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Lethargy in Dogs

Gagan Dhillon
Has your dog been uncharacteristically lazy off late? Has he stopped responding to you? Here's more about lethargy in dogs, its symptoms, causes, and what you need to do.
Lethargy, also synonymous with laziness, affects animals in much the same way as it affects us humans. By definition, lethargy is a state of inactivity or sluggishness. In most cases, for dogs, it indicates an illness. It can be sudden or also a gradual onset.


  • Is he inactive most of the day?
  • Has your dog lost interest in his favorite activities like walks and games?
  • Is he slow to respond?
  • Is your pet experiencing watery stool or vomiting?
  • Has his diet reduced?
  • Does he tire easily?
  • Is your pet showing signs of fever or weakness?
  • Is your pet reluctant to go to the bathroom?
If the answer to the above questions is 'yes', then you guess it right, your dog is lethargic.


If your dog is showing signs of laziness, don't ignore them. Your dog most probably is unwell and needs care.
  • Extreme tiredness may show up if your dog is suffering from an infectious viral disease like Canine Distemper or Parvovirus infection. Even a gastrointestinal infection may show lethargy as a symptom.
  • In aging pets, it may show up as a symptom of arthritis and senility. Obesity also triggers lethargy.
  • Fever also results in sluggishness.
  • Low body temperature or Hypothermia; since puppies and aged pets face difficulty in regulating their body temperature, is another cause of laziness.
  • Ear infections can also trigger it.
  • It is also a sign of certain disorders like hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, and diabetes mellitus.
  • Anemia can also be a cause, as the lack of red blood cells leads to lack of oxygen, making the dog lazy. Check your pet for signs of dog fleas and worms.
  • Lack of nutrition or malnutrition is a common cause.
  • In more serious cases, extreme lethargy, coupled with other symptoms such as vomiting, loss of vision or appetite, bleeding, abdominal swelling, etc., may indicate cancer.


When your dog exhibits signs of laziness and lack of activity, some simple measures can be taken to ensure that your pet returns to his normal self. A simple change in diet can work wonders. Many a time, a dog may be lethargic due to the simple lack of stimulus. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise.
Take it out for a walk. One should try and introduce a change in the pet's daily routine. Even a new dog bone or a ball can work wonders. Often, a dog may feel neglected, and thus lose interest in his favorite activities. Ensure that you take out enough time during the day to spend with your dog.
Simple diet supplements like vitamin B complex can make a considerable difference. One can also try digestive enzymes to improve the dog's digestion and nutrition intake. Some owners swear by herbal tonics, especially if the dog is recovering from an illness. Usually, lethargy is caused due to the lifestyle a dog leads, but if you notice some other signs like the above mentioned ones, it's best to consult a vet.

Things Your Vet Should Check

  • Complete blood count to rule out anemia
  • Urine and fecal analysis
  • X-rays of the chest and abdomen
  • Endocrine checks
  • Cytology and biopsy of abnormal fluid or tissues
  • Abdominal or thoracic/cardiac ultrasound
  • Biochemical profile
  • Eye examination
As mentioned here, lethargy doesn't always mean that your dog has a serious illness. Check for other symptoms, and if nothing else shows up, it's best to follow some simple home remedies to care for your pet. Rest assured, your pet will be back to its normal self.