Dogs seem to have two modes.
They sleep about 12-14 hours per day, and when they aren’t sleeping, they are typically active — either running around, wanting to play, chewing on a toy, or annoying the cat.
…but what if your dog goes from being active when awake to completely lethargic? No, we aren’t talking about laziness. All dogs experience times of inactivity where they spend some extra time laying down and moving slowly, but that usually doesn’t last longer than a day.
By lethargic, we mean they are sleeping more than the usual 12-14 hours. They won’t respond to you when you call their name, they refuse to eat their food, and so on.
You know your dog’s behavior better than anyone, so you should be able to easily know if they are acting lazy or lethargic.
So What Causes Dogs to Be Lethargic?
Too many things to list! Because there are so many causes of lethargy in dogs, it’s impossible to list them all in one article. However, we are going to be going over the primary causes that YOU have control over. Many serious medical issues could be causing lethargy in your dog, such as tumors, parvovirus, and so on.
Whenever something is “off” with your dog, it’s always best to go to the vet. Once the vet gives you the clear that nothing is medically wrong, then give thought to some of the things in this article.
Before we get into what could be causing your dog to be lethargic, let’s go over what you should do.
What You Should Do Until You See The Vet
Observe and Confine – If possible, you’ll want to keep an eye on your dog most of the day to make sure there is no blood in their vomit or stool.
Rest Rest Rest – It’s ok to take your dog on a short walk IF they are up for it, but don’t force it. Also, make sure you keep the walk short; if they are exhausted, you don’t want to drain them even more.
Take Their Temperature – It’s important to take your dog’s temperature to make sure it’s not 103+. If it is over 103, you’ll need to take your dog to an emergency vet ASAP
Keep Them Fed – When dogs are low on energy, you’ll want to make sure they are fed and hydrated. Food contains nutrients, they may be lethargic because they lack nutrients. If they don’t eat, make sure to take note of that so you can tell your vet.
Non Serious Medical Conditions That Can Cause Your Dog to Be Lethargic
Again, we won’t be getting into severe medical conditions in this article. The only way to know if your dog is suffering from something severe is to see the vet. Below are the most common non-medical conditions that can be causing your dog to act lethargic.
This is the most common reason your dog is lethargic. Dogs get the cold and the flu just like humans can (but no, they can’t catch it from us). Dogs will get the cold and the flu a couple of times in their life. Just keep them comfortable and hydrated.
Again, keep an eye on their temperature. If it goes above 103, then take them into the vet ASAP.
Joint Pain and Arthritis
If your dog is getting up there in age, the lethargy could be because they are hurting. It’s common for dogs to develop arthritis later in life. If it takes calling your dogs name a couple of times for them to respond, and then they get up very slowly, chances are good it’s joint pain or arthritis.
There’s no easy fix to this one, but you should give your dog a supplement like glucosamine and CBD to help with the pain.
Overdid it When Playing
Yup, dogs can play a little too hard. If they want to lay down and sleep all day, it might be because they are fatigued from too much play the previous day. They lethargy from this won’t last longer than a day. Just make sure to give your pup plenty of liquids and a little extra food for the day to help with recovery.
Some breeds will make it obvious when they are scared. They will tuck their tail between the legs and come running to you for protection. Other breeds instinctively won’t show fear. If your dog is acting a little more lazy than usual, it could be because they are scared of something in the house but don’t want to show it.
Depression causes lethargy in humans also. Do you remember the last time you were depressed? You just want to lay in bed all day and do nothing. Same is true with dogs. Did a significant change happen recently? Maybe a death in the family or a kid going away to college? Your dog might be upset one of their friends is gone.
Check The Weight
Is your dog overweight? If so there’s a good chance this is the reason they’ve been lazy. The heavier the dog is, the harder it is for them to move. This will cause muscle soreness and joint pain. Do a quick search on the internet to see what a healthy weight is for your breed and then weigh your dog. Are they within the healthy range?
Medication Can Cause Lethargy
Is your dog on any prescribed medication? Some pain management medications act as somewhat of a “downer” for dogs. If you notice your dog being lazy on a particular drug, mention it to your vet and see if there is any other medication to put your dog on.
Better Safe Than Sorry
The saying “better safe than sorry” holds true here. It’s always better to be on the cautious side and take your dog to the vet when they aren’t acting normal. You never know when something serious could be going on that requires immediate medical attention.
If your vet clears you of anything serious, great! Review some of the things mentioned in this article and see if any of those causes fit your dog.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.