Low Energy in Dogs

Amber L. Drake
Tired dog

If your dog doesn't seem to have any energy, observe him closely to determine if there are any other unusual actions in addition to the fatigue. Fully understanding your dog's health, behavior and nutrition will assist your veterinarian in determining why your pooch is so tired and sluggish. Your dog's lethargy can be the result of a number of conditions ranging from harmless to life-threatening.

Poor Nutrition

Each dog has different nutritional requirements and if those requirements are not met, your dog may appear lethargic. Often, when your dog's nutritional needs are not being met, you will also notice a change in weight. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in Animals (ASPCA), some dog foods may also provide a well-balanced diet for one dog and not be sufficient for another. If you suspect your dog has a nutritional deficiency, you should contact your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog.

Depression in Dogs

Just as humans become depressed from time to time, dogs may also become depressed. The cause of depression could be due to a life change such as a new dog or new baby, or even something as simple as rearranging your home. The signs of depression in dogs are similar to those witnessed in humans. If your dog is depressed, you may notice in addition to low energy, your dog has a lack of appetite and suddenly is sleeping more often.

Find the Trigger

Low energy dog

In order to help your dog with depression, you must first determine the trigger of the depression. What has changed within the household? Once you figure out the trigger for your dog's depression, you can then determine methods to assist your dog in coping. You should consult your veterinarian to ensure there are not any underlying health conditions causing the depressed behavior. Once medical conditions are ruled out, your veterinarian may recommend medication to reduce the feelings of depression.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a parasitic infection which severely affects a dog's health. Heartworm is most commonly transmitted to dogs via mosquito bites. The effects of heartworm infestation are not often noticed immediately and, as a result, once a dog is diagnosed an individual dog may be harboring hundreds of heartworms, notes WebMD.

Treating and Preventing Heartworm

Treating heartworm disease is difficult but often includes a series of medications and significant rest. Preventing heartworm in your dog is critical. There are now topical, oral and injection medications to prevent heartworm infestation. Before deciding upon a prevention method, you should talk to a veterinarian to choose which method is best for your dog.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis in the veterinary world, is extremely contagious. This condition can affect any dog regardless of age or breed. If your dog has kennel cough or you suspect he has kennel cough, he should not be permitted nearby other dogs. You may notice your dog slowing down right away, or he may start to slow down when symptoms progress. If he has a mild form of kennel cough, he may still appear to be active. However, a more advanced case will surely slow your dog down has his body fights off the illness.

Antibiotics for Kennel Cough

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs who have a mild case generally improve within one week of symptom onset with rest. If your dog is diagnosed with a more severe form of kennel cough, the veterinarian will likely recommend antibiotics, fluids, cough suppressants and bronchodilators.

If kennel cough is not treated, the kennel cough may progress into pneumonia. Pneumonia in dogs is a serious health condition which may result in hospitalization. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, or has any of the above symptoms, visit a veterinarian immediately to prevent the illness from progressing.

Canine Distemper

If your dog has been vaccinated against distemper, the likelihood of distemper is low. If your dog has not been vaccinated, distemper could be a concern with low energy. Distemper is extremely contagious and your dog should not be permitted near other dogs until he has been seen by a veterinarian. Distemper affects a dog's main body systems including the central nervous system, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal system.

No Cure for Distemper

Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for distemper and the disease must run its course. If your dog has distemper, the veterinarian will recommend IV fluids and the administration of antibiotics and anticonvulsants to attempt to 'fight' the illness. Many dogs do not win the fight against distemper; however, if a dog does recover, you will continue to notice symptoms, including general lethargy, for several weeks following recovery.

Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is highly contagious and often fatal. Emphasis on vaccinations is key to prevent your dog from contracting this disease. The vaccination schedule is recommended by your veterinarian. If you have an older dog who has not been vaccinated, be certain to discuss this with your veterinarian. If your dog is not vaccinated, there is a risk for your dog developing Parvovirus.

