August 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Lethargy is a common term for lack of energy and weakness. This is a vague description of a symptom, but it occurs often with many illnesses in dogs. Lethargy can range from slight (e.g., not as playful as usual), to moderate (e.g., not interested in play, sleeping more than usual), to extreme (e.g., barely moving, difficulty holding head up).

Signs that Your Dog Needs to See a Veterinarian

  • Lethargy persists for more than a day or two
  • Your dog becomes more lethargic
  • Lethargy is accompanied by other signs of illness (e.g., fever, sneezing/nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Your dog is hiding and/or avoiding contact with people and/or other pets in the household

What You Can Do

  • Observe your dog closely for other signs of illness.
  • Allow your dog to rest quietly without being disturbed by people or other pets.
  • Offer your dog some extra tasty canned foods, or add chicken broth or boiled chicken to his/her food, to entice him/her to eat more.

Causes of Lethargy

  • Lethargy is a very nonspecific symptom and is associated with a wide variety of possible illnesses.

Treatment of Lethargy

  • Treatment of lethargy will vary greatly based on the cause, so it is essential to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.
  • Your dog may need supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and nutritional supplementation.

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