to move, or only after a rather long walk? Does respiration change when the weakness is evident? Is there a cough or are there other signs that develop when the animal is weak?

At this time of year, there is also a kind of exercise “intolerance” that may be considered age-appropriate or weather appropriate. Dogs did not evolve to jog on asphalt paths when it is 90 degrees and very humid outdoors! There are young dogs that are able to run for long distances with their owners, but remember, they are bare-footed, and they are wearing fur coats. How far would we humans be bale to go dressed like that? Even if your dog could go jogging with you last year, do not be surprised if one extra year has made him able to go only half as far, or only half as fast as before. Large dogs may have more trouble than small dogs in this respect. Their water needs may be greatly increased when it is hot outdoors, and they do not sweat to cool off-they pant. Common sense suggests that the cumulative negative effect is likely to be greater on dogs that walk on grass pr swim for exercise.

If your pet seems ill, lethargic, painful, or weak, your veterinarian should be consulted. If all else is fine, but he cannot or will not go for a jog, maybe he knows that he should not!

Compliments of Betsy Dayrell-Hart,VMC,DACVIM. South Paws Veterinary Center

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