Dog loss of appetite


My Pet Won’t Eat

Whether or not a pet eats is an essential indicator into how he is feeling. There are countless medical and behavioral reasons that can affect a pet’s appetite. It is important to not only know if he eats, but also how quickly or if he seems interested in eating but then walks away after smelling the food. These are all clues that veterinarians can use to determine the underlying cause of why your pet’s appetite is decreased.

The most common reason that a dog or cat won’t eat is gastrointestinal upset. Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration or fever will often accompany the clinical sign of decreased appetite. In addition to using these symptoms as a guide, veterinarians also factor in age, medications, and known medical conditions to help guide them to what is causing the anorexia.

If a healthy young dog or cat comes into the hospital with a history of refusing food, lethargy and profuse vomiting, the most likely causes are foreign body ingestion, toxicity, a viral infection like parvo or a bacterial infection such as leptospirosis. If that same young animal is having decreased appetite, diarrhea and fever, we want to make sure that intestinal parasites or overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines are not to blame.

In addition to the above conditions, older dogs and cats develop other diseases such as hormone imbalances, organ failure or cancer that we need to consider. Conditions such as diabetes, liver disease or kidney failure can make a pet feel extremely nauseous which results in refusal of food, often after smelling the food and seeming interested in eating. The good news here is that many of these issues can be identified on routine blood work, which allows for a quick diagnosis and treatment plan.

Cancer can affect any cell in the body and presents in numerous ways, many of which are seen as decreased appetite. Cats very commonly develop lymphoma in the stomach and intestines. With these patients, in addition to anorexia you can see any combination of weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea. The cancer does not necessarily need to be limited to the gastrointestinal tract to make a pet feel poorly which results in decreased appetite.

Stress is another culprit that results in a decreased appetite. The anxiety can be from a temporary situation like a kennel stay away from home or it can be more permanent such as the case with many fearful and anxious dogs. These poor critters get so worked up over everyday life, such as an owner leaving for work, that they will often not eat because of it. Cats will often protest a change in diet by refusing to eat anything at all. It is important whenever transiting a kitty to a new diet that you give them ample time to adjust to the idea by offering both the old and the new food for several days. This allows them to feel they had a say in the diet change rather than an owner telling them what they must eat.

There are countless causes for why a dog or cat will develop a decreased appetite. Often it is something simple that can be resolved with a few days of a bland diet and perhaps, if advised by your veterinarian, an over the counter medication to help settle the stomach. It is important to monitor your pet closely and if the decreased appetite is not improving or additional clinical signs like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or fever occur you should contact your veterinarian. Since our pets can’t speak to us it is critical that we listen carefully to the other ways in which they communicate. Not wanting to eat is usually a clear sign that your pet isn’t feeling his best and may need medical attention.

Dog Weakness and Lethargy: Common Causes and Treatments

A few of the more common causes of weakness or lethargy in dogs include the following:

Infection. Any kind of infection — including serious ones such as parvovirus, distemper, kennel cough, leptospirosis, and heartworm disease — can make your dog lethargic.

  • Parvovirus is spread through feces. Symptoms of parvo can include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Treatment includes aggressive supportive care with fluids, anti-nausea medications, and antibiotics.
  • Distemper can cause symptoms such as fever, lethargy, discharge from the eyes and nose, and coughing. It may cause neurological problems. The signs of distemper are broad and vary from dog to dog. Treatment may include antibiotics, fluids, and anticonvulsants.
  • Kennel coughis a contagious respiratory disease. Its most distinctive symptom is a dry, honking cough. Dogs with kennel cough can be lethargic and feverish. Treatments may include cough suppressants, antibiotics, and bronchodilators.
  • Heartworm disease is caused by heartworms that are transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms of heartworm infection can include lethargy, depression, fever, and weakness. Prevention with oral or injectable medicines is the best option. Treatment for existing disease requires a series of injections and medications and months of strict cage rest.

Metabolic and Organic Disease. A wide range of chronic conditions can leave dogs weak or lethargic. That includes heart problems, liver problems, diabetes, and hypoglycemia.

  • Heart disease. Lethargy and reduced tolerance for exercise are the early signs of congestive heart failure in dogs. As the condition worsens, other symptoms develop, including loss of appetite, coughing, and rapid breathing. Treatment depends on how far along the condition is. It may include heart medication, diuretics, and diet changes.
  • Liver disease. Signs of liver disease in dogs include lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellow tint to gums or whites of eyes), depression, and abdominal bloating. Treatment of liver disease is critical and may include medication, diet changes, or surgery.
  • Diabetes mellitus. Signs your dog may have diabetes include lethargy, excessive thirst, weight loss, and changes in appetite. Treating diabetes requires insulin injections, along with diet adjustments.
  • Hypoglycemia. This is low blood sugar, which is the opposite of diabetes. It can make your dog weak and lead to seizures. Treatment will depend on what’s causing the hypoglycemia. Short-term therapy may include giving corn syrup orally or intravenous glucose.

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Dogs have become an inseparable part of human life, providing companionship and a wide range of other health benefits. Owning a dog has been shown to reduce anxiety, provide sensory stress relief, and promote more exercise and fresh air. In return, you provide your dog with food, shelter, plenty of belly rubs, occasional vet visits, and all the love you could possibly muster.

