You wake up in the morning and your dog doesn’t want to get out of bed. You pour some kibble into her bowl and she doesn’t immediately scarf it down. You pick up the leash and ask her favorite question: “Wanna go for a walk?” — but to no avail.
She isn’t showing obvious signs that she’s ill or hurt, but you know that dogs are superb actors when it comes to hiding their illness. At the same time, it’s normal for dogs (especially large breeds) to spend over half of the day snoozing. So is her behavior normal or should you be worried about your dog being lethargic.
You know your dog better than anyone else. If she’s a regular lazybones, then these high levels of laziness may not be a sign of a lethargic dog. If she’s normally bouncing off the walls, then she may be exhibiting some tell-tail signs of lethargy.
Either way, we know that it’s hard not feel a little worried when our furry friends are slow-moving, unresponsive and lethargic. Read on to find out more about the ways you can tell a lazy dog from a lethargic dog!
Reasons Why a Rambunctious Dog Might Be Lazy
Like humans, dogs need to recharge after a particularly busy or overstimulating period of time. If your dog is usually a ball of energy and is now acting like a sack of potatoes, consider what she’s been up to for the past few days.
If she was staying in a place other than her home, like a pet sitter’s house or a kennel, she probably didn’t sleep as much as usual. Whether from the excitement of new people and new dogs or from the stress of separation anxiety, she didn’t settle into her normal routine. This might mean she napped less frequently throughout the day or didn’t sleep as well at night.
Alternatively, if she got more exercise than usual, she may be tired out. There’s a common misconception that dogs need to be exercised vigorously throughout the day to tire them out when in reality, they have their natural limits. This is especially true for puppies!
Dogs have a tendency to alternate between bursts of energy, calm but waking hours, and long naps. Anything that disrupts that schedule may require a day or two of lazing about!
Recognizing a Lethargic Dog
There are a few ways to recognize lethargy in your dog and we’re going to walk you through them. If your dog checks any or all of these boxes, it’s best to bring her to the vet to get a professional assessment.
First, keep track of how long this increased sleepiness has gone on. While dogs do need to recharge after a busy or overstimulating time, it shouldn’t take more than a day or two. If three or more days pass and you don’t notice a positive change, your dog may be lethargic.
Second, pay attention to her food intake. Some types of sickness in dogs and even stressors can cause a loss of appetite and is a possible sign of a dog being sick.
If she doesn’t eat breakfast until dinnertime, you’re probably okay. If she won’t eat her kibble all day, she may be experiencing appetite loss. To rule out the possibility that she’s being picky about her regular food, try offering her some of her favorite treats to see if she’ll take the bait.
You can also test her responsiveness. Lazy dogs may sleep a lot, but chances are they’ll still respond when you call them or offer them something exciting like a treat or a walk.
In a tone that usually sparks your dog’s curiosity, try to get her attention. If she doesn’t show any interest, she probably needs to see a vet.
Finally, pay attention to her waking behavior. Dogs that aren’t feeling well may keep their ears back, their tails droopy or tucked between their legs, and overall behave as if they don’t want to be noticed. If it’s not sleepiness alone that you’re noticing but a distinct personality change, she isn’t feeling like herself.
Causes of Lethargy in Dogs
Some of the most common dog diseases can cause lethargy, including kennel cough, parvovirus, and heartworm. We’ll explain more about those diseases along with some of the other possible causes of lethargy in dogs.
Kennel cough is a respiratory infection that is both bacterial and viral. It’s highly contagious; so if your dog has been around other dogs, perhaps at the dog park or at a kennel, she may have picked it up from one of her furry pals.
It causes inflammation in the chest and windpipe, which makes breathing more difficult. If your dog finds that she’s more winded than usual when she moves around, she’ll decide that it’s better to stay still. Plus, like a head cold in humans, this kind of dog sickness will make her feel groggy and tired.
Parvovirus is another highly contagious virus, which is why most kennels require you to vaccinate your dog against it before you bring her to stay. Unfortunately, you may not have gotten this vaccination for your dog if you’ve never been required to.
Parvovirus attacks the cells in a dog’s body and tends to do some serious damage to the intestinal tract. One of the biggest symptoms of parvovirus is lethargy, although you may also notice vomiting or diarrhea.
If any of your dogs have ever had parvovirus, be very cautious of the spaces and objects they came into contact with. Parvovirus can last for months on food bowls, beds, carpets — anything your sick puppy touched. Thoroughly clean the house and you may even want to replace smaller objects like bowls and dog beds.
Heartworms are parasites that live in infected dog’s hearts and pulmonary arteries. They move through the bloodstream and can harm a dog’s arteries, organs, and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted from one dog to another by mosquitoes and reproduce rapidly once in the bloodstream, especially without the proper medication.
Heartworms can make it difficult for dogs to breathe. They can also lead to rapid weight loss. Both of these things will make your dog more lethargic over time, although it can take a few months for heartworm symptoms to become apparent.
Chronic or Recurring Pain
We’ve all experienced some level of pain in our lives and know that it can put us in a sour mood. The same can be true of dogs, and (unfortunately) they have no clear way of expressing to you that they’re experiencing physical discomfort.
Large dogs are particularly prone to chronic pain, as they’re more likely to develop joint pain than smaller dogs. If you’re concerned that your dog is experiencing pain, pay close attention to the way they move.
If you notice that your dog is favoring certain legs and keeping one close to her body and away from the ground when she walks, she may have some issues with the joints in that leg.
If you think your dog may be experiencing physical discomfort or weakness, take her to the vet so that they can perform x-rays and other tests to find out what’s happening beneath the surface.
Hypoglycemia in dogs functions much the way it functions in humans. Dogs with hypoglycemia are at a high risk for low blood sugar levels.
Sugar in the blood, or glucose, is what provides the body with energy. Dogs who have low blood sugar levels will experience weakened organs and even reduced brain activity. Lethargy is the earliest and most common symptom of hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can cause seizures when left untreated, which in turn cause more lethargy. It can also cause pain and even loss of consciousness. If you are concerned that your dog may be hypoglycemic, work with your vet to find out what changes need to be made to her diet and what medication she may need to take.
Digestion of Toxic Substances
Unfortunately, there are a lot of common household items that are toxic to dogs. This includes certain foods, like grapes, chocolate, and avocados. It also includes chemicals found in cleaning supplies and even certain plants, such as poinsettias and azaleas.
Dogs are curious creatures that tend to explore things first with their noses and then with their mouths. When left unattended around toxic substances, it’s not unlikely that your dog will try out a taste.
The consumption of toxic substances will often make your dog sick and cause him to drool, vomit, and have diarrhea. Many of them will cause extreme dehydration, especially when fluids are being lost in excess. If your dog has not only gone lazy but has also turned into a drool bucket, they have probably consumed something that isn’t agreeing with their system.
In mild cases, these substances will pass out of their system on their own after a few uncomfortable hours. In severe cases, they can cause lasting or even deadly damage, and you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
Look Out for Lethargy
Make sure you can spot the difference between a lazy dog, a sick dog, and a lethargic dog! Don’t panic over an extra sleepy day, but don’t ignore bigger signs of lethargy that could be linked to serious health problems.
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