Lethargy in Dogs

Overview of Canine Lethargy

Lethargy is a state of drowsiness, inactivity, or indifference in which there are delayed responses to external stimuli such as auditory (sound), visual (sight), or tactile (touch) stimuli. Lethargy may also refer to the general malaise and decreased activity exhibited by dogs that do not feel well.

Lethargy is a nonspecific sign associated with many possible underlying systemic disorders. It may have little to no impact on the affected individual; however its presence may represent severe or life-threatening illness. Lethargy of more than a day’s duration should not be ignored, and should be addressed, especially if it persists.

General Causes of Canine Lethargy

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Lethargy in Dogs

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:

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

Treatment of Lethargy in Dogs

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.