Unfortunately, even when following all the right steps, dogs can potentially feel a little under the weather. They can get upset stomachs, which can eventually lead to vomiting and diarrhea, which isn’t fun for anyone. Read on to learn more about vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, what causes both conditions, and some remedies to prevent and treat them.

Understanding the Doggy Digestive System

Dogs have digestive systems that are completely different from humans’. In humans, the jaw shape and saliva begin to break down foods immediately in the mouth. Dog mouths are designed for crushing and tearing, while their saliva is more for killing bacteria than breaking down food, which is why they can eat raw meat and other things that would send most humans to the hospital.

Most of the digestion happens in your dog’s stomach, where the food enters in chunks. Your dog’s stomach acids are nearly three times more potent than an average human’s stomach acid, so they can break down food that is practically swallowed whole. From mouth to colon, food takes about 10 hours to digest in your dog’s body, but dogs can still succumb to vomiting and diarrhea.

As unpleasant as it is, vomiting is a natural instinct for both animals and humans. It’s a means of emptying the stomach of indigestible or otherwise unwanted material, preventing it from getting further into your system.

It can also occur when your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is irritated or due to any sort of colonic stimulus. Diarrhea often occurs when that unwanted or indigestible material makes its way fully through your dog’s digestive system.

However, both vomiting and diarrhea have different causes, some serious, some less so.

Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

Dogs can have diarrhea for four basic reasons:

  • Over-secretion: The intestine secretes too much fluid during digestion as a result of being exposed to toxins or bacteria.
  • Osmotic imbalance: This occurs when the intestines contain a high concentration of food. The excess molecules draw more water into your pup’s intestines, leading to diarrhea.
  • Intestinal exudation: Intestinal exudation occurs when ulcers or other sores in the intestinal walls cause a slow leak of blood.
  • Motility disorders: These disorders refer to how active the intestines are and how efficiently they move material through. One condition known as peristalsis occurs when a dog’s intestines are unable to properly push food remains through the canal. Alternately, the intestines may move materials too quickly. In this case, fluid that doesn’t have a chance to get absorbed will be forced out with the feces.

There are a variety of things that can potentially trigger these conditions, but the most common include:

  • A bad diet, including eating rotten food, eating garbage, or just eating too much (in vet circles, this is known as garbage gut or garbage toxicosis).
  • Food intolerance (for example, most dogs grow lactose intolerant)
  • Switching to a different food or diet
  • Parasites, particularly hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms
  • Food allergies
  • Swallowing something that isn’t digestible, like part of a toy or bone
  • Poisonous plants or other substances
  • Bacterial infections, like salmonella
  • Extreme emotional stress and anxiety
  • Certain infections, including distemper, coronavirus, and parvovirus
  • Certain illness, including cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Antibiotics and medications

Causes of Dog Vomiting

Dogs can vomit for numerous reasons, many of which are similar or related to what might cause diarrhea. Some other causes include:

  • Motion sickness
  • Ingestion of insecticides, pesticides, or other toxic products
  • Pancreatitis
  • Infections and ulcers

Dogs may also throw up as a reaction to a new drug or medication.

What to Keep an Eye Out For

There’s not much you can do to predict a dog’s diarrhea until it actually happens. For nausea and vomiting, the first sign is often excessive drooling, licking of lips, and swallowing. Some dogs will start eating grass either to relieve any irritation or indigestion or induce vomiting.

While vomiting and regurgitation often look the same, they do have their distinct differences. Regurgitation occurs spontaneously and comprises expelling undigested food without any abdominal effort. This points to possible problems in the esophagus or somewhere early in the digestive process. Regurgitation has its own specific set of possible causes.

What to Do When Your Dog Vomits

For occasional or infrequent vomiting:

  1. Avoid giving your dog food for the next 12 hours. You can give him up to 3 tablespoons of water every 30 minutes or provide ice cubes for him to lick and munch on.
  2. After the 12 hours, reintroduce his water bowl.
  3. Provide bland food. Most people go with white rice and cooked chicken, but any combination of lean meat and starch can work. Keep the ratio to about one-part lean meat to every five-parts starch.
  4. Start feeding your dog a few teaspoons of the chicken and rice. If he can keep it down, feed him a little every hour or two.
  5. If vomiting stops, you can begin feeding your dog his normal food the next day.

For more severe cases of vomiting:

  1. Remove any food that your dog can get to.
  2. Inspect your pup for signs of dehydration and/or shock, which include pale skin and gums, abnormal disposition, and coma or collapse.
  3. If your dog exhibits any severe symptoms, take him to the vet immediately.

How to Prevent Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs

While there are some vomit and diarrhea triggers that you can’t prevent or even detect, you can generally prevent both as long as you pay attention and follow certain rules:

  • Do not allow your dog to scavenge around garbage or outside. That’s the main way that dog’s get garbage gut.
  • Don’t give your dog toys that easily fall apart, are easily swallowed, or otherwise chewed into pieces. This can lead to irritation of the intestines or stomach.
  • Avoid giving your dog bones, which are often implicated in vomiting. Ask your vet for recommendations of safe chewables.
  • When you’re at the park or taking your dog for a walk, keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t eat things he shouldn’t. A basket muzzle can keep your dog’s mouth shut to prevent this.
  • Sudden diet changes can lead to vomiting. When introducing a new food, do so gradually to prevent upset stomachs and irritated intestines.
  • Avoid overly stressful activities or look up proper means of relieving stress in your dog.

