Can a Dog Get Muscle Fatigue?

Working dogs do best with special nutrition and conditioning.
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Just like you, your dog can suffer from muscle fatigue after some hard exercising. While many canine breeds are designed to handle hard work, failure to properly condition your dog, and to care for your dog during exercise, can lead to fatigue, as well as to illness or injury. The right plan will keep your working dog, agility champ or hiking partner in great shape.

Normal Muscle Fatigue

The most common kind of muscle fatigue is respiratory. As the body works harder, it slowly creates an oxygen debt, leading to feelings of weakness or burning in the muscles. This is a normal process and is important for humans and dogs alike to let them know their limits and prevent injury. Panting and sweating result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which will also create fatigue and may be dangerous if the necessary water and electrolytes are not replaced after short exercise sessions or throughout longer ones.

Illness-Based Fatigue

Illness can lead to much faster and more serious muscle fatigue in your canine companion. Breathing difficulties like colds or pneumonia make it difficult for your dog to get enough oxygen, making muscle fatigue happen much sooner. The genetic disorder Myasthenia gravis -- most common in Jack Russell terriers, English springer spaniels, smooth fox terriers and miniature dachshunds -- results in excessive fatigue, muscle weakness and cramping, even with light exercise. Dogs who frequently exercise in the cold may develop inflammation in the lungs that lasts for up to four months and reduces their breathing efficiency, making them get fatigued more quickly.

Conditioning Against Fatigue

The proper conditioning will help your dog resist muscle fatigue. He should get a clean bill of health from the vet, reach a healthy weight and finish growth before beginning any strenuous program. Warm up with a brisk walk to help prevent injury. Take your buddy for cardio exercises like walking, running and swimming six days a week and increase the exercise time by 20 percent every two weeks for optimal conditioning.

Nutrition for Energy

The right nutrition is a crucial part of preventing muscle fatigue. A quality dog food is essential, along with plentiful water to help prevent dehydration. If your dog is in for a long day of work, such as hunting or herding, consider dog replenishment bars or treats. These provide your dog some simple sugars to keep his energy level up throughout the day, and to prevent exhaustion and mental fog that can lead to dangerous mistakes.