What Makes a Dog Lethargic?

(FTC Disclosure: If you make a purchase via a link on this page, I may receive a small commission, at no added cost to you.)

What Makes a Dog Lethargic


Dogs go through cycles just like we do, and it is natural that they feel tired and lazy sometimes, especially during the hot summer days.

But if your normally-energetic dog suddenly becomes lethargic, inactive, and has lost enthusiasm in doing his favorite things (e.g. walking, playing games, eating), you need to find out the reason and observe your dog carefully for other possible illness symptoms.

Remember, lethargy is an early warning sign that tells you there is something wrong with your dog.

Lethargy in dogs in a common illness symptom. If a dog is sick, injured, or depressed, lethargy is almost always one of the first symptoms to show.

Signs of Lethargy in Dogs

Lethargy is basically a decrease in activity level. A lethargic dog may:

  • tire easily;
  • be unwilling to play, walk, eat, drink, or do other things that he used to enjoy doing;
  • not go to the bathroom as often, resulting in "accidents" in the house or on his bed;
  • just lay down or sleep a lot;
  • have lost interest and enthusiasm in almost everything.

Possible Causes of Lethargy in Dogs

There are a lot of possible reasons that can make a dog lethargic. Common causes include:

Infectious Diseases

Young puppies are normally full of energy. If they suddenly become lethargic, it may be because of some kind of infectious diseases, such as distemper, or parvovirus.

Check the body temperature of your puppy if she suddenly becomes lethargic. (Normal dog temperature is between 101°F to 102.5°F.) If the dog lethargy is accompanied by fever, take your puppy to the vet immediately.


If a dog is anemic, there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to different parts of the dog's body. A lack of oxygen can make a dog lethargic.

Anemia can be caused by flea infestations, intestinal parasites such as worms, or more seriously, internal bleeding caused by ulcers or other conditions (e.g. poisoning, clotting disorders, bone marrow disorders, even cancer).

Other Diseases

Other diseases that cause lethargy in dogs include diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, and Cushing's disease.


Pain caused by injuries or physical problems can also make a dog lethargic. If a dog is in pain, obviously he does not want to move too much.

As well, in the case of an injury, many of the body's resources and energy are redirected to the injury site to promote healing, so it is understandable that an injured dog does not have sufficient resources or energy for other normal activities.

Common examples of dog health problems that cause pain include:


Dogs who are obese are less likely to move around and engage in activities since it simply takes too much effort and energy! Also, because of a lack of exercise, they feel more tired and tend to sleep more. It is a vicious cycle!

Nutritional Deficiencies

Malnutrition (e.g. poor diet), health problems that interfere with nutrient absorption (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, worm infestations) can result in weight loss and lethargy in dogs.


Older dogs naturally have less energy than young puppies and they tend to move slower due to achy joints. They are more susceptible to such age-related conditions as heart failure and liver disease, which can also make a dog lethargic.

Lack of Stimulation

A dog may become lethargic simply because of a lack of stimulation! Dogs that are left alone and cooped up in the house all day, and dogs whose human buddies are too busy to play with them, will naturally feel bored. Over time, this may lead to lethargy and even depression.

What Would Cause a Dog to be Lethargic

When To See a Vet

Take your dog to the vet immediately if lethargy is accompanied by:

  • A fever
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Labored breathing, panting

Natural Home Remedies for Lethargic Dogs

What Makes a Dog Lethargic As lethargy is a symptom, it is necessary to first pinpoint the exact underlying root problem that is making the dog lethargic. By identifying and tackling the root problem, the symptom (lethargy) will go away.

In the meantime, there are several things that we can do to give our lethargic dog an energy boost.

  • Herbs: Tonic herbs are effective in giving a lethargic dog a boost of energy. In this regard, Siberian ginseng is perhaps one of the most effective energy-boosting herbs. It has been used in Asia for years as an herbal tonic for people. Pets can also benefit from this herb, especially those who are weak, fatigued, or recovering from an illness or surgery.

    Rosemary is another tonic herb that is especially good for aging dogs. It helps prevent senility and is also an antioxidant and energizer.

  • Vitamin B complex: B vitamins are crucial for producing energy. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, milk, veggies, and fruits. Nutritional yeast and blue-green algae are also rich in B vitamins.
  • Digestive Enzymes: If your dog is lethargic and is also showing signs of poor digestion or malnutrition, try giving him digestive enzymes as a supplement to improve his digestion and nutrient absorption.

Puppy Banner

A Natural Supplement for Lethargic Dogs

This natural supplement contains spirulina, chlorella, flaxseed, turmeric, alfalfa, and a lot of other natural ingredients that are antioxidants and nutrient-rich. The supplement can boost the immune system, promote healthy organs and systems, and give that extra "spark" to your dog's energy.

Eldredge, et al. Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook 4th edition (Wiley Publishing, 2007).
R.H. Pitcairn, The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (Rodale, 2005).
M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Herbs for Pets (Bowtie Press, 1999).

All Content Copyright © 2008-2024   |   Natural Dog Health Remedies   |   All rights reserved.

Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Checker