A general rule of thumb is to provide a high-quality diet that is filled with all the vitamins and nutrients your dog needs. This may mean including a hemp supplement, like those found at Canna-Pet. Activated hemp supplements can benefit other areas of your dog’s health, including anxiety relief, improved skin, and support for your dog’s nervous system.

Dog Diarrhea Treatment

Many cases of dog diarrhea can be treated without the need of professional medical intervention. The most prominent home remedy to treat diarrhea is fasting. Keeping your dog away from food for up to a day can help his stomach settle. Make sure to provide small amounts of water or ice cubes to ensure that your dog stays properly hydrated. You may also consider providing your pup with coconut water or unflavored Pedialyte to ensure he has enough electrolytes.

One thing to note: make sure your dog is actually strong enough to endure a fast. Older dogs and puppies need their nutrients to maintain good health. Starving for a day may not be the best solution. Smaller dogs may also not have the same hardiness to maintain a full day of fasting.

Other remedies for dog diarrhea that you should be able to find in your cupboards include:

  • White rice
  • Yogurt, kefir, and other foods containing probiotics (beneficial gut bacteria), though be careful as some dogs may have stomachs too sensitive to probiotics, leading to more diarrhea
  • Boiled potatoes with their skins removed
  • Plain canned pumpkin (not the stuff used in pumpkin pie filling)
  • Eggs, chicken, and other simple proteins prepared plainly
  • Rice water
  • Cottage cheese (only if your dog can tolerate milk and dairy products)
  • Certain over-the-counter drugs, like Pepto Bismol, but be cautious and consult your veterinarian before ever administering any human medication to your pet

Remedies for Vomiting in Dogs

Similar to diarrhea, fasting is a possible remedy for vomiting, but there are plenty of other things you should provide your pup.

  • Maintain a good, comfortable body temperature. Cooler temperatures tend to be better as a warm environment may only contribute to dehydration. When your dog has calmed, take him on short walks, but otherwise, try to keep him indoors.
  • Provide foods rich in fiber. Fiber reduces distress in your dog’s digestive system, helping to clean out any toxins contributing to an upset stomach. Fiber-rich foods that are safe for your dog to consume include canned pumpkin, rice, and sweet potato.
  • Mix one teaspoon of baking soda in a half a cup of water. Give your dog a few sips of this mixture every 1 or 2 hours. This is a simple home remedy, but it can help relieve pressure while neutralizing acids in the body.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus is a probiotic that is safe for your dog to consume, but you can also find it in capsule form. Simply mix the capsules in water. Acidophilus is also present in plain, low-fat, low-sugar yogurt. Dose based on size:
    • Small dogs should get 1 to 2 teaspoons.
    • Medium dogs can take 1 to 2 tablespoons.
    • Larger dogs can take up to 4 tablespoons.
  • Ginger tea is just as soothing and healthy for dogs as it is humans. Ginger is known to act as a powerful aid in digestion. To make ginger tea, pour 1 teaspoon of ginger powder or 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger root into a half cup of coconut milk. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Let it cool down to about room temperature to keep your dog from scalding itself. Give him up to 3 teaspoons of the tea every 1 to 2 hours.

When the vomiting or diarrhea has subsided, keep a close eye on your dog to observe any severe problems that warrant a visit to the vet. In terms of vomiting, severe cases often involve lethargy, continued dry heaving, and an inability to keep down water.

For diarrhea, check the consistency and color of the feces and the frequency that your dog goes to the bathroom. White spots appearing as rice grains point to parasites, while black, tarry stools suggest bleeding in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.

As a dog owner, you should also just know if things seem off or abnormal. Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, contact your vet immediately.


The Top 10 Dog Health Problems

Your dog probably knows how to beg for a treat, but she doesn’t how know to talk to you about her health — or tell you when she’s in pain. Unfortunately, pet canines may face a wide range of dog health conditions. Fortunately many of the most serious ones can be prevented with vaccinations and regular treatment.

Here are the top 10 dog health problems our four-legged friends face and dog illness symptoms to watch for.

Dog Health Condition No. 1: Heartworms

Heartworms are a serious and potentially deadly disease in which parasites infect a dog’s heart and arteries. Dogs are exposed to larvae through a mosquito bite and, if unchecked, the larvae can develop into large worms. Symptoms of heartworm disease range from coughing to lethargy, collapsing, and depression (moping or not greeting you at the door), says Bonnie Beaver, DVM, a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. A heartworm infestation can progress to heart failure and death. Though not always successful, treatment options include medications to kill the parasites and, in advanced cases, surgery. Fortunately, heartworms are easily prevented. Options include daily oral medications, topicals, injections, and a simple, once-a-month pill.

Dog Health Condition No. 2: Vomiting and Diarrhea

There are many possible causes of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, but the most common is an infection such as parvovirus. Others include eating inappropriate foods or swallowing objects. “Dogs often eat little toys, items of clothing, chocolate, or gum wrappers,” says Beaver. “Xylitol can shut down the kidneys. A pound of bacon can cause pancreatitis.”

An isolated bout of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs is usually not a cause for concern, but if your dog vomits repeatedly or for more than a day, take him to your veterinarian. Watch for symptoms such as blood in vomit or diarrhea, dark or black diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, fever, or a change in appetite. To prevent dehydration, give your dog plenty of water. After a bout of vomiting, try bland foods such as boiled potatoes, rice, and cooked skinless chicken. To combat diarrhea in dogs, the general rule is to avoid feeding your dog food for 12 to 24 hours or until your vet gives you the go-ahead.

