What Makes a Dog Lethargic?

Does your dog look weak and lethargic from time to time? 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. However, if your dog suddenly becomes lethargic and inactive and the condition persists, you need to find out the reason and observe your dog carefully for other possible illness symptoms.

What Makes a Dog Lethargic There are many possible reasons that can make a dog lethargic.

If your normally-energetic dog has suddenly slowed down, and has lost enthusiasm in doing his favorite things (e.g. walking, playing games, eating), you need to pay attention and try to find out what is making your dog lethargic.

Lethargy is a Warning Sign

Lethargy is a symptom that cannot be ignored. It's 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.

The difficult thing is, a lot of illnesses can make a dog lethargic, and so it is impossible to pinpoint a particular physical problem in the absence of some other symptoms. It is therefore essential that we observe our dog carefully for other symptoms or abnormal behaviors if the dog suddenly becomes sluggish.

Signs of Lethargy in Dogs

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

  • tire easily;
  • be reluctant 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;
  • sleep a lot;
  • have lost interest and enthusiasm in almost everything.

Possible Causes of Lethargy in Dogs

As mentioned above, 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 transport 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, gastrointestinal parasites such as worms, or more seriously, internal bleeding caused by ulcers or other conditions (e.g. poisoning, clotting disorders, bone marrow disorders, 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 prone to suffer from such age-related ailments 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 cooped up in the house all day, dogs whose human buddies are too busy to play with them, and dogs who are left alone most of the time will naturally feel bored. Over time, this may lead to lethargy and even depression.

Natural Remedies

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, however, 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.

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A Natural Supplement for Lethargic Dogs

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