What is the difference between exhaustion and lethargy?
How can you tell if your dog is exhausted or lethargic?
Exhaustion in your dog can be misconstrued for lethargy and vice versa. Recall a time when your dog was actively playing in the yard for an hour, or you just returned home from jogging a couple miles with him. Upon entering the home, your dog would get a drink of water and then lie down in their favorite spot. After a few minutes, he is out sleeping. Then a half hour later, he is up and running around the house again, following you throughout the house and back to his normal self. He was exhausted from his run and after a brief rest, he was behaving normally.
Lethargy is very different from exhaustion. Lethargy is when your dog doesn’t want to do anything, and it is not related to any strenuous activity such as playing in the yard. You will notice your dog lying in his favorite spot and not really moving from that location. His normal reactionary “triggers” like the doorbell ringing, you coming home, or the cat walking past him would not cause him to stir. If this change in his personality lasts for more than a day and you cannot think of a reason for his lethargy (like eating table scraps), then it would be important for you to schedule a veterinarian appointment immediately.
What are the reasons for my dog being lethargic?
Over the years, I have seen many cases of lethargy in dogs, and in all cases, there were major medical issues. All the cases of lethargy that I have seen in dogs over the years, the majority were due to infections, tumors, or cancer.
Intact female dogs can develop pyometras, which is a uterine infection. Depending on the severity of the infection, we can treat the low-grade infection with antibiotics. We warn the client that the antibiotic treatment is temporary, and their dog will likely develop another infection later. We suggest that the client get their dog spayed. With severe pyometra cases, we need to perform emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus in order to save the dog’s life.
Heart issues with dogs can be another underlying reason for lethargy and with a weakened heart, your dog would struggle to walk or stand. He would lose all interest in playing and would rather stay in one place and house soiling would be common because it takes a lot of energy for your dog to get out of the house to relieve themself.
The last most common cases of lethargy are due to tumors and cancer. Tumors and cancer release pyrogenic factors into the body that causes fever. Sleeping and not moving is the body’s way of conserving its energy. In many cases, if the tumor develops a small bleed, the dog can become anemic therefore causing them to be lethargic.
What should I do if my dog is displaying these symptoms?
If you notice that your dog is lethargic, it is important to contact your veterinarian. As you can see that with any of these symptoms, your dog can be facing a serious medical problem. Through my years of experience, the longer you wait to get medical help for your dog, the more expensive the treatments will be. Finally, if you wait too long to get your pet help, no amount of money will save your dog’s life.
Chico the Pit Bull
One of my most interesting and saddest case that I had at the #DyerAnimalClinic was with one of my favorite pit bulls, Chico. I met Chico as a puppy for the first time with his owner. Chico learned early in his life that every time he would visit me at the clinic, he would receive ample treats during his visit.
He would jump onto the lift table every time and waited. Then one day, we received a call that Chico’s owner had passed, and the parents were now caring for him. When the parents visited our clinic with Chico, they were impressed as how well he behaved.
Chico was full of energy and couldn’t wait to get into the exam room. He would jump up onto the lift table and waited for his treats at every visit.
The parents loved how he behaved at our clinic. Over time, Chico developed an inoperable tumor. The bad news devastated the parents and they wanted to do everything for their deceased son’s dog. There was nothing that could be done to save him.
In the last year of his life, he started declining the treats, but he remained just as happy as if he received the treats. When the time came, the parents brought him to the clinic and he just laid on the floor wagging his tail and he didn’t raise his head.
It was hard for all of us and I suspected that the tumor began to bleed and yet, the dog wagged his tail all the way up to the end, he was wagging his tail for me.
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About Dyer Animal Clinic
We are a place where pets and their people can feel at home. It's a place where wellness is maintained and supported from the time they’re newborns through their golden years.