Common Causes and Symptoms of Lethargic Dog – Is It Curable?

Dogs usually allot 10hours for sleeping each day, you might’ve seen your dog lounging from time to time and does a bit of relaxing, but more often than not dogs do various physical activities on the side which drains their energy throughout the day.

However, not all dogs are the same, some breeds has a more relaxed vibe; they show less interest in physical activity and enjoys being in a more peaceful and quiet environment.

But as dog owners, how will you be able to identify the fine line between your dog being lazy and relaxed to being diagnosed with Lethargy?

Below are the common causes, symptoms, and cure for dogs who suffer from Lethargy or extreme exhaustion:

Common Causes of Lethargy in dogs:

1. Your dog might be sick

Lethargy is considered as one of the most noticeable symptoms when your dog is feeling a bit under the weather.

If you happen to have a dog who is compared to a ball of energy and suddenly he acts somewhat lame and weak, this might indicate that your dog might be coming down from something.

Other than lethargy or weakness, there are other symptoms you need to look out for to confirm your dog’s health status such as: vomiting, blood in stool or urine and loss of appetite.

Examples of disease that cause Lethargy:

  • Parvovirus: Disease that is usually contacted through faeces.
  • Heartworm Disease: Caused by mosquito bites that transmit heartworms into the dog’s system.
  • Diabetes mellitus: Usually obtained by overweight dogs, caused by high sugar level due to poor dietary habits.
  • Distemper: An airborne virus that usually attacks the dog’s gastrointestinal system.
  • Metabolic and Organic Disease: Chronic condition that causes extreme exhaustion to dogs.

2. Maybe experiencing extreme anxiety, fear or depression.

Usually experienced by newly adopted dogs, due to the change of surroundings and the major turn of their lives especially for shelter dogs who have been adopted, most dogs find it hard to adjust with their new environment which usually takes a toll on them emotionally.

Lethargy caused by emotional stress may also be triggered by fear such as fireworks, loud noises, history in violence or any other factors that scares your dog. Behavioral lethargy usually comes in passing and is just short term experienced by dogs, but in rare cases, if it happens consistently, guidance from the vet may be needed.

3. Drastic change in the dog’s environment

Since dogs are considered as man’s best friend, they create deep relationships with their owner and the people who’re often around them. In cases where the dog’s owner leave or at worse dies, the dog usually goes into depression, which can also be identified as lethargy.

Other than the loss of a family member or another house pet that your dog grew up with, even with the changes inside the house such as major renovations or switching rooms can also trigger something within your dog which can cause loss of interest or lethargy. This is common because dogs are very much territorial; they don’t usually adapt to unfamiliar places right away.

The best thing to do during this time is to try your best to make your dog as comfortable as possible, then in no time, they will be able to regain their lost strength and function normally.

4. Bad reaction from Medication

If in case your dog is experiencing underlying disease that will require them to take medicines in high doses, one common side effect from the medicine that you might notice is Lethargy.

Lethargy caused by newly introduced medicine to your dog is never normal. This might indicate that the medicine dose is too high or the drug might have a substance that your dog is allergic to, it is highly recommended to visit your vet once behavioral changes are noticed after the medication is given.

5. Check signs for possible poisoning

Lethargy may also be caused by poisoning. It is not impossible for dogs to consume food or even toxic chemicals when they often rummage through household garbage.

As dog owners, it is crucial to be very much vigilant about the food or things that you leave that’s within your dog’s reach. Common household items that your dog might consume are chemicals used for cleaning, cooking ingredients that are harmful to dogs such as garlic, sweets especially chocolate or any medication used by people.

Common symptoms of lethargic dog:

1. Unusual Sleeping Habit

If you notice your dog sleeping more than usual even without doing any activities that could’ve drained its energy, this might indicate that your dog may be suffering from lethargy.

Further monitoring will be required to confirm this, in case this sleeping habit continues and your dog doesn’t regain strength after a few days, it will be better to seek help from your vet.

2. Skipping meals or complete loss of appetite

It is very much unlikely for dogs to decline any food that you offer them, usually when they see you eating they tend to beg until you finally give in and give your dog a portion of what you’re eating. 

But if you notice that your dog is eating less or continuously declines the intake of treats or even food that they usually love, consider this as a red flag.

Minimal intake of food will make your dog very weak and sickly, once you’ve noticed that your dog completely ignores its food, a trip to the vet is highly suggested.

3. Minimal to zero water intake

It is a health hazard to leave your dog dehydrated, especially when they are already experiencing sicknesses such as excessive vomiting or diarrhea.

When extreme dehydration is left untreated, it can lead to other complications that could even take your dog’s life.

4. Showing signs of indifference towards their favorite toy treats or declining to do activities that they usually love.

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing lethargy, the most useful test that you can try to confirm it is to use your dog’s favorite toy or treat as bait and see if they will take any interest in it. If in case it doesn’t work, try to get your dog moving and offer to do the activities that he usually loves, like a trip to the beach or a walk on the park, if no sign of interest is given during both scenarios this is a pretty clear indication that there is something wrong with your dog.

5. Loss of Focus

Your dog may seem lost and completely out of it, they won’t be able to respond as quickly as they should to noise or smell around them due to lethargy.

There will be moments where you might feel like your dog is broken; the usual things that it knows how to do are just completely lost.

6. Failure to follow a command or respond to calls

If your dog is highly trained, it will be easier to identify that there’s something wrong with them if they forget or they don’t acknowledge the commands that are given to them. Dogs are often obedient and just one brief call of their name you’ll see them standing right in front you.

In case you notice that your dog is unresponsive or ignores calls and commands also tends to ignore you completely, it won’t always mean that your dog loves you less it might be a sign that your dog is experiencing lethargy.

Treatments for Lethargic dogs:

  • Lethargy is considered as a symptom of an underlying disease or complication that your dog has. For your vet to provide extensive treatment, they will first need to diagnose the main cause of lethargy.

Tests that will be required by your Vet:

  1. Knowing the complete history of your dog
  2. Dog’s physical check
  3. Laboratory tests such as blood, stool and urine testing.
  4. Run multiple X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds
  5. Go through ECG to check on your dog’s heart condition

In case you’re unable to book an urgent visit or appointment with your vet, there are home remedies that can be done to ease your dog’s pain and possibly boost their energy back to normal:

1. Make your dog as comfortable as possible

In case you live in a very humid and hot area, it will be better to keep your dog in a well-ventilated portion of the house to keep its body temperature normal.

2. Don’t force your dog to do excessive moving

It is not okay to let your dog lay around and do nothing all day, but in case it seems like other than lethargy your dog is experiencing other illness, it’s best not to force him for a walk or any rigorous activity that could cause more complications with its health.

3. Monitor your dog’s body temperature

In case of any indication of fever, it will be best to treat it right away. Fever might be the main cause of lethargy if it’s left untreated, fever might mutate to more severe disease.

4. Look out for other symptoms

By monitoring the symptoms shown by your dog, it will be easier for you to determine what’s causing lethargy. It will be better to note this down before your vet’s appointment to help your vet provide a proper resolution for your dog.

5. Give constant attention and affection to your dog

Lethargy may lead to depression if not given attention right away.  To avoid such an instance, it will be better to pour as much love and care to your dog to make him feel alone or isolated.


Lethargy can easily be mistaken as laziness if you’re not giving enough attention to your dog. The symptom should not be taken lightly since it might be an indication of something serious.

As they say, “Prevention is better than cure,” if your dog is showing any unusual signs, it is best to give an action right away. Try to identify first what might’ve caused it or take a quick visit to the vet to be sure.

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