My dog seems listless: causes and helpIf your dog slows down, gives a tired impression or doesn't want to play, it may not be mere laziness behind it. If animals seem listless or physically unstable, a serious illness may be the cause. In bad cases, listlessness can be due to heart disease. If your dog is listless or simply less active than usual, you should not take this lightly. Read on to learn more about why your dog might be exercise intolerant and what can be done about it.
Possible causes of lethargy
Most dogs are a little quieter after intense physical activity – this is normal. For example, your dog may have a greater need for rest for a day or two after romping around the dog run all day or going on a strenuous hike with you. However, if he is very tired for a long period of time, you should not ignore it. Strain intolerance could be a warning sign of a larger problem, such as heart disease. It can also indicate many other problems, from harmless muscle soreness to heart failure. Vets Now has compiled a list of possible causes of lethargy in dogs:
– infections or illnesses – heart disease – liver disease – diabetes or hypoglycemia – hypothyroidism – parasites – side effects of medications – poisoning or trauma
On the website of "Wag!", a portal for dog walking services and advice for dog owners, says that exercise intolerance combined with other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, coughing or fainting, could also indicate pulmonary hypertension (high blood prere in the lungs) or another cardiovascular disease.
Signs of exercise intolerance and lethargy in dogs
Normally, lethargy in dogs is fairly easy to detect. According to Vetinfo, an excessive need for sleep, low energy, listlessness and delayed responsiveness are obvious signs that a dog is lethargic. Exercise intolerance is comparatively more difficult to detect – especially if you don't walk or play with your dog regularly. According to "Wag!" it may be in lighter cases that your dog simply does not want to run as far or play as much as normal. Coughing, wheezing or strained breathing after physical activity could also indicate exercise intolerance. In extreme cases, there may be confusion, disorientation, uncleanliness in the house, a rise in body temperature, unsteadiness and even collapse.
What you should do to help your dog
If you notice that your dog is listless or less resilient, you should not force him to walk. Pay attention to his body language and, if necessary, give him a break from playing or shorten the walk. Watch him closely. Look out for serious symptoms. If you observe any other worrying behavior, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. If your dog shows no further symptoms, you can wait one to two days. If his condition does not improve or even gets worse, talk to the vet. If you experience unusual symptoms, such as fainting or collapse, you should take your dog to the emergency room of a veterinary hospital immediately.
The diagnosis of your dog
The vet will examine your dog thoroughly. He pays attention to signs of lameness, injuries, pain as well as possible tumors. The vet will also take blood. Examine urine for possible underlying disease. Your dog will probably also be hooked up to an EKG machine to measure heart activity, and have heart and lung x-rays taken. Your vet may also recommend an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan to better diagnose the condition. Also helpful to the diagnosis is telling the vet what medications your dog may be on, what his diet and lifestyle are like, and if you have noticed any other symptoms or changes in your dog.
How you should act after diagnosis
Lethargy and exercise intolerance are not diseases in themselves, but symptoms of a problem. Which treatment is best for your dog depends on the exact diagnosis. Your veterinarian can best assess whether your dog will recover and be as resilient as before. However, in the case of heart disease or other progressive conditions, your dog's physical ability and activity may be limited for the rest of his life, and appropriate adjustments to his daily routine may be required. Talk to your vet about your dog's condition and get advice on how much physical activity he can tolerate.
Alternatives to physical activity
If your dog has to severely limit his physical activity, it can quickly lead to weight problems. Since obesity aggravates some diseases, you will definitely have to take up the challenge to fight against it. Depending on the diagnosis and therapy, your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet plan that is adapted to your dog's condition. Otherwise, you can ask your vet about a dog food for weight loss and maintenance that will prevent your dog from putting on too much flab due to lack of exercise. To keep weight under control, it's also important to make sure your dog is on an age-appropriate dog food. Good nutrition is of utmost importance. If your dog is not getting the right nutrients to keep his energy levels up, this in turn can increase his lethargy. Even if your dog does not require a special diet, you should ask your veterinarian for general dietary recommendations.
Of course, it's normal for dogs to slow down the pace a bit as they get older. As your dog gets older, joint problems, weight gain and faster fatigue are simply factors that limit activity. Although older dogs are more susceptible to conditions that lead to lethargy and exercise intolerance, you should never blame it solely on his age if he is noticeably more easily fatigued than usual. Warning signs of this nature should never be ignored.
How active a dog is can be a strong indicator of its health. Pet owners should therefore always pay attention to what is normal for their dog and what is not, so they can immediately recognize when something is wrong. If you don't normally play or go for walks with your dog, start now so you know his normal amount of exercise. As soon as you notice your dog is listless, you should act to identify serious illnesses in their early stages to improve your pet's chances for a healthy and happy life.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer, author and editor. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In her study, she enjoys writing about pets and their health, almost always with a furry bunny on her lap.