Lethargy is a state in which your dog is uninterested in or unable to go about their normal activities. Your dog will act tired, weak, and lacking energy.
Lethargy, particularly severe, most definitely, absolutely is an emergency. Your dog is either very ill, poisoned, in extreme pain or having an adverse reaction to a drug or medication.
Non-specific but important
While it is a very non-specific symptom, it is a major red flag. Dogs love life and live every moment to the fullest. Imagine how terribly a dog must feel not to want to get up and do anything at all! The more severe the lethargy, the more urgent it is to get your dog medical care.
What conditions can result in lethargy? Pretty much anything that can make your dog feel ill enough.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Anemia or other blood disorders
- Heart disease
- Respiratory conditions
- Liver disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Addison’s disease
- Certain medications
- Snake bites
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Urinary tract problems
- Electrolyte abnormalities
- Immune diseases
- Neurological and neuromuscular disorders
- Certain eye diseases
- Musculoskeletal diseases
The big picture
The more severe is the lethargy, the more serious is the problem causing it.
For example, severe internal bleeding, whether caused by trauma, bleeding splenic tumor or clotting disorder will result in severe lethargy. Do you think there is a more fitting example of an emergency than that? What about poisoning? Or severe hypoglycemia? Or liver failure? Severe infection or sepsis?
A recumbent, severely lethargic dog, could be a dying dog!
Add to that the fact that you have no way of discerning between your dog being unwilling or UNABLE to get up. A dog unwilling to get up is likely in severe pain. The reasons for being unable to get up are even worse.
Why am I trying to scare you? Because with a severely lethargic dog you should be scared. And on your way to a veterinarian.
5 Reasons Your Pet is Lethargic (and When to Worry)