Dog Health Condition No. 3: Obesity

Obesity is a common pet health problem. Just as in people, being overweight can have negative health effects on your pooch: Overweight dogs face a higher risk of joint pain, diabetes, and liver disease. “We’re feeding them too much calorie-dense food and not giving them enough exercise,” says Beaver.

Is your dog at his best weight? If he is, you should be able to feel his backbone and ribs without pressing. When looking at your dog from above, you should see a noticeable “waist” between the lower ribs and the hips; from the side, you should be able to see the abdomen go up from the bottom of the rib cage to the thighs. If your dog doesn’t meet these standards, ask your vet to help you create a diet and exercise plan.

“Increase calorie output and decrease calorie intake,” says Beaver. Reduce snacks or treats, feed him small meals throughout the day, and make it a point to take him to the park to play and run around.

Dog Health Condition No. 4: Infectious Diseases

Another common pet health problem in dogs is infectious diseases, notably canine parvovirus and distemper. Canine parvovirus is extremely contagious and potentially deadly, contracted through contact with the feces of an infected dog. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Canine distemper is a virus transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog’s urine, saliva, or blood. It affects a dog’s respiratory system as well as her gastrointestinal and central nervous system and even the eyes, specifically the membranes that cover the eyeballs and the underside of the eyelid. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing, fever, sudden loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, discharge of thick mucous from the eyes and nose, and possibly seizures.

Early prevention can protect your pet. “These and other common infectious diseases in dogs can be prevented by proper vaccination,” says Beaver. “Start when they are puppies.” As for treatment, options for canine parvovirus include IV fluids to prevent dehydration, anti-vomiting medication, antibiotics, and anti-pain medications. For canine distemper, treatment usually includes IV fluids, antibiotics (if your dog is coughing) to prevent pneumonia, and medications to control seizures. There are currently no medications that can destroy either virus.

Dog Health Condition No. 5: Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious form of bronchitis that causes inflammation in a dog’s voice box and windpipe. “The most common cause is exposure to other infected dogs, either at doggie daycare, the groomer’s, or a kennel,” says Beaver. “In most cases, the treatment is to let it run its course or to give a dog antibiotics.” You can also try using a humidifier or taking your pet into a steam-filled bathroom.

Dog Health Condition No. 6: Lower Urinary Tract Problems

Some common urinary tract problems in dogs include incontinence, bacterial infections, bladder stones, and even cancer. Symptoms include having to urinate more often, producing small amounts of urine, blood in the urine, incontinence, straining or crying in pain when trying to urinate, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. Treatment options include antibiotics, dietary changes, and surgery if needed to remove bladder stones or a tumor.

Dog Health Condition No. 7: Dental Disease

Periodontal disease, an infection of the gums, is very common in dogs, affecting an estimated 80 percent of dogs by the age of 2. It has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and other serious dog health problems. Symptoms range from smelly breath to difficulty eating and facial swelling, says Beaver. Treatment may include removing dental plaque and, if necessary, teeth. To prevent dental dog health problems, Beaver recommends regular check-ups with a vet dentist, giving your dog rawhide chews, and regularly brushing your pet’s teeth with dog toothpaste (your toothpaste can upset a dog’s stomach).

Dog Health Condition No. 8: Skin Problems

Most skin problems in dogs are due to parasites, skin infections, and allergies. “Probably the most common skin problem in dogs is demodectic mange, which is caused by a mite that lives in the hair follicles,” says Beaver.

Common parasites that involve the skin include fleas, ticks, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange mites, which cause scabies. Ringworm is a common skin infection; it’s a highly contagious fungal infection that can cause hair loss or short hair or scaly patches. Allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust mites can trigger itching and rashes. Dogs can also develop allergies to common dog food ingredients such as soy, corn, wheat, beef, or chicken, triggering skin problems. And some dogs may simply cause irritation of the skin by licking an area too much, possibly from boredom or stress.

You may be able to spot fleas and ticks on your pet. Treatment options include using special medicated shampoos to kill parasites, antibiotics or antifungal medications, and corticosteroids and antihistamines to control itching. Your vet may also prescribe a diet to reduce food allergies or injections to control allergic reactions. To prevent fleas and ticks, ask your vet about monthly topical agents you can easily apply.

Dog Health Condition No. 9: Broken Bones

Broken bones, also called fractures, are a common problem in dogs — often from activities like jumping out of a window, says Beaver. Symptoms include limping, not moving, and a reason to suspect trauma (if the dog had been near a road, for instance). Treatment includes surgery, a splint, or a cast.

Dog Health Condition No. 10: Cancer

“One common form of cancer in dogs is skin cancer,” says Beaver. “There may be white patches on the top of the nose and ear tips.” Other symptoms of cancer in dogs include lumps, swelling, sores, rapid weight loss, lameness, sudden decreased appetite, difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating, lack of energy, and black stools.

Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. As with people, a combination of approaches may be used, and the stage of the cancer, the type of disease, and the aggressiveness of the treatment can affect the outcome.

Regular vet visits and preventive steps can keep your dog in top pet health. And should you notice any unusual behavior or symptom, getting prompt attention at the vet’s office will often mean a speedy recovery from a dog illness.

Sudden Death in Dogs

The tragic unexpected loss of a dog is always painful. Most of us don’t think of our dogs suddenly dying with no warning, but it does occur. Understanding what happened and how it happened are a significant part of closure to our loss.

