My Dog is Lethargic and Not Himself: Unusual Dog Illness Symptoms to Watch out For

Dogs and humans can have more in common than a lot of people may
think. Especially  when feeling unwell is involved. When a person
is feeling sick, they can get sluggish, lazy-like, sleepy, and do
not want to leave their bed, plus the idea of food and water may
not be as pleasing as it was the day before.

Dogs are the same way, except (unlike people) they cannot tell
you what is wrong or what to do about it. And, they cannot give
themselves medicines or take themselves to the vet so you will
need to do all of that for them. This is called lethargy if it
lasts for two or more days and could be one of the symptoms of
having a pet that has a common cold or some serious health

What is Lethargy?

Lethargy is
 to having a lack of energy and zero enthusiasm. It can
be how a person feels when they are under the weather and it can
also happen to dogs. Pet owners know their dogs the best and they
could be able to tell if they have a sick dog or if their dog is
just being a lazy dog.

It is common for dogs to get tired after they had a lot of
exercise or house guests have come over for a visit and they got
too excited. They would usually need a day, and in the case of
older dogs- two days, to get rested and be back to themselves.

However, one of the warning signs is when they still lack energy
after two days for older dogs or one day for the young ones. This
could be a way that they are telling you that you have a sick dog
on your hands. 

Warning Signs of Lethargy in Dogs

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A pet owner should know their dog inside and out since lethargy
can get often confused with a tired or lazy dog. A rule of thumb is
that if your dog’s behavior is different to how they usually
act this could be a cause of concern. A lazy dog chooses when they
are active and usually have a reason behind moving either it is to
protect a family member or to go and eat their dry or wet food.

However, if a lazy dog does not move when they usually do or
even react to you calling them then this can be concerning. All
dogs tend to like routine and their behavior is often predictable.
If your dog is naturally lazy it does not mean that they are
suffering from lethargy.

They will still respond to their name and will still have an
appetite for their dog food, regardless of how much they usually
eat. Dogs like to eat dog food, but not all dogs eat a lot.

The symptoms
of lethargy
 usually are usually the following:

Your dog is sleeping a
 more than they usually do. Some dogs can sleep up to 10
hours a day so if they go over those hours by a lot and there is no
reason for it, i.e. too much exercise or being over excited the
day before then this is one of the symptoms. They could also lack
energy and they do not respond when they are called.

They do not react to their surroundings in any way that is
normal. This means that they do not play with their toys or greet
you when you arrive from work or a day out. Another one of the
symptoms of lethargy is if your pet seems confused or dizzy.

Another one of the obvious symptoms is a loss of appetite. They
do not want to eat food or drink water and would rather sleep
regardless of how hungry they could be. Dogs need to eat and your
pet knows this.

As mentioned, some dogs do not eat a lot, they take what they
need while other dogs could finish all their food, another
pet’s food and even your food if given the chance. But they do
not have an appetite regardless of what type of food is in front of
their noses. A loss of appetite is a major concern, especially if
it lasts for a day.      

When to Take Your Dog to the Vet

When you have a sick pet, your main goal, as for any pet owner,
is to get them help as soon as possible. If you notice that after a
day or two that they do not have an appetite, are sleeping a lot,
do not respond to your call and look confused, the best course of
action would be to book an appointment with your vet and take your
pet in.

Lethargy can indicate many different health problems from the
common cold, infections, dog diseases, pain, chronic conditions or
a life-threatening illness.

It would be a good idea to tell your vet everything you have
noticed about your pet that is out of the ordinary for them
regardless of how small you may think it is. Your vet will know
what to look for and more information about your dog’s condition
would help them out in seeing what they could be up against.

Your vet does not treat lethargy by itself since it is only one
of the symptoms of an underlying health issue. They will go for the
cause behind the lethargy and once that is solved your dog will go
back to its normal, responsive, having a healthy appetite self. 

However, if you do not notice any other symptoms, then the vet
may ask to do some tests to get to the root of the problem and
these tests could be Baseline lab test, blood tests with blood
count, a urinalysis, fecal exam, x-rays or even a biochemical

After this first round of tests are done and something unusually
is seen in the results then the vet may ask to do more tests such
as MRI or CT scans, cardiac ultrasounds, a neurological exam,
biopsies, or bacterial cultures just so they can know what medicine
and treatment your pet will need to do in order to get over their
lethargy and the root cause of it.

Mental Health

There could be many reasons why you would be saying to yourself
‘my dog is lethargic and not himself’ and one of the reasons,
which is not talked about as often as it can be, is poor mental
health. Your dog could be suffering from depression, feeling
unhappy, or anxiety and these may lead to the symptoms of lethargy.
 It is important to keep an eye on the mental health of your pet
since they could be feeling
, bored, or something or even someone is missing in their

You could have a lost
 that they are also missing a lot or you all have recently
moved to a new place that they are not yet used to or it has even
been raining for way too long. Things that would affect you could
also affect them. For your pets, your vet would hopefully be able
to help out in this regard as well.

