lazy or lethargic?

We all have days when we don’t want to get out of bed, and our four-legged family members are no exception. Sometimes the bed is just too cozy to leave! But if your pet is habitually sleeping in (or sleeping more than their normal amount), something more serious than laziness might be going on.

Lethargy in pets, as evidenced by increased sleep, decreased play, decreased appetite and overall malaise, can be caused by many different things, including:

  • Infection (viral, bacterial, fungal)
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Anemia (low red blood cell levels)
  • Hormonal imbalances like hypothyroidism, diabetes and Addison’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Low blood sugar in young or diabetic animals
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of a companion pet
  • Stress caused by a schedule change

How do you tell if your pet is lethargic or just having an “off” day? It’s OK for pets to have a lazy day or two once in a while. Missing a meal or sleeping a little more than normal is par for the course for some pets and in some situations. For example, if your dog has just come home from a week at the boarding facility, you can be sure that he’ll want to catch up on some much-needed rest. But when a snooze-fest lasts more than a day or two, it’s fair to say that your dog has become lethargic, and it’s time to call the vet.

What about your cat? After all, she already sleeps 18 to 20 hours a day! But a cat who is lethargic likely won’t be seen. She’ll be sleeping all of the time, and you won’t see her at the food or water bowls. If she’s found a different, secret place to sleep, the only evidence of her will be in the litter box, and even that may be scant.

The challenge for pet owners is determining whether your pet needs to check in with her doctor. While there are no hard and fast rules, call your vet about pets with fevers, any dog who refuses food or water for 48 hours or any cat who hasn’t eaten in 24 hours. Calling sooner is not wrong; you know your pet the best, and you are your pet’s voice and best advocate. Go with your gut — after all, recognizing an illness early can make all the difference!