Many people have been there.
Your dog seems to be under the weather and not himself.
But when does it really border on torpor and what could your dog suffer from?
If your dog is lethargic but continues to eat and drink, that is a very non-specific symptom and could indicate a number of problems, all of which need to be addressed.
For some cases of lethargic dogs, there are definitely home remedies, while others require a visit to the vet.
Let’s shed some light on your dog’s lethargic behavior.
My dog is lethargic but eats and drinks
If your dog is lethargic but eats and drinks, common causes include excessive exercise, boredom, fear, poisoning, inflammation, or medication, as well as chronic or mental disorders.
The fact that your dog is lethargic but still eating and drinking is a good sign, as it will prevent an emergency vet visit for nutrient deficiency.
However, some cases still need to be dealt with fairly quickly.
Others simply depend on easily modifiable external factors (such as exercise).
In addition, the circumstances and other symptoms can be crucial.
Here are some signs that point towards certain causes (although it’s not an exact science and a visit to the vet may be required to rule out other issues).
- Have you recently changed your exercise regimen? Over-exercise or boredom come to mind.
- Recent rescue or traumatic event? Fear is common.
- Right after a walk or after devouring bad food? Check for poisoning
- Visible injury? It could indicate infection or inflammation.
- Have you taken medication recently?
Also, does your dog also suffer from any of these symptoms?
- heavy breathing
- Changes in urination or bowel movements
- Changes in the drink
- behavior changes
Although the opposite is more common, it could be that you have increased your dog’s exercise regimen too quickly.
If you’ve been on an extremely long walk or just introduced a new activity, like biking or swimming, your dog may be tired of it.
While this type of acute excessive exercise is possible, it’s also possible that the exercise regimen has been too much for your dog for weeks or months.
If nothing has changed and you are exercising your dog reasonably (which is essential), this is one of the unlikely causes of your dog’s lethargy.
If your dog is lethargic but continues to eat and drink, your dog may well be bored out of his mind, perhaps leading to depression or behavioral problems over time.
Some dog owners assume that only certain breeds need mental and physical exercise, but that is completely incorrect.
What is true is that some breeds have higher exercise needs, but all must be kept busy to avoid boredom that can resemble torpor.
Boredom can also lead to hyperactivity inside the house or overexcitement outside, but both extremes are undesirable and must be considered.
Fear or Trauma
Loud noises, negative experiences, unfamiliar surfaces, and even a new environment can make some dogs fearful.
Especially if you have recently rescued a dog.
You will be the best judge of what could have caused that lethargy in your dog.
If your dog started to appear lethargic but is still eating and drinking recently, you should try to remember the day you started noticing.
It may only be a matter of time before your dog stops drinking or eating completely if lethargy is not addressed.
Check this out to see how you can build trust in your dog and how to manage fear of a rescue dog if you recently brought one home.
Food poisoning is more common than you might think, considering that there are many foods that your dog should not eat due to their toxicity.
Your dog might also be feeling a bit down because he stuffed his face with that delicious dinner.
The seasoning alone is enough to upset a dog’s stomach to the point where he seems lethargic and sick, but he still drinks, maybe even more to compensate.
If your dog picked up something while walking outside and no longer seems like himself, consider poisoning and see a vet.
Infection or Inflammation
The inflammation can be caused by an infection which, in turn, could be the result of an injury.
Don’t see any visible lesions? Then your vet might order a blood test to be done.
This is sometimes combined with a fever and can definitely be the cause of your dog being lethargic.
Has your dog recently received medication and is now lethargic but still eating and drinking?
That switch could be the cause.
Consult your vet to see if this behavior change is a known side effect and if medications are not crucial at this time.
You can try removing them from your dog’s daily chore list and see if he gets better and becomes more active again.
But remember to stop the medication only if your vet gives you the go-ahead to do so. Some medications should not be stopped abruptly.
Old age, Disorientation, Depression
Aging dogs become increasingly calm and if they are lethargic but still drink and eat normally, all could be well with your dog’s health charts.
Disorientation, restlessness, or paranoia are serious symptoms and must be addressed.
If your older dog is not only lethargic but stares at random spots inside the house, is disoriented, and is pacing a lot, he may have canine dementia.
Diabetes, Heart disease, Immune system disorders, Cancer
The most serious causes of your dog’s lethargy include diabetes, heart disease, immune system disorders, and cancer.
While you may already know about your dog’s diabetes or immune disorders, there may be health issues uncovered, and only your vet can help you determine if your dog might be suffering from any of these conditions.
While there’s no reason to be on high alert just because your dog seems unwell for one day, you should definitely investigate if your dog is behaving the same way the next day for no apparent reason.
My dog is lethargic and not himself
If your dog is lethargic and not himself, you should look for common causes such as exercise problems, fear, poisoning, nutritional deficiency, or neurological disorders.
Neurological reasons are fairly common causes for your dog not feeling like himself.
These causes affect older dogs (which is why canine dementia plays a role), but dogs of all breeds and ages can also be affected.
Behaviors that point to neurological disorders include a lot of circling behavior or paranoid behavior where your dog also seems to see things inside the house.
Other signs of neurological disorders may include an abnormal gait, weakness, stumbling, tremors, seizures, changes in alertness, or other changes in behavior.
My dog seems sad and tired
Dogs that appear sad and tired may be suffering from depression, neurological disorders, or simply boredom or old age.
Everyone has good and bad days, but if your dog is acting lethargic or overly sad, you should ask your vet.
In mild cases, it’s just boredom or your dog may have mild separation anxiety if one of his favorite people or dogs has just left.
Although dogs tend to calm down with old age, it’s not common for them to suddenly become sad and tired.
In general, you are the best judge of your dog’s behavior and it is important to put things in perspective.
Calm dogs have a totally different starting point compared to an excited, active canine that does a U-turn to become sad, tired, or even lethargic.
If your dog is already suffering from a diagnosed condition, this could be a particularly bad day for him.
When should I worry that my dog is lethargic?
You should be concerned that your dog is lethargic if he does not react to stimuli and behaves strangely for 24 hours or more, while you should monitor the situation even more closely if he stops drinking and eating.
If you’re not sure, go the safe route and ask your vet.
Closely monitor your dog’s behavior, make sure he is drinking and eating, get some exercise, and try to engage him.
Avoid disturbing them when they are resting.
Once your lethargic dog stops eating or drinking, it may be more urgent to seek veterinary attention.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for veterinary care and is not intended to be. I am not a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet.
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