Managing Symptoms

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association treatment involves supporting the dog while his body fights the disease. Your vet may administer antibiotics, anti-nausea medication and in serious cases, IV fluids. By the time symptoms appear, it is often too late for the dog to return to normal health. Early diagnosis is critical to save a dog's life in these cases. Parvo is often spread via fecal matter.

Liver Disease

When liver disease is diagnosed early, there is a high chance your dog can make nearly a full recovery. The liver has the ability to regenerate itself making early recognition of signs critical. Merck Vet Manual notes in addition to lethargy, look for jaundice as a sign your pet might have liver disease.

Immediate treatment of liver disease is critical. Your veterinarian is likely to recommend dietary changes and medication. Severe cases may require surgery.

Congestive Heart Failure

If your dog is suffering from congestive heart failure, not only will you notice he seems lethargic, but he may also show a lack of appetite and rapid breathing. According to VCA Hospitals, the causes of congestive heart failure include degeneration of the valves in the heart, congenital heart defects or inflammation of the pericardium in the heart. Due to the wide range of causes, any breed of any age is susceptible to developing congestive heart failure.

If you suspect your dog may be experiencing troubles with his or her heart, you should consult a veterinarian immediately. Treatment varies case-by-case but often includes diuretics, changes in diet and heart medication.

Canine Diabetes

Canine diabetes is manageable but will become a serious condition if left untreated. Diabetes Mellitus, also known as sugar diabetes, occurs if a dog's body is not producing insulin properly or producing an insufficient amount of insulin. Insulin is critical for regulating glucose levels in your dog's blood. In addition to depleted energy levels, look for excessive thirst and a loss of appetite.

Change Your Dog's Diet

Treatment of diabetes includes the injection of insulin and changes in diet. Changes in the diet often include:

  • A diet rich in fiber
  • A diet low in carbohydrates
  • Controlled portion amounts

Canine Hypoglycemia

Your dog may have low blood sugar if she is experiencing a lack of energy. This is different from diabetes; instead of sugar levels being too high, they are not high enough to perform normal activities. All dogs regardless of age or breed are susceptible to hypoglycemia.

Dependent upon the severity of the case, the veterinarian may recommend changes in diet, corn syrup or glucose injections. If your dog has hypoglycemia, your vet will also want to looking into other underlying health conditions.

Help Your Dog Have More Energy

Veterinarian examining dog

How can low energy be prevented? First, you must contact a veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying conditions. Often, if your dog is experiencing extreme fatigue, there is a condition associated with the lack of energy. If there is no underlying condition found, you can ensure your dog has a well-balanced diet to improve his or her energy levels. A routine may also necessary for dogs with low energy. Some dogs require a routine to ensure a sufficient amount of rest and sleep is provided. Establishing a routine also provides a 'peace of mind' to your dog by allowing them to understand they are not going to 'miss out' on anything. In addition to these tips, there are several foods, often known as super foods, which may be provided to your dog which apply an energy boost including:

  • Kale: Kale is a leafy vegetable which provides your dog with Vitamins A, E and C. Kale also contains antioxidants to assist with cleansing the body of any toxins and anti-inflammatory agents. Do not feed your dog kale if he/she has bladder or kidney health conditions.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin is low in calories but high in fiber which assists in maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Be sure not to feed your dog pumpkin filling (the filling used in pies) as this is not the same as fresh pumpkin.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt, with active cultures, is packed with probiotics resulting in improved gut function. Yogurt also contains essential nutrients including vitamin B, protein, vitamin B12, zinc and iodine.

Additional recommendations may be provided by your family veterinarian dependent upon the cause of the low energy.

Contacting Your Veterinarian

If you notice your dog seems 'dull' or just doesn't have the enthusiasm he once did, you should contact your veterinarian to determine the cause. Your veterinarian will look into your dog's history and run basic tests to determine the cause of the fatigue. If basic tests do not appear abnormal, additional testing may be necessary dependent upon his or her other symptoms. Be certain to observe your dog closely to be able to explain any additional signs and symptoms you may have noticed. This will assist the veterinarian in understanding the reasoning behind the low energy.

Low Energy in Dogs