Dog Not Moving Much? What It Means If Your Dog Is Lethargic

11 January 2022

If your canine buddy has slowed down or stopped moving recently, they may have an underlying health issue that needs addressed. Learn about all the different types of lethargy and inactivity in dogs, plus what you can do to help your furry friend.

small white and brown dog not moving laying on the floor indoors on wood floor with white wall in the background

Have you noticed your dog not moving much lately? Do you just have a lazy dog breed on your hands, or has your normally active furry friend suddenly become a lethargic dog? Lethargy in dogs can be a sign of serious illness, so learn more about the potential causes and how to treat it. While you’re here, discover activity tracking for dogs and how it can help to keep your dog healthy and safe.

Lazy dogs

Sometimes, when a dog is not moving a lot, it might just mean that you have a lazy dog. They may just need your help to get more active. Laziness in dogs does not necessarily mean that your dog has a health issue, although it certainly can. Pay attention to if your dog is just being lazy or if they show any other worrying signs of illness or distress.

Why is my dog so lazy?

If you are wondering why your dog is so lazy, there are a few possible answers. While young puppies are often full of energy, many dogs tend to slow down once they reach adulthood. Dogs of both sexes also tend to become less active after being neutered, but not always. Some dog breeds are just naturally more sedentary than others. However, if your dog becomes lazy all of a sudden, this could be a sign of sickness or injury, so see your vet if that’s the case.

15 lazy dog breeds

These low-energy dog breeds need less activity than others – it’s just their nature. You might consider them to be lazy dog breeds – or perfect apartment companions!

  • Basset Hound
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bulldog
  • Chow Chow
  • French Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Havanese
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Saint Bernard
  • Shih Tzu
  • Spinone Italiano
  • Tibetan Mastiff
lethargic dog laying on the floor indoors, brown and white dog sleeping

Lethargy in dogs

Sometimes, laziness in dogs may not be a normal characteristic of their age or breed and could actually be lethargy – a sign that your dog is not feeling so well. Let’s take a look at what lethargy in dogs looks like and what it may mean about your dog’s health and wellbeing.

What is lethargy in dogs?

Lethargy is the condition or quality of lacking energy; sluggishness, sleepiness, unresponsiveness or decreased interest in activity. If your dog no longer enjoys playing their favorite game of fetch or going to the dog park, or simply stops moving very much, they may be feeling lethargic.

Just as lethargy in humans can be a sign of illness, lethargy in dogs may indicate that your canine pal is unwell and might need veterinary attention.

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Pro tip: You can monitor how many active and rest minutes your dog gets with the help of Tractive GPS – the GPS tracker and activity monitor for dogs. You’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ll be able to find your dog anytime, plus see if their activity level changes or they stop moving for an extended period of time.

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

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When to see a vet

If your dog is experiencing unusual weakness or lethargy, it could be caused by a wide range of things ranging from pain and medication to infection and disease. So it’s best to see a veterinarian immediately if your dog is not acting like themselves and seems to have lost their energy recently. Your vet will perform a health check to rule out any potential illness or injury. Dogs who are lethargic may be suffering from one of the following health issues.

Causes of lethargy in dogs

Lethargy in dogs can be caused by many different factors, ranging from relatively harmless to life-threatening. In the following list you can find an overview of possible causes of lethargy in dogs.

Parvovirus

The canine parvovirus affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, fever or low temperature and diarrhea in dogs. It’s spread through contact with infected dogs or contaminated surfaces. Dogs most at risk of parvo are unvaccinated dogs or those under 4 months old. Vaccination and good hygiene can prevent parvovirus in dogs. If you suspect your dog has parvo, take them to the vet immediately. Diagnosis and aggressive treatment as soon as possible will be necessary to make sure your dog recovers from the virus1.

Distemper

Canine distemper is a virus that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system of infected dogs. It can be spread through the air and initially causes a watery, pus-like discharge from the eyes. Other symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, lethargy, fever, dog not eating, and vomiting. Eventually, muscle twitches, circling behavior, convulsions, chewing fits and salivation, seizures and paralysis can occur as the virus attacks the nervous system. Thickening of the foot pads may also occur. Distemper in dogs is often deadly; and if the dog survives they often have permanent nervous system damage2.

Kennel cough

This infectious bronchitis affects the respiratory system in dogs, causing them to cough. Dogs with kennel cough may also experience sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, gasping for breath, eye discharge and tiredness. Normally it goes away on its own; but puppies, older or ill dogs who develop kennel cough may require treatment to prevent severe infection3.