In a study of autopsies performed at Purdue University Small Animal Diagnostic Laboratory1 over a five-year period, nearly 10 percent (112 cases) had been associated with sudden unexpected death. None of these dogs had a history of existing disease.

Dog owners often jump to conclusions in these cases — “Somebody poisoned my dog!” — when in reality malicious poisonings are extremely uncommon and most of those suspected are inadvertent exposures. The causes found by pathologists involved:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Unobserved trauma
  • Poisoning and infection (less common)

A similar survey had been published in Canada and resulted in similar figures2.

Causes of Death

Unfortunately, in spite of all efforts, some causes of death remain undetermined. However, it is always good to pursue a cause of death for your own peace of mind and to protect other pets.

General causes of sudden death can be grouped according to the organ system involved:

  • Heart diseases
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory failure
  • Trauma
  • Acute infections

Toxins may also be involved but no one toxin is more likely to have caused a dogs death than others.

Purdue University Survey
Here is a deeper look into some of the results from the Purdue University study.

  • Heart disease: Cardiovascular diseases including primary myocardial or heart muscle degeneration, necrosis, hypertrophy, fibrosis cardiac vascular disease, heart tumors, valvular/congenital anomalies and cardiomyopathies can lead to sudden death. Cardiac associated tumors include hemangiosarcomas but other cancers may be less apparent and can also be a cause. Primary cardiomyopathies represented about 6% of cases in the study and sudden deterioration of valvular disease that has been present for some time can lead to rapid death.
  • Gastrointestinal disease: Most gastrointestinal diseases result in death over a short amount of time, but are rarely sudden. Sudden cases of parvovirus with no clinical signs, intestinal torsion or volvulus all can result in a rapid deterioration and ultimate death.
  • Trauma: There were 9 out of 112 dogs that were found to have died from unobserved trauma. Even dogs confined to a fenced area might find their way to the street or fall from a height.
  • Respiratory diseases: Pneumonia, pyothorax and infiltrative diseases may seem sudden in onset but most often have been present for some time before death. Make sure your dog receives regular checkups to keep him safe.
  • Neurologic disease: Encephalitis and meningitis may be associated as causes of death but have most likely been present and symptomatic for a time before death. Seizure disorders do not result in death unless they persist for an extended time.
  • Urinary disease: Although urinary diseases such as infections and obstructions can be associated with death they do not cause sudden death.
  • Poisoning: Poisoning, either malicious or inadvertent, frequently comes to mind in cases of sudden death but as stated, malicious poisoning in this study was uncommon. Only 6 of the 112 dogs examined were found to have died from poisoning — all likely inadvertent.

Unfortunately over 20% of cases had no determination of the cause of death. Nonetheless, every effort should be made to find the cause of unexpected death be it sudden or not. This is important for your personal peace of mind as well as for the protection of other pets.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


1. Dr. Bill Wigle. “Diagnositc Profiles: Sudden Death in Dogs.” Purdue University Small Animal Diagnostic Labratory. Summer 2012.

2. ”Causes of sudden and unexpected death in dogs: A 10-year retrospective study.” Olsen TF and Allen AL: 2000. Can Vet J 41:873-875.

Why did this visitor’s dog suddenly become so sick? So far, the vet doesn’t seem to know why, and the dog’s owner is searching for answers on what made her pet ill.

Dog Suddenly Became Ill

My two-year-old Chow Chow returned from the park with my husband after some exercise and play. Suddenly the dog sat down and would not move. We had to carry her to put her in the car. She would not eat either. She was breathing short breathes, and she kept closing her eyes.

We rushed her to the vet and found her temperature was 105 degrees. The vet put her on an IV drip and gave her an antibiotic shot. The vet went over her thoroughly, but couldn’t feel anything wrong. Blood was drawn, and we took her home. The ride was about an hour, and she slept for another two hours. When she woke up it was as if nothing had ever happened.

The vet is testing her for Lyme disease and leptospirosis. She had diarrhea just once before we took her to the vet, and she also vomited a tiny bit. Do you have any idea what this could have been?

~~ Joyce

Expert Reply

Hi Joyce,

Lyme disease does present with some of the symptoms you’ve described, especially the fever and sudden lameness. The bacteria from the tick takes some time to build up in the bloodstream, so the tick is often long gone before symptoms are noticed. This may well be your culprit. Your dog may have even begun to run a fever before she went to the park. The exercise could have accelerated the symptoms, including her temperature.

The fact that your dog was feeling so much better after her long nap could also be attributed to the antibiotics she was injected with. An injection gets the medicine right into the bloodstream to work immediately, unlike pills that have to be digested.

I’m also wondering if your dog might have eaten something in the park that could have slightly poisoned her? You did say she threw up a little. If there was a bit of mushroom or something else toxic in her tummy, the vomiting would have kept some of the toxin from being digested, and would explain why she had a bad reaction, but didn’t succumb.

I hope your vet is able to tell you something conclusive about what happened to your dog after the tests come back. In the meantime, I’d skip the dog park until you have a better idea of what happened.

Thanks for your question, and I truly hope you dog has a full and lasting recovery.

~~ Kelly

Could Vet Have Sent Dog Home With Heat Stroke?

