Age-Related Muscle Loss: Sarcopenia and Cachexia

Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN
Tufts University



  • In dogs and cats, cachexia and sarcopenia have similar underlying pathological processes and can occur concurrently.
  • Sarcopenia is the loss of lean body mass that occurs with aging, and is associated with increased morbidity, mortality, and an increase in body fat. It is often accompanied by an increase in body fat, the total body weight of cats and dogs may remain the same, and in some cases, may even increase; therefore, it’s important to assess the pet’s muscle condition instead of relying on changes in body weight as an indication of a problem.
  • Sarcopenia is most commonly noted in the epaxial muscles, hindquarters and shoulders.
  • Muscle and body condition scoring are clinically-applicable methods of assessment and should be evaluated in each pet on every visit.
  • Additional techniques for quantifying muscle loss, such as ultrasound measurements, are currently being developed and validated.



Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN-

Tufts University Dr. Lisa Freeman received a veterinary degree from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a doctorate in nutrition from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and has been on the faculty at the Cummings School since 1996. Her research focus is on the role of nutrition in the development and treatment of heart disease in dogs and cats.

“One of the keys to the practical management of cachexia and sarcopenia in dogs and cats is recognizing it in its earliest stages, and to achieve this nutritional assessment (body weight, BCS, MCS, and diet history) must be consistently assessed.”