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Lethargy in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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As lethargy is a very nonspecific sign and is associated with dozens of physical ailments, baseline laboratory tests are useful in identifying any systemic abnormalities that should be pursued with further testing. Examples of these baseline screening tests include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination
  • Chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays)

    If baseline tests are inconclusive or if abnormalities are detected, your veterinarian may consider doing additional diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Abdominal or thoracic/cardiac ultrasound
  • Serologic testing for infectious diseases
  • Bacterial culture of the urine, feces or blood
  • Endocrine (hormone) assays
  • X-rays of various parts of the skeleton
  • Cytology and biopsy of abnormal fluid or tissues
  • Complete eye examination
  • Complete neurologic examination

  • Complete behavioral assessment
  • Certain immunologic tests
  • Computed Tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


    When the underlying problem is unknown, it may be difficult or even impossible to treat lethargy symptomatically. Identifying an underlying cause is essential in determining the appropriate treatment plan and care of the patient.

    Home Care

    Once therapy has been instituted administer any prescribed medications as directed by your veterinarian. Observe your pet's general activity and appetite, and notify your veterinarian if any of the symptoms worsen or change.

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