Heartworms

Heartworm disease in dogs is caused by a parasitic worm that infects the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the affected animal. Initially, no symptoms will be present. Later, lethargy and a cough usually develop, followed by difficulty breathing and a sick appearance in the later stages. If left untreated, heartworms can lead to caval syndrome which can cause organ failure and death. Treatment can be tough on the dog and expensive, so it’s best to talk to your vet about options to prevent heartworms4.

Leptospirosis

Another possible cause of lethargy in dogs is leptospirosis, an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. It affects the kidney and liver in dogs and can lead to organ failure. Symptoms of severe infection include lethargy, depressions, vomiting, fever, increased thirst, decreased appetite and frequent urination. Dogs with mild infections may show no symptoms at all, but the illness typically develops quickly. Moreover, dogs with this condition may develop jaundice5.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a tick-bourne illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that can affect both dogs and humans. The bacteria inside a tick is transmitted into the dog’s bloodstream from a tick bite and can travel to different organs, causing illness and ongoing health issues. The tick must be attached to the dog for 24-48 hours in order to trasmit the disease. Symptoms of lyme disease in dogs include loss of appetite and energy, fever, lameness, swelling of joints, discomfort and pain. Kidney failure and serious heart and brain issues can also develop. Since ticks can also transmit other serious bacterial diseases, tick control for dogs is an absolute must for any dog parent in a tick-infested are6.

Disease

Chronic disease is another potential reason for lethargy in dogs. If your dog is suffering from heart or liver disease, cancer, diabetes or hypoglycemia, they will likely be lethargic and show other signs of illness. Older dogs are most at risk of developing diseases such as these, which are often treated with medication, diet changes, or surgery. Again, if your dog shows signs of sickness (for example, if your dog has seizures, stops eating, drinks excessively and urinates frequently, vomits or has a fever or diarrhea), then seek veterinary help as soon as possible.

Medications

Different types of medications can also make your dog weak or lethargic. This includes medications prescribed to your dog from the vet or over the counter flea, tick, or heartworm products. Natural supplements or alternative therapies such as CBD for dogs could also make your dog sick or tired. So see your vet right away if your dog appears sluggish after taking a new medication or product7.

Speaking of medications, many medicines for people, such as common pain relievers, are actually toxic to dogs, so keep these away from dogs at all times.

Poisoning

Additionally, dogs will appear lethargic and sick if they have been poisoned. Note that to be poisoned doesn’t mean that they literally consumed poison – such as incesticide or rat poison (although that’s possible too). Many everyday household substances are toxic to dogs, from chocolate, alcohol and grapes to cleaners and chemicals; plants and mushrooms to recreational or prescription drugs. See our list of substances that are toxic to dogs. If you suspect your dog has consumed anything that might be toxic, contact your vet or Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Hypothyroidism

Another potential cause of lethargy in dogs is hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. This condition is usually caused by underlying disease and causes the metabolism to slow down. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, dull hair and excess shedding, sensitivity to cold, thin coat, slow heart rate, lameness, lack of coordination, loss of libido and heat periods and more8.

Other causes of lethargy in dogs

As you can see, when a dog is lethargic, there are many possible reasons for it. In addition to the possibilities above, a lethargic dog may be experiencing pain, trauma, diarrhea, anemia, a snake bite or other injury, or anal gland issues.

How to treat lethargy in dogs

Treatment for lethargy in dogs will depend on its cause. Even with all the information above, it can be hard to determine the exact cause of lethargy in your dog by yourself. Inspect your dog for injuries and take note of all the symptoms your dog is experiencing. Are they just a little bit lazy (perhaps they’ve been indoors too much)? Or do they also show worrying signs of a health issue, such as vomiting or diarrhea? Anytime you suspect sickness or pain in your dog, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet. Once there, your vet will be able to run some tests to determine what exactly may be causing your dog to feel lethargic. Your vet knows best how to treat lethargy in your dog and can give you advice on the best course of action to get your dog feeling better again.

Getting active again with Tractive GPS

Once the cause of lethargy is known and your dog is on their way to feeling active again, you can incorporate healthy activities into your lifestyle. Keeping your dog in good physical shape throughout their life is important, just as getting enough exercise keeps you strong and healthy.

While you get or stay in shape together, use Tractive GPS to follow your dog’s every step and activity milestone. Whether your dog is running marathons or just getting up and down the stairs each day, you’ll be able to keep track of their every move and make sure they’re staying healthy and safe- whatever that looks like for them. Read more about activity monitoring for dogs.

white and brown shelter dog sitting outside in grass wearing tractive GPS dog tracker on collar

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