What Else Causes Lethargy in Dogs  

Besides depression and other mental health issues there could be
many other things that cause lethargy in dogs and here
are eleven
dog diseases
 that could be behind your pet’s poor appetite,
sleepiness and unresponsiveness, which are the common symptoms of

∙         Diarrhea- this could be
the reasoning behind your dog’s lacking of wanting to eat their

∙         Upset stomach- this can
lead to vomiting and another reason behind their rejection
of food

∙         HGE- Hemorrhagic
Gastroenteritis is a disease which causes the gastrointestinal
tract to become inflamed and the symptoms of this is bloody
diarrhea and vomiting. This could be deadly if it is not treated as
soon as possible

∙         Medications- there is a
chance that your dog could be having a negative reaction to certain
medicines, Vetoryl capsules being a common one that may cause
lethargy in dogs 

∙         Bloating- if your
dogs has eaten too much or has done exercise after eating too
much then their stomach may become enlarged and get twisted which
could result in different types of emergency conditions. This could
also be another reason behind why they do not want food and since
they cannot eat their food they may slip into depression 

∙         Heart Disease- since the
heart is the powerhouse of anybody and your dog having a heart
disease could slow them down because not enough energy is getting
produced leading to them experience lethargy. Heart disease could
even lead to  congestive heart failure

∙         Lyme
this can be spread by infected ticks and it could
cause pain in the dog’s joints as well as leading to kidney

∙         Kidney Disease- this could
be more common in older dogs compared to younger ones, but it is
still a disease to watch out for regardless of age

∙         Liver Disease- a disease
in the liver can lead to lethargy as well as other health problems
since the liver is an important organ that cleans out toxins

∙         Kennel Cough- this is also
known as Infectious Tracheobronchitis which is an infectious
respiratory disease that infects the trachea and bronchial tubes.
There is a vaccine against it

∙         Pain- Dogs can feel pain
in their joints, organs, throughout their entire bodies. They may
not yelp or limp which are common symptoms of healing pain, but
instead do not bother moving or getting out of their bed

However, there can be a number of other
 behind your dog being lethargic such as cancer, fever,
dehydration, heart and respiratory conditions, poisoning due to
foreign bodies in their system, or even have experienced a physical
trauma etc.

Lethargy is only one of the symptoms that could be caused by
many other things which your vet would be able to help with.

Young Dogs

Lethargy in dogs can happen regardless of the age of the dogs,
but there is a slight difference between young dogs or puppies when
compared to older dogs. Puppies could often attach foreign bodies
such as parasites, ticks, fleas, heartworms and hookworms
which could cause lethargy in dogs of a young age.

However, they could also end up suffering from congenital heart
disease, fevers, malnutrition, anemia, pneumonia and Parvovirus
which could also be behind in their lack of energy, decreased
appetite and the other symptoms that show lethargy in dogs. 

Older Dogs

The older a dog gets the slower they often become. This is the
natural progress of age, but you would still need to keep a closer
eye on them since their lethargy may not be as obvious. Lethargy in
dogs that are older could be caused by osteoarthritis
(deterioration of the cartilage in joints) which could mean that
they feel pain when they move around too much especially if their
pain is pronounced.

Other reasons behind lethargy in dogs or a certain age could be
heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, general pain, hypothyroidism,
and tick-borne diseases, to name a few. If you see that your old
dog is not eating their food, they are experiencing too much pain,
there is any blood in their droppings or they are vomiting too much
and often then take them to the vet straight away.  

How to Try to Manage or Prevent Lethargy in Dogs

Lethargy in dogs could be managed and prevented by doing
certain things with your dog that does not cause them pain and
relaxes them such as exercise. Exercise is a great way to improve
your dog’s health and help to prevent heart disease, diabetes and
it can even decrease their weight gain.

However, an overweight dog or an older dog may take some time
to get used to exercising so start off slowly. The breed of your
dog can also be a determining factor on how much exercise they
would need to do some research into your dog’s breed to know how
much you can push them.

Food is an important factor in living and having your dog eat
healthily can also help against heart disease and other types of
diseases. You should make your four-legged friend maintain a good,
healthy dog’s diet so that they can get all the nutrients that a
dog’s body need in order to become strong. Plus, having them at a
certain weight can help decrease the pressure on their joints and
it could give them a good appetite. 

Affection can be a great way to help your dog if they experience
depression or are lonely. However, you may not be
enough since dogs are usually pack animals. This can mean that
some dogs like to be around other dogs. If you only have one dog
try to take them to the park so they can play and interact with
their own kind. However, if they are not interested in other dogs
do not force it since this may stress them out.

Another thing you can do for them is to make sure they have a
safe space. This can be a place for them to hide if they do not
like guests or have a fear of fireworks and other loud noises. If
your dog is usually outside in the garden for the night and there
are fireworks, you may have to go outside and check on them to see
if they are alright or you can leave the door open until they come
in and close it behind them. Try to comfort them if they want and
do not be too surprised if they have lost their appetite briefly
because of the noises.


Lethargy in dogs is something to look out for, since it could be
the result of something more serious like liver, kidney or heart
disease etc. You should know your dog’s behavior when they are
healthy and well so that you can compare and contrast if something
is not right.

To tell if your dog is lethargic and not being themselves notice
the signs such as: if they sleep too much if they have lost their
appetite, if they do not come or notice you when you call them and
if their mood and energy is gone.

Dogs tend to show and not tell so a lack of appetite and an
increase in sleep could be clear signs that they are either
experiencing a fever or have a heart disease since lethargy can be
across many different types of illness.

If they are not back to themselves in a day or two it would be
best to take them to the vet and go from there. A dog with a
healthy appetite and illness like heart disease or liver disease
would be a great pet to have so make sure they stay as healthy as
they can be.

About the Author: Lauretta is a contributor to and a cofounder at, a great resource for lost

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My Dog is Lethargic and Not Himself: Unusual Dog Illness Symptoms
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My Dog is Lethargic and Not Himself: Unusual Dog Illness Symptoms to Watch out For