Lethargy is another word for lack of energy and weakness. Much like humans, dogs also go through periods of lethargy, which itself is a symptom that gives an indication of many illnesses in dogs. 

Lethargy can range from:

  • Mild: You would find your dog is not as playful as usual but continues the daily routine.
  • Moderate: You notice that your dog is not interested in playing and is sleeping more than usual.
  • Extreme: Your dog barely moves or finds it difficult to even hold his head up.
  1. Why is my dog tired all of a sudden?
  2. Signs of lethargy in dogs
  3. What to do if your dog is lethargic?

Lethargy in dogs can be a sign of various underlying diseases. The causative factors of lethargy could be infections, malnutrition, metabolic diseases, medications, tumours, anaemia, poisoning, any trauma or old age.

The underlying factors that may be the cause for lethargy in dogs are:

  • Parvovirus: Canine Parvovirus disease is a life-threatening condition where the dog presents with symptoms like bloody diarrhoea and loss of appetite, alonng with lethargy.
  • Canine Distemper: Canine distemper or distemper in dogs is caused by a paramyxovirus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of the dog, showing symptoms like persistent fever, diarrhoea and extreme lethargy.
  • Kennel cough: Kennel cough is an upper respiratory tract infection that affects the dog’s lungs, windpipe and voice box. It presents with symptoms like honking dry cough, choking, fever and lethargy.
  • Heartworm disease: Heartworm disease is a serious and possibly fatal disease, as the worms cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Metabolic diseases that could lead to lethargy in dogs are:

  • Heart disease: Extreme tiredness and lethargy could be a sign of congestive heart failure in dogs.
  • Liver disease: Other than a yellow tinge to the skin, liver disease in dogs can present in the form of vomiting and diarrhoea, extreme lethargy, weight loss, increased drinking and urination.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes in dogs presents with symptoms like excessive drinking, urinating and hunger with persistent lethargy.
  • Hypothyroidism: Lethargy is one of the major signs of hypothyroidism (decreased levels of thyroid hormone in the body) in dogs.

Some new medications for fleas or ticks could also cause lethargy in dogs. 

Human medications like ibuprofen and foods like garlic and onion are highly poisonous for dogs. They can either have mild effects like lethargy or severe effects like loss of consciousness.

Overeating in dogs can lead to bloating which makes it difficult for them to even walk, thus making them lethargic.

If your dog has been feeling low lately, you must keep a lookout for the following signs:

  • Lack of appetite: Skipping of meals and even no interest in their favourite foods like chicken breast.
  • Exercise intolerance: Coughing, heavy panting, or laboured breathing even after slight physical activity.
  • Lacking energy or enthusiasm at any time of the day: The dog would not even play with their favourite toys.
  • Extremely sleepy: The dog has been sleeping a lot longer than usual.
  • Not drinking water: The dog might be suffering from dehydration and refuses to drink water.
  • Confusion: The dog is either unresponsive or slow to any stimuli around him.
  • Wobbliness: The dog might wobble due to lack of energy upon getting up or while walking.

Rather than waiting for the symptoms to get worse, you must take your dog to a vet if you’re concerned about its wellbeing. Depending on the cause behind the lethargy, the treatment method is decided.

  • Unfortunately, there is no cure for distemper and parvovirus in dogs, but supportive care can help manage the symptoms and the underlying disease. Fluids containing nutrients and antibiotics are infused intravenously to tackle any secondary diseases that step in for the compromised immune system.
  • With the help of antibiotics and intravenous fluids, heartworms can be eradicated. Sometimes the dog may require surgical removal of worms.
  • Administration of antibiotics, cough suppressants, and inhalant medications may be useful in the case of treating kennel cough.
  • Heart disease and liver disease require an immediate course of treatment for ensuring the survival of the dog.
  • Insulin therapy, diet modification, exercise and regular monitoring is required for maintaining diabetes in dogs.
  • Thyroid supplements, mainly levothyroxine, is given to dogs with hypothyroidism to maintain proper levels of T3, T4 (thyroid hormones) and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels in the body.
  • Before trying any new medication for your dog, check the label for all the contents and ask your vet if it is safe for your dog.
  • Do not feed your dog excessively. Maintain a proper twice-a-day or thrice-a-day meal-schedule for your dog to avoid bloating and obesity in your dog.
  • Human food like onions and garlic are not meant for dogs' ingestion. Keep these away from your dogs to prevent any mishap.
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