My Dog is Acting Lethargic – What Should I Do (Pasadena, MD)?

When your dog is lethargic or seems to have less energy than usual, it may worry you as the owner. When is it severe and more than just a dog who is tired? All dogs can get lethargic at times, but how do you know it’s something that requires a vet visit or not? In this article, you will learn what other signs may mean that your dog’s lethargy requires more attention.

dog lethargy in pasadena, md

What Exactly is Lethargy?

Lethargy isn’t just a symptom of being tired. It is usually a much more extreme version of tired. Dogs that are lethargic are generally not interested in anything but resting. A lethargic dog won’t want to play or go about their regular routine. Dogs experiencing lethargy may be very stubborn about not wanting to get out of their bed. They may act weak, have stiff limbs, or even seem in pain. Lethargic dogs usually won’t be very interested in toys or treats, even their favorites. They may watch life moving around them and not engage with it as they usually would. Knowing the difference between a dog that is tired or lethargic is essential. A tired dog will still usually engage with the things they usually love and go about their day even if they need a bit more sleep. A lethargic dog prioritizes resting and doing nothing over absolutely everything else, even the things they used to love to do.

Causes of Dog Lethargy

There are many possible causes for a dog to become lethargic. Talk with your veterinarian if your pet is showing any of these symptoms.


Anemia can be a very common cause of lethargy in dogs. Anemia simply represents a low red blood cell count. Red blood cells are responsible for moving oxygen throughout the body, and when there aren’t enough red blood cells, the body isn’t receiving enough oxygen in the right places. With a low amount of oxygen, the body automatically goes into a state to conserve what oxygen is available, leading to lethargy. There are a few health conditions that are more concerning that may be causing anemia in dogs. These include kidney disease, parasites, and cancer. Because of these more serious potential causes of anemia, it’s essential to have your lethargic dog checked out at an animal hospital to determine the cause and treatment.


This is a very common condition, especially in older dogs. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints which can lead to pain and stiffness. This may cause dogs to be very lethargic. Dogs with arthritis are usually a bit more alert than dogs suffering from lethargy for other reasons. Arthritic dogs aren’t usually just tired, causing them to move less. These dogs may have plenty of energy. However, due to the pain associated with getting up and moving around, dogs with arthritis will usually choose to lay down most of the time to avoid the pain. It’s easier to determine that arthritis may be the cause of your dog’s lethargy. This is because most lethargic dogs will spend a lot of time being despondent, sleeping, not reacting to noise or activity around the house. Dogs with arthritis will usually still respond to their environment. They just might choose not to move around as much due to their pain. Many physical therapy treatments and pain medications are available for arthritic dogs to make their lives more comfortable. You can plan with your vet for the best treatments for your particular dog that will allow them to have a life with less pain and more fun.


Dogs can have allergies to many different things, even grass and pollen like humans. Some dogs are born with allergies, and some develop them over time and later in life. Allergies can make any animal or human feel exhausted when exposed to the allergen continuously without any medication to control their allergic reaction. Not all allergies are obvious or life-threatening. All dogs sneeze sometimes, so many owners don’t think much of their dog sneezing or what it could mean. Allergies in dogs may also present symptoms such as itching or irritated, red skin in the affected area. If your dog seems to be having issues with allergies, you can take them to the vet for treatment. There are plenty of allergy medicines for dogs that are exposed continuously to an allergen and need treatment for their symptoms. In some cases, your vet may be able to determine what exactly is causing the allergic reaction, and you may be able to make a few small changes to make your dog have fewer allergic reactions. Some dogs develop allergies to the same food they’ve had for many years. A simple change in food may eliminate the symptoms of their allergies, including their lethargy. Working with your vet to determine your dog’s allergies and what can be done about them is the most critical step in getting your dog back to their happy, energetic self.

Separation Anxiety

Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. When dogs have separation anxiety, they may have excessive anxious behaviors that they only display when you aren’t home. Because they have this high, nervous energy when you aren’t home, they may be exhausted when you are home. It may be hard to determine that your dog has separation anxiety. Common signs of separation anxiety are your dog displaying unwanted behavior when you aren’t home, such as destruction or elimination in the wrong place. Dogs will usually have behaviors when you aren’t home that they would never normally do when you are home. The best defense against separation anxiety is to work with a dog trainer or behaviorist.

 In Conclusion

All dogs can get tired and act lethargic. However, there are times when your dog’s lethargy is a sign of a more serious situation and requires a vet visit. Lethargy is much more than your dog is just a little extra tired. It’s essential to know the difference between a lethargic dog and a tired dog. A common cause of lethargy that is easily treated is anemia. Arthritis can also be a cause of lethargy, specifically in elder dogs. Dogs can also suffer from allergies that can cause lethargy. Separation anxiety is a very common cause of lethargy in dogs. Always remember that it’s better to be safe and get your dog to a vet clinic for a proper check than to let their issue potentially get worse when left untreated.

Call (410) 317-2028 or book an appointment online to talk with a Lake Shore Pet Hospital veterinarian about your dog’s lethargy in Pasadena, MD!

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You want only the best for your family and you always keep their best interests in mind. We understand your pet is a part of that family. Our veterinarian's mission at Lake Shore Pet Hospital is deeply rooted in treating you and your pet family how we'd like ours treated. We take great satisfaction in giving back to and developing strong bonds with the communities we serve, including Pasadena, Riviera Beach, and Lake Shore.