I wrote a few days ago about my Chow Chow that was sick. Well, after the vet sent her back home with us when she still had a 105 degree temperature I wasn’t satisfied with the suggestion that she had lyme disease or lepto. So, I spent days on the Internet and finally realized that she had heat stroke. Now I understand more about heat stroke than I ever wanted to know. CAUTION! This is a very serious situation to watch for. My question to you is this. Is it true that once a dog has heat stroke it is easier to get it in the future? What is the best treatment in the weeks following one of these episodes? Also, I am never seeing that vet again!

~~ Joyce

Expert Reply

Hi Joyce,

Although your dog’s symptoms do seem to fit the profile for heat stroke, I would have thought that would have been one of the first things your vet would have checked for considering the combination of fever and panting. Your original question didn’t mention it, but did you give your vet your dog’s history for the previous 24 hours, including the trip to the park? What was the temperature while your husband and dog were out that day?

Yes, heat stroke is extremely dangerous, and is far easier to develop again within the proceeding weeks after the initial case. This is because your dog’s system has been compromised and won’t be able to recover as well from more heat exposure.

For now, I’d skip strenuous outside activities, and give your dog a month or two to recuperate inside where it’s cool. Freshen the water bowl every two hours or so to encourage continued normal fluid intake. In the future, you’ll want to limit your dog’s heat exposure and always carry a water source with you when you take him for exercise. Watch your dog closely for any signs of stress during these times and end the session as soon as he begins panting more than usual.

Back to your vet. I think you should call him to discuss your thoughts on the heat stroke and see what his opinion is about it. Based on his answers, you can decide whether you truly need to find a new vet.

Thanks for your questions~~ Kelly

It may be either of those or a myriad of other things that may cause sneezing in dogs. An occasional sneeze or two in an otherwise happy, healthy dog is nothing to worry about, but frequent or repeated sneezing in a dog that seems unhealthy should warrant a visit to the veterinarian.
Dogs can sneeze due to irritants or foreign bodies inhaled into their noses. They will often sniff around and this is the body’s way to naturally expel them. They may also sneeze due to inhaled allergens such as grass and pollen.
Dogs can also have nasal mites that can cause sneezing and sometimes nasal discharge. They are transmitted from nose-to-nose contact with dogs. Fortunately, they are not very common and are easily treated once they are found.
Viral, bacterial and fungal infections can cause sneezing as well.
Other things that can cause sneezing include teeth problems or nasal tumors. Sneezing can be a calming signal for dogs just like lip licking and yawning. Finally, sneezing can be due to excitement, bug bites or rolling around on the floor. If your dog is sneezing frequently, has bouts of sneezing or is acting ill, see your veterinarian.

Tags: Dog sneezes

Is My Dog’s Sneezing Normal?

If your dog sneezes a lot, you might find yourself asking yourself why. While it’s normal for dogs to sneeze occasionally, excessive sneezing could be a symptom of a possible health condition. Keep reading to learn the answer to why dogs sneeze and discover when your pooch’s sneezes could signal a deeper issue.

Anatomy of a Dog Sneeze

While dog noses look very different from ours, the makeup of a dog nose is actually very similar to that of a human’s.

The pharynx, located at the back of the throat, serves as the intersection between the nasal passages and digestive passages, says PetCoach. When an irritant enters the nose or pharynx, the body tries to get rid of it by expelling air through the nose and mouth. This is what’s known as a sneeze.

My Dog Keeps Sneezing — Why?

Why do dogs sneeze? The cause of a dog sneeze can range from a piece of dust getting lodged in your pooch’s nose to a viral infection. While dog sneezes are usually harmless, they can sometimes indicate deeper issues. Here are the most common reasons for your dog’s sneeze attack:

  • Irritants and foreign objects: Dust, pollen and other small particles can become trapped in a dog’s nose or pharynx and cause irritation. A dog’s nose can also be irritated by perfumes, cigarette smoke and cleaning chemicals.
  • Allergies: Dogs can often suffer from seasonal allergies to various types of pollen. Sneezes resulting from allergies are often accompanied by itching and scratching, watery eyes and nasal discharge.
  • Colds and viruses: Dogs, like people, are susceptible to the common cold and to viral infections that can cause sneezing. A dog suffering from a cold or virus will typically display other signs of illness such as nasal discharge, coughing, watery eyes, lethargy, fever or diminished appetite.
  • Infections: Bacterial and fungal infections in your dog’s sinuses or nasal cavity could make him sneeze. Tooth infections can also work their way up into the nasal cavity. If your dog is sneezing due to an infection, you’ll most likely see additional signs such as thick or bloody discharge, swelling around the nose and possibly appetite loss.
  • Tumors: In rare situations, dog sneezes can signal the presence of a nasal tumor. This is most common in senior dogs older than 8 years of age, says PetCoach. In the case of a tumor, sneezing may be sporadic at first, but grow more frequent as cancer progresses, and will eventually be accompanied by bloody discharge from one side of the nose.
  • Excitement: Some dogs sneeze because they’re excited or happy to see you. One theory is that they wrinkle their noses when they’re excited, which triggers a sneeze response. So, if your dog lets out a series of sneezes every time they greet you at the door, it likely just means they’re happy you’re home.

When to Take Your Sneezing Dog to the Vet

Generally, occasional sneezing that isn’t accompanied by other signs of illness shouldn’t cause concern. Frequent sneezing, on the other hand, especially without a clear cause, might require intervention.

