Dog Lethargy: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

dog lethargy in chicago il

Dogs can become lethargic for a variety of reasons. In most cases, this is not normal behavior, and it can indicate that something is wrong with your pet’s health. You should consider lethargy in dogs as a symptom that something is wrong and take your dog to the vet. This is especially true in puppies or dogs that are normally very active and  suddenly become lethargic.

If your dog is lethargic, you probably want to know more about what to look for and what might cause this problem. Knowing more about the possible treatments can also help you decide if your pet needs to see the vet.

Signs of Dog Lethargy

Dogs that are lethargic might seem sort of “out-of-it,” or they can struggle to stand up and walk. Your dog might also seem like they are having trouble controlling their limbs or are slow to react to stimulation, such as food or toys being thrown toward them. Some dogs might also bump into things or seem generally confused.

In some cases, dogs can also pant heavily, or they might be nauseous and vomit. Your pet might also act like they don’t want you to touch them and could seem protective of their body all of a sudden. Not every dog will show all of these symptoms, and your pet might show just a couple of these signs that something is not right.

Causes of Dog Lethargy

There are many reasons that your dog might be acting lethargic, but the most common reasons will be included here:

Heart disease

Dogs with heart problems might not be getting enough oxygen, and they could even be struggling with rapid or slow. These dogs might also have fluid in their chest, which can lead to pain, discomfort, or shortness of breath. All of these things can contribute to a lack of energy or an inability to get around.

Liver Disease

Dogs with liver problems often lose their appetite, and they can be weak, drowsy, or even struggle to get up and down. These dogs will usually also have jaundice in the gums or the whites of the eyes, or they might be bloated. Your pet might also act like they are in pain when you try and touch their belly.


Dogs with diabetes have issues with their blood sugar being too high, and this can lead to excessive thirst, weight loss, loss of appetite, and weakness. These pets can also struggle with very low blood sugar due to this disease, which can lead to collapse and loss of consciousness as well. Some pets with very low blood sugar will also suffer from seizures.

Tumors or Cancer

If your pet has cancer or a tumor that is pressing on their lungs, invading the area around their heart, or causing widespread pain, they might become lethargic, lose weight, and have no appetite. These dogs can also suffer from personality changes, and they usually are dehydrated and have a sunken-in appearance.


Dogs are known for eating things that they should not eat, and it is not uncommon for dog lethargy to be related to poisoning. Pets that have eaten a toxic substance might also vomit, have diarrhea, act upset and confused, and even collapse.

Severe Arthritis or Severe Pain

Severe arthritis in the joints, or a condition that is causing significant pain, can also make your dog unwilling to move around much. They might be in too much pain to get up and down, or they could be so injured that moving around is hard for them. If you think that your pet has been injured in some way or you suspect that they have arthritis, treatment will be needed right away to resolve either of these problems.

Treatments for Dog Lethargy

Your vet will need to see your pet as soon as possible if they are acting lethargic. If your pet is vomiting, has collapsed, or has pale gums, you need to rush your pet to see the vet immediately. The treatment protocols that are used to help your pet get better will depend on the diagnosis that is made for why your pet is lethargic. Some animals will need to stay in the vet clinic for an extended period of time, while others might be able to come home after getting some medications and fluids and being placed on a treatment protocol.

Many of the conditions that can lead to lethargy in dogs are related to health concerns that will require long-term treatment. Your vet will be able to advise you about the prognosis for your dog and will be able to guide you in creating a long-term care plan for their well-being. Treatments for most of these conditions are improving all the time, and there are many more options to control things like diabetes and arthritis than there used to be.

Dog Lethargy is Usually Related to Significant Medical Issues

Dog lethargy is almost always related to significant illness. You should not ignore this symptom that can indicate that your pet needs to see the vet right away. In some cases, lethargy is related to a very serious illness that can threaten your dog’s life without immediate care. You know your pet best, and even if they are showing mild signs of lethargy, you should trust your instincts about their condition.

Dog lethargy will usually be linked with conditions that require long-term care, and you should be prepared to follow the instructions of your vet regarding changes to diet, routine, and medication that your pet might need in order to resolve this condition. If your pet seems to be having trouble getting around or they seem depressed and not interested in life, you need to make sure that they see the vet right away.

Contact one of West Loop Veterinary Care’s locations today!

If your dog is lethargic and you’re in the Chicago, IL area, contact West Loop Veterinary Care. We have two locations in West Loop and Streeterville. Our veterinarians’ highest priority is ensuring that your dog receives compassionate care and treatment for lethargy.Contact us today by calling our West Loop location (312) 421-2275, our Streeterville location (312) 766-5959, or book an appointment online.


West Loop:
(312) 421-2275

(312) 766-5959