Lethargy in dogs: Why is my dog so tired and sleepy?

Does your dog seem overly sluggish and lethargic, or is it just normal laziness? Why do dogs sometimes get tired and sleepy? Let's take a look at lethargy in dogs.

If you think that your dog is sleeping too much, it might be time for a trip to the vet.
If you think that your dog is sleeping too much, it might be time for a trip to the vet.  © 123RF/Photoboyko

Snoozing and lazing around the place are two hobbies that most dogs will accept and enjoy without a second thought.

Yet, there are times when it seems like they indulge in that kind of behavior more than usual.

Sluggishness might be perfectly normal, but when it gets extreme, it can get worrisome.

Dog wreaks hilarious chaos on the family car after muddy romp!
Dogs Dog wreaks hilarious chaos on the family car after muddy romp!

TAG24's dog guide is here to help you tell the difference!

What does lethargy in dogs look like and how should you deal with it? Let's find out!

Why is my dog so tired all the time?

There are many different things that may explain why it seems like your dog is in a constant state of weariness. From the pressures of a long and hard day, to the stresses of an anxious pup, it's important to develop an understanding of your dog's behaviors, moods, and temperament.

If your dog is especially tired at the moment there could be a very simple and reasonable explanation for it. On the flip side, it could come down to something worrying, such as a health issue. In such a case, it is important to have the skills to identify the issue and act on it, or simply recognize that something is wrong and make the necessary trip to the vet.

By learning your dog's body language, and developing an understanding of what makes it tired naturally, you'll be able to discern whether your dog is simply exhausted from the day, or in genuine trouble.

1. Movement

If you have had a seriously energetic day, have taken your dog agility training, or have just simply gone for an extensive walk, it may be that your dog is more lethargic and lazy in the evening than it may otherwise have been. As such, you have nothing to worry about - simply sit back, crack open a cold drink, and prepare yourself for your next adventure.

Of course, don't overwork your doggo. If you notice that after long walks your dog regularly gets extremely tired and lethargic, maybe cut back on the exercise and do things with more moderation.

2. Stress

Have you moved house recently, have renovations been getting done, has a family member or pet recently passed away? If there is any potential stress factor then it is good to identify it, as this may be the source of your perfect pooch's new-found laziness and sense of exhaustion.

Dog anxiety and separation anxiety are especially dangerous stresses, and increased lethargy is a key symptom of such a condition. If you are concerned, go and see a vet.

3. Heat and temperature

Both hot and cold weather can have adverse impacts upon your dog's health, though in different ways. In both cases, however, lethargy is a common and very serious symptom. If your dog is constantly overheating or constantly a little bit too cold, it will get very tired and will start to develop other symptoms of sickness – many of which can be quite dangerous.

If your dog is struggling with heat and temperature, your first port of call should of course be to regulate said temperature. Cool it down if necessary, or chuck on the heater if it is too cold.

Boredom, sadness, and stress, can all be factors leading to increased lethargy in dogs.
Boredom, sadness, and stress, can all be factors leading to increased lethargy in dogs.  © 123RF/mrwed54

4. Health and illness

There are many health issues that can cause lethargy and tiredness. Usually this is simply a side-symptom of the main issue, and not the main deal. In such a case, it's best to keep that in mind and treat them with a little bit of levity as you get the underlying health problem under control.

Some general health issues that can cause extreme exhaustion and lethargy:

  • Fever
  • Parasites
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Thyroid function
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Kidney, liver, or heart disease
  • Poisoning

Of course, health problems are usually accompanied by other symptoms. Also look out for diarrhea, vomiting, pale gums or a loss of appetite. If you are concerned about your dog, take it to the vet.

5. Boredom or sadness

If your dog is bored, or even feeling a little sad, it is likely to feel a listlessness and a sense of fatigue that can be hard to overcome. This can be very hard to detect, as dogs don't generally share what's bothering them with their owners. That being said, it's not a bad idea to take a step back, think about whether there is anything that could be causing such emotions, and taking it from there.

The most likely explanation is, potentially, that your dog is bored simply because it has not had enough time outdoors or with its humans. If you have been busy and haven't been around much, or if there have been very few walks, this can explain such behavior.

6. Diet

A dog's diet has a direct relationship with both its health and its sleep cycles.
A dog's diet has a direct relationship with both its health and its sleep cycles.  © 123RF/Evrmmnt

Nutrition has a direct effect on your dog's energy balance, so a diet low in nutrients can make four-legged friends feel tired, have little energy and sleep a lot. As such, you need to guarantee that it is getting a full and nutritious diet. Choose between a wet or dry food regime and stick to it, making sure that it stays healthy and happy in the process.

Try to avoid any human food and instead give it entirely what its body needs – nutrients, minerals, and proteins that are conveniently found in commercial dog food.

It really is that simple!

7. Sleep problems

Dogs can have sleep disorders too, you know? Such things are admittedly quite rare and often caused by mental health issues, but can happen and will often cause extreme exhaustion in your pet. Considering that this can then lead to other health issues, and a general malaise, it's best to get on top of it.

Some of the sleep disorders that your dog could potentially get include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • REM sleep disorder

Sleep disorders cause not only fatigue in dogs, but other behavioral changes as well. Again, this is something to talk to a veterinarian about.

Make sure that your dog gets plenty of sleep and, if you are worried, take it to the vet.
Make sure that your dog gets plenty of sleep and, if you are worried, take it to the vet.  © 123RF/Belart84

How much sleep should dogs get?

Your dog should generally get between 14 and 18 hours of sleep every day, but there's a caveat. Not only does the exact amount of sleep that your doggo need depend in part on its age, size, and breed, but also on the quality of sleep that it's getting.

You need to make sure that your dog has a comfortable and private place to sleep, no matter its age. Even if it chooses not to use such a space, it should be there for when your dog needs to be alone and catch up on some z's. Make sure that there is a blanket, a soft mat, and some toys in their space, to give them the best environment.

Dogs generally experience a mixture of REM sleep and light sleep, often spending large amounts of time half awake. This is why they sleep so much, because they don't actually sleep as deeply as we humans do and are often only seconds away from being fully awake if necessary.

As such, also make sure that your dog is not going to get woken up when sleeping. Keep the noise down, give it some space, and pay it a little bit of respect.

Puppy lethargy can be worrying, so see the veterinarian regularly

The internet is not a good place for you to find out medical information about your pets. In any situation where you find yourself worried and concerned for your dog's health and happiness, websites like this one should only serve to inform and provide background information. If you are truly worried, go to the veterinarian and seek professional medical advice.

As it stands, severe puppy and doggo lethargy is such a medical condition. It can indicate all sorts of serious issues and, as a result, should be something looked at seriously. It might be more than just a lack of sleep, so it's best to err on the side of caution.

Cover photo: 123RF/Photoboyko

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