While allergies aren’t usually a serious threat to your dog’s health, you should consult your veterinarian if, in addition to sneezing, they cause your pooch itching or skin irritation. If sneezing is accompanied by thick discharge or blood, or swelling, fever, appetite loss or lethargy, you should bring your dog to the vet right away.

If you notice your dog sneezing on a regular basis, be sure to watch closely for other signs. While your pup’s sneezing could be no big deal, what’s causing it may require some investigation.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

My Pet Is Sneezing and Snorting. What’s Going On?


Sneezing and snorting seem like obvious enough actions to define, yet it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two in pets. Indeed, these two symptoms can sometimes look so similar so that many people use the terms interchangeably. Sneezing is generally defined as a sudden, involuntary outflow of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth. It’s usually caused in response to some irritant of the upper airway, most often to the delicate mucous membranes that line the nasal passages.

Snorting, by contrast, looks like and is defined almost identically as a sneeze. The difference is that a sneeze is involuntary, while a snort is a voluntary effort on the part of the snorter.

Dogs and cats sneeze and snort for all sorts of reasons related to the workings of the upper respiratory tract. Though many of them are normal and benign responses to simple irritation, some can signal infections, upper airway obstructions and allergic disease, among other conditions of the upper respiratory tract.


Sneezing and snorting are caused by a variety of ailments. Here are the most common causes for each of these symptoms (there is some overlap, in many cases because they can appear indistinguishable from one another).


1. Infectious diseases. Both cats and dogs can suffer infectious diseases that manifest — at least in part — as sneezing. In fact, most any infectious disease that affects the upper respiratory system can cause an animal to sneeze. In dogs, anything from kennel cough to distemper virus can cause sneezing. In cats, viral upper respiratory infections (such as feline herpesvirus) are the most common culprits.

2. Upper airway obstructions. Anything from cancers to polyps to foreign bodies to excess tissue in the upper airways (most commonly the result of brachycephalic syndrome seen in short-headed breeds) can cause irritation of the nasal passages and, therefore, sneezing.

3. Allergies (or other diseases of the immune system). Though allergic rhinitis is nowhere near as common in pets as humans, it does occur. Dogs and cats both are susceptible to allergies that affect the nasal passages as well as to nasal inflammation for a variety of other immune system-related processes.

4. Inhaled irritants. Dust, perfumes, carpet powders, pollen and other common inhaled irritants can cause sneezing in dogs and cats.


1. Upper airway obstruction. As with humans who snore severely and suffer sleep apnea, plenty of dogs and cats who have mechanical obstructions in their upper airways (usually inherited as part of what’s called “brachycephalic syndrome”) snort more frequently than other pets in an apparent attempt to clear their respiratory tracts of debris or fluid. Indeed, any disease that causes the pet sufficient irritation to require the clearing of the nasal passages can result in snorting.

2. Obesity and excess weight. Dogs and cats who carry too many pounds tend to display similar symptoms to those who suffer upper airway obstruction or irritation for other reasons. They, too, will snort more frequently than other pets.

Reverse sneezing:

While sneezing and snorting are both expulsions of air from the nose/mouth, “reverse” sneezing is an involuntary, spastic inhalation that some dogs experience. Episodes can last a few minutes at a time. It is not uncommon for a dog to do this after being walked and snuffling something (dust, pollen, dirt) into his nose.

Many dog owners see reverse sneezing and initially assume their dogs are choking or experiencing a crisis. Though unsettling to an uninitiated owner, there is nothing more to this condition than an irritation of the tissues of the back of the throat and soft palate. It is entirely benign.

What to Do at Home

All pets who suffer sneezing and snorting at a more frequent rate or in a different pattern than ever before should see a veterinarian. Here are a couple of simple, commonsensical tips for pet owners whose pets are sneezing or snorting to an extreme.

1. Confine your pet. Put your pet in a crate or small space (such as a bedroom or bathroom) to observe his behavior.

2. Do not overtax your pet. Long walks or exercise in general should be avoided until you can get your pet to a veterinarian.

3. Take your pet’s temperature. If your pet has a fever (over 101-102 degrees) get him to a veterinarian as soon as you can.

If your pet suffers from other obvious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, pain, poor appetite or simply not acting himself, take him to a veterinarian right away — at an emergency hospital, if need be. Also, if a nasal discharge is present or if the sneezing is productive, meaning mucus, blood or other material is produced, your pet should see a doctor. These are typically signs of a more urgent medical condition than the tips provided here can resolve.

If you’re unsure what to do, call your veterinarian or emergency hospital for guidance.

What Your Veterinarian May Do

When you take your pet to the vet, here are things the doctor may do:

1. Take a history. Most veterinarians will start by asking a few questions to understand the history of the problem. When did you first notice the sneezing or snorting? Has it changed? How has your pet been otherwise?

2. Do a physical examination. Since so many possibilities exist for the cause of these symptoms, examining the whole body is a necessary part of the process.

3. Order laboratory testing. Blood testing is commonly undertaken in these cases. Aside from the basic CBC and chemistry, specific tests can help identify specific infectious or allergic diseases.

4. Take X-rays and other imaging. When brachycephalic syndrome, tumor or upper respiratory obstructions/foreign bodies are suspected, X-rays are often indicated. Sedation or anesthesia may be required for X-rays. Sometimes additional imaging is required. This can include ultrasound, CT scans and/or MRI studies.

