What is muscle atrophy?
Muscle atrophy is not a single disease, it is simply the loss of muscle mass and it can have a range of clinical presentations and underlying causes. This complexity can make it a challenge to diagnose its underlying cause and to treat appropriately.
What causes muscle atrophy?
Muscular atrophy can be grouped into three broad categories based on the underlying reason for the atrophy. Muscle atrophy can be caused by:
- A problem in the nerve innervating the muscle (neurogenic),
- Damage to muscle fibers (myogenic) or
- A systemic disease that causes generalized weight loss.
Muscle atrophy in Horses
When a muscle of a horse decrease in size, seemingly melting away , its known muscle atrophy, when this occurs, the primary concerns to a horse owner are whether the muscles will regenerate, returning to its normal size and shape , and how to treat the horse to help recover it.
The physical examination includes palpitation of muscle masses, observation of muscle mass symmetry and the notation of heat, pain, swelling, or other abnormalities in in a muscle.
Muscle disorders are a common cause of disability in horses. For many years, clinical manifestations such as muscle pain, exercise intolerance, weakness, and stiffness were believed to be caused by a single syndrome. However, in the past years a broad spectrum of muscle disorders have been recognized including glycogen and polysaccharide storage myopathies, malignant hyperthermia, mitochondrial myopathy, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis and others. For some, a specific mutation has been identified. Recognition of the myopathic clinical phenotype and thorough clinical, electrodiagnostic, and histological evaluations are essential to further our understanding of equine myopathies. Advances in understanding equine myopathies may potentially benefit other species including humans.
What is the best treatment for muscle atrophy?
- The best treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of your horse’s atrophy. In some cases this may involve oral treatment with medications such as vitamin E, Witanor Horse product, Pure enzymes and synbiotics, organic acid and synbiotics, these products will help absorbs more nutrients they are already receiving in hay, maintain a healthy gut which is the basis for a healthy horse, to help old or unthrifty horses bettr utilize nutrients, a probiotic may improve the efficiency of digestion and aid nutrient absorption in aged horses and others who have trouble maintaining weight, to help muscle recover its full form, additional therapies such as physical
- rehabilitation therapy, therapeutic ultrasound and electrical muscle stimulation may be indicated. Your veterinarian will guide treatment based on the underlying cause of atrophy.
Will my horse recover fully?
Muscle has a remarkable ability to regenerate and many horses do return to a normal muscle mass and full function, depending on its cause. Nerve damage may take up to a year to know whether it will fully regenerate which will be followed by a return of muscle mass. Immune mediated muscle atrophy can be dramatic but muscle mass often returns with treatment. In some cases, atrophy may have progressed to the point where connective tissue has replaced the muscle fibers, in which case the prognosis for full recovery of muscle mass is more guarded. The replacement of muscle fibers with connective tissue is often apparent on a muscle biopsy.