Lethargic Dog? Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Remedies

October 26, 2022
Medically reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM
Lethargic Dog? Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Remedies

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If you have noticed that your dog is more tired, you probably want to know why and what you can do about it.

We will cover some common reasons that your dog might be lethargic, explore some natural remedies, and help you decide when it's time to go to the vet.

Why Is My Dog Lethargic?

Unfortunately, lethargy is very common, especially in older dogs. It can be caused by something as simple as old age, or it could indicate a more serious medical condition. The cause may not be immediately obvious, especially if this is the first time your dog is exhibiting lethargy.

If your dog is lethargic, monitor them, and if they start to deteriorate or show worsening symptoms, make an appointment with your vet. They'll likely ask about your dog's recent diet, behavior, and health. Take note of your dog's appetite and activity levels the days leading up to and the day of the appointment.

Lethargic Dog Symptoms

Lethargy in dogs is characterized by listlessness and a lack of energy. It can manifest in several different ways:

  • Sleeping More – Lethargic dogs often sleep more throughout the day and may be harder to wake; their sleep may also be deeper, resulting in less movement caused by dreams
  • Playing Less – It's unlikely your dog will be interested in playing or otherwise engaging in activities that take a fair amount of energy
  • Lack Of Enthusiasm – Don't be surprised if your dog is indifferent to activities that usually excite them, such as going on walks or receiving treats

Lethargy is one of the easiest symptoms to notice and hardest to diagnose. It can be hard to distinguish whether your dog is simply tired or if they're suffering from something more serious.

Additional Symptoms To Watch Out For

Depending on your dog's condition, they may be suffering from other symptoms besides lethargy. The following symptoms could be a sign of something more serious:

  • Shaking
  • Shivering
  • Twitching
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Licking lips
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you make an appointment with the vet, make sure to keep a record of these symptoms, how often they occur, and their severity. These notes will help your vet narrow down the possible causes.

Some symptoms, such as labored breathing, are more concerning than others and should prompt immediate action.

Common Causes

There are medical and non-medical causes of lethargy. Non-medical reasons are most often caused by stress or anxiety. This type of inactivity is often accompanied by a lack of appetite and reluctance to be around household members.

Unfortunately, medical causes are quite common. Conditions that can result in lethargy include:

  • Heart or Liver Disease
  • Infectious Diseases or Infections
  • Immune-Related Diseases
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypoadrenocorticism
  • Cancer

This list is not exhaustive; in reality, many conditions have lethargy as a side effect.

The above list is alarming despite its brevity, but other causes are less daunting and potentially easier to resolve:

  • Shots/ Vaccinations – Dogs may have adverse reactions to shots, including lethargy
  • Medication – Many medications can cause negative side effects, such as lethargy

Aging is another common reason for lethargy; it's natural for them to be less energetic as they get older. Conditions that older dogs are more prone to, such as arthritis, may also cause lethargy.

Your vet is the best person to examine your dog and determine the underlying cause(s) of their lethargy. They'll be able to determine whether the reasons are medical, non-medical, or a mixture. Once they have identified the problem, your vet can tell you how to combat the lethargy and other symptoms.

How To Help A Lethargic Dog Naturally

In some cases, you might be able to help liven up your lethargic dog naturally, as long as it isn't caused by an underlying health condition.

The following research has shown how CBD might influence anything from fatigue to activity in later stages of life:

  • Lethargy And Fatigue – Cannabinoids like CBD affect your dogs endocannabinoid system which is associated with, among other things, energy and mood, potentially reducing lethargy. Importantly, higher doses of CBD are also known to cause sedation, so starting low and increasing steadily is important. 
  • Regulating Nausea And Vomiting – Manipulating the endocannabinoid system may suppress nausea and vomiting in humans and animals, known as an anti-emetic effect.
  • Effects Of Old Age – When worms were administered CBD throughout their lifespan, they lived on average up to 18% longer and were up to 206% more active in the late stages of life. There were no toxic side-effects or premature deaths recorded.

If you choose to give CBD to your dog, make sure to look for third-party lab-tested CBD oil for dogs, or Treats. Make sure the product is designed for dogs, meaning that the dosage and ingredients are safe for pets.

Other ways to help your dog's lethargy resolve naturally include healthy changes in exercise and diet. If you aren't sure or suspect something, it's always safest to consult your veterinarian to assess which natural remedies may be beneficial for your dog.

When Is It Time To Go To The Vet?

If your dog is just lethargic, it's not necessarily a cause for concern; they may be tired, have an upset stomach, or feel like a lazy day. Make sure to observe your dog and contact the vet if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • The lethargy is persistent and lasts for more than 24-48 hours
  • Your dog becomes withdrawn or aggressive
  • Your dog stops eating or drinking

If more serious symptoms appear, such as vomiting or difficulty breathing, take your dog to the vet immediately. These may be indicative of a more serious illness or underlying cause.

It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your fur baby.




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