5. Do visual examination under sedation or anesthesia. Anesthetizing a pet is a commonly required procedure for thoroughly evaluating pets who sneeze or snort. Using a rigid or flexible scope to help visualize the nasal tissues and upper respiratory tract may be necessary. Once there, your veterinarian may even elect to take tissue samples (biopsy) for microscopic evaluation.


Treatment depends wholly on the underlying cause of the sneezing or snorting.

This article was written by a Veterinarian.

Disease risks for dogs in social settings

The following is a list of the most common diseases to which your dog(s) may be exposed at a dog gathering. There may be specific risks in your area that are not listed. For more information about specific diseases in your area, consult your veterinarian.

People can also spread some diseases (such as mange, ringworm, kennel cough and canine influenza) from dog to dog through shared brushes, collars, bedding, etc. or by petting or handling an infected dog before petting or handling another dog.

Canine distemper

Canine distemper is caused by a very contagious virus. Puppies and dogs usually become infected through virus particles in the air or in the respiratory secretions of infected dogs. Infected dogs typically develop runny eyes, fever, snotty nose, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. It is often fatal.

Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine to protect your dog from this deadly disease. The canine distemper vaccine is considered a “core” vaccine and is recommended for every dog.

Canine influenza (“canine flu” or “dog flu”)

Canine influenza is caused by the canine influenza virus. It is a relatively new disease in dogs. Because most dogs have not been exposed to the virus, their immune systems are not able to fully respond to the virus and many of them will become infected when they are exposed. Canine influenza is spread through respiratory secretions, contaminated objects (including surfaces, bowls, collars and leashes). The virus can survive for up to 48 hours on surfaces, up to 24 hours on clothing, and up to 12 hours on people’s hands.

Dogs can be shedding the virus before they even show signs of illness, which means an apparently healthy dog can still infect other dogs. Dogs with canine influenza develop coughing, a fever and a snotty nose, which are the same signs observed when a dog has kennel cough.

There is a vaccine for canine influenza, but at this time it is not recommended for every dog. Consult your veterinarian to determine if the canine influenza vaccine is recommended for your dog.

Canine parvovirus (“parvo”)

Parvo is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2. The virus is very contagious and attacks the gastrointestinal system, causing fever, vomiting and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. It is spread by direct contact between dogs as well as by contaminated stool, surfaces, bowls, collars, leashes, equipment, and the hands and clothing of people. It can also survive in the soil for years, making the virus hard to kill. Treating parvo can be very expensive and many dogs die from parvo despite intensive treatment.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine for parvo. It is considered a “core” vaccine and is recommended for every dog.

External parasites (ticks, fleas and mange)

External parasites, such as ticks, fleas and mange, are fairly common dog problems. Ticks from the environment, fleas from other dogs and the environment, and mange from other dogs pose risks at dog gatherings. Ticks can transmit diseases (see tick-borne diseases below). Fleas can transmit some types of tapeworms as well as some diseases, and they may end up infesting your home and yard if they hitchhike home on your dog(s).

There are many approved products available to effectively prevent and treat external parasites on dogs. Consult your veterinarian about the best product for your dog.

Cheyletiella mites cause “walking dandruff” on dogs (itching and flaky skin on the dog’s trunk). They are spread from dog to dog by direct contact, and may require more aggressive treatment than fleas.

Fertilizers and pesticides

Some fertilizers and pesticides can be toxic to dogs. Avoid letting your pet walk, run, play or roam in areas that have recently been treated with fertilizers or pesticides.

Fungal infections (blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, coccidioidomycosis, etc.)

Fungal organisms in the soil can infect dogs when they eat or sniff contaminated soil. Dogs can also be infected through the skin, especially through a skin wound. The types of fungus seen vary throughout the U.S.: histoplasmosis is more common in the Eastern and Central U.S.; blastomycosis is more common in the Southeast, Southcentral and Midwest regions; cryptococcosis is more common in the Pacific Northwest region; and coccidioidomycosis is more common in the Southwest U.S. Histoplasmosis can be spread by bird or bat droppings.

In general, the fungus infects the body through the respiratory tract and causes fever, coughing, lethargy and flu-like or pneumonia-like signs. If eaten, digestive problems (e.g., pain, diarrhea) can occur. Immunosuppressed dogs (dogs whose immune systems are weakened because of disease or certain medications) are much more likely to become infected with these fungi and develop disease.


Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and can cause coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, heart disease and death. Fortunately, there are many approved products to prevent heartworm infection. Consult your veterinarian about the best product for your dog.


Heatstroke is a big risk during warm and hot weather. Remember that your dog is always wearing a fur coat and they are usually warmer than you are. A temperature that seems only a little warm to a person can be too hot for a dog. Add to that the fact that dogs at dog gatherings are often active and playing, and the heat could become deadly for your dog. Never leave your pet in the car on warm days. Even a 70°F day can be too hot in a car. Short-nosed breeds, such as pugs, Boston Terriers, boxers, bulldogs, etc. are more prone to heatstroke and breathing problems because they don’t pant as effectively as breeds with normal-length noses.

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling, anxiousness, weakness, abnormal gum color (darker red or even purple), collapse and death.

Any dog showing signs of heatstroke should be immediately taken to a shaded area and cooled with cold, wet towels that are wrung out and rewetted every few minutes. Running cool water over the dog’s body and quickly wiping it away (so the water absorbs the skin’s heat and is immediately wiped away) can also help. Transport the dog to a veterinