In the United States, over 89.7 million households own a dog.
There’s no doubt people love having dogs as part of their family. Unfortunately, our beloved dogs also get sick from time to time.
One common condition in dogs is lethargy, but what is it exactly? In this article, we’ll cover the causes of lethargy in dogs and how it can be treated.
What is Lethargy in Dogs?
You’re probably used to your dog being active, playful, and little mischievous. However, when your dog is not himself, you get a feeling something is wrong.
When a dog is lethargic, they might appear sluggish, drowsy, and their mood seems overall dull. You will notice your dog doesn’t enjoy playing fetch, going on a walk, or doesn’t try to get table scraps.
Some dogs might also present other symptoms associated with lethargy that include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
There are many reasons that lead to lethargy in dogs such as extremely hot weather, they get overly tired, or a more serious illness. If you have lethargic dog , or dog suddenly lethargic, it’s time you see a vet.
What Causes Lethargy in Dogs?
There are many reasons why your dog appears lethargic, however, some are more serious than others. The most common causes of lethargy include:
Heartworm disease affects over 250,000 dogs a year. These worms make their way into your dog’s heart when they’re transmitted by mosquito bites. If your dog has heartworm disease chances of them being lethargic are high.
Other symptoms associated with heartworm disease include fever, weakness, and depression.
There are treatments that can help treat heartworm disease. Your vet might prescribe an injection that has to be administered once a month over the next several months.
Your vet might also recommend you restrict your dog to cage rest.
If your dog has contracted any kind of infection, it might increase his chances of lethargy. Once your vet finds the source of the infection, your dog can begin a course of antibiotics that will help him fight the infection.
A highly contagious and easy to spread virus, parvovirus causes gastrointestinal illness in many young dogs, but mostly puppies. If parvovirus is left untreated it can cause death.
This virus poses a big threat to dogs because it spreads so easily. Dogs can contract this virus by coming in direct contact with infected dogs or their feces.
If your dog has indeed contracted parvovirus, your vet might recommend hospitalization. They will have to isolate, monitor your dog, and prescribe a series of medications.
Distemper is another common virus in dogs that affects their respiratory, gastrointestinal, the conjunctival membranes of the eye, and central nervous system.
Symptoms of distemper include lethargy, discharge from nose and eyes, fever, or coughing. Vets treat distemper by administering fluids, antibiotics, and anticonvulsants.
Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs. This disease gets its name because it’s more common in places that have large numbers of dogs congregating in such places as a dog park, daycare, dog shows, and more.
The symptoms of kennel cough include lethargy, runny nose, sneezing, cough, fever, and loss of appetite.
Vets treat kennel cough by prescribing antibiotics, cough suppressants, and bronchodilators.
Some more serious conditions also cause lethargy in dogs such as heart disease. If your dog displays signs of lethargy and you’ve noticed he wants to exercise less, it could be a sign of early-stage congestive heart failure.
Other symptoms that go along with this condition include coughing, loss of appetite, and rapid breathing. Depending on how advanced the condition is, the vet might prescribe diuretics, diet changes, and heart medication.
Dogs struggling with diabetes might present changes in appetite, weight loss, excessive thirst, lethargy, and more. Most vets control diabetes by administering insulin injections and adjusting their diets.
Liver disease is another condition that also causes lethargy in dogs. Your dog might be struggling with liver disease if you notice the following symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal bloating, depression, and others.
It’s possible to treat liver disease by making simple diet changes, medication, or surgery in severe cases.
Just like in humans, dogs can suffer from low blood sugar, which can make them lethargic. There are several things that could cause hypoglycemia in dogs, so the treatment will depend on the cause.
Some dogs simply take corn syrup orally or have intravenous glucose administered.
Adverse Reaction to Medications
Some medications when they don’t interact well might cause lethargy in dogs. If you notice your dog appears lethargic after starting a medication, make sure you stop the treatment right away and call your vet.
Other causes of lethargy include:
- Certain traumas
- Snake or bug bites
- Swollen anal glands
As you can see, there are many different causes that contribute to lethargy in dogs.
What Can You Do if Your Dog is Appears Lethargic?
There are a few things that you can do if your dog is lethargic. As dogs get older, they get lethargic more often. Some older dogs suffer from age-related conditions that cause them to have exercise and activity intolerance.
However, if your dog is younger, you might be dealing with a more serious condition. If the symptoms include lack of appetite or thirst, then you definitely need to do something about it.
The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with your veterinarian so they can get to the bottom of the source.
Your vet might ask you some follow-up questions regarding the behavior of your dog. They might also run some blood, fecal, or urine tests. They might also have to do x-rays or ultrasounds to get to the bottom of it.
What Causes Lethargy in Dogs: The Bottom Line
Now that you know more about what causes lethargy in dogs you can watch out for the symptoms.
When your dog is lethargic, he might not seem interested in walking, eating, or performing the activities he loves.
To learn more about how to keep your dog happy and healthy, check out this section of our blog.