Your dog can sleep for up to 10 hours a day and still be perfectly well. But there’s a big difference between relaxing and lethargy. If your dog isn’t eating or playing and has a significant change in behaviour there may be a cause for concern. Is your dog weak and lethargic? Here is why you should not ignore these symptoms:
My dog is lethargic but eating and drinking
A lethargic dog is typically listless, disinterested in normal activities, and excessively tired. Keep a close eye on your dog as this could be a case of exercise intolerance which is treatable and manageable.
My dog is lethargic and not himself
Lethargy is a non-specific sign that your dog is unwell. A dog that is slow to respond to sights and sounds for more than 24 hours needs to be seen by a vet.
My dog is lethargic and not eating or drinking
Loss of appetite is often the first sign of an underlying illness. This can result in weight loss which can be very serious if not attended to quickly. Coupled with lethargy this may signify a more serious problem.
Dog shivering and lethargic – this could indicate injury or kidney disease
Lethargic dog with laboured breathing – a sign of a failing respiratory system
Dog lethargic and shaking – an endocrine disorder may be the reason
Dog disorientation and lethargy – may signify a neurological disorder
Why is my dog lethargic? You know your dog better than anyone and will know if something is wrong. The most common causes of lethargy in dogs are:
When your dog is frightened of new surroundings, and loud noises such as smoke alarms or fireworks this can trigger a period of lethargy.
Dogs who experience traumatic events can develop lethargy. Behaviour includes lowered body, rapid breathing, ears back, and tail down. Shying away from people and hiding may accompany severe stress reactions.
If your dog ingests chemicals or other toxic products these can be potentially fatal. As can swallowing garlic, onions, or Ibuprofen tablets.
Infectious diseases are serious causes of lethargy in dogs. Parvovirus is spread through faeces, heartworm is caused by mosquito bites, and distemper can cause neurological issues.
This is a biological response to harmful stimuli and involves the immune cells to repair the damage. It can result from disease and swellings are painful. Inflammatory issues can range from mild to chronic.
Indications of a fever include loss of appetite, depression, and lethargy. A normal temperature for your dog is up to 38.8 degrees Celsius.
If you notice any weakness after your dog has started on a new drug or product you should inform your vet immediately.
This is a result of parasites such as a flea infection, or due to internal parasites. Severe cases may need a transfusion.
Preventing a health crisis in a dog with diabetes involves consistent monitoring. An overdose of insulin may cause hypoglycaemia with symptoms of lethargy and muscle weakness.
Lethargy can be an early sign of congestive heart failure. Appetite loss and rapid breathing may also develop.
Lethargy that progresses from mild to severe may be due to the following issues:
Old age – where slowing down is all part of the ageing process along with a decreased appetite and energy levels
Malnutrition – speak to your vet about providing food with the proper nutrients, and the right quantities for your dog
Depression – if your dog is lonely or unhappy this can induce lethargy
Boredom – make sure your dog has plenty of toys and stimulation and gets lots of exercise on a daily basis
As soon as your dog shows signs of lethargy you need an appointment with your vet. They will then take the history to help with understanding the problem. After that, the vet will carry our a physical examination. Blood, faecal, and urine tests will be conducted to help identify specific infections or diseases.
X-rays and scans will be ordered, and if necessary, ultrasounds of the stomach and lungs will be performed. An ECG may also be necessary if your vet suspects any complications of the heart. Behavioural assessments and a complete numerological workout may be recommended.
The course of treatment will then completely depend on the results of the tests.
When your dog is obviously suffering putting him to sleep may be the kindest final option. Gentle dog euthanasia at home will be carried out by qualified and caring vets. The procedure will be painless and peaceful. And you can hold your dog in your arms and comfort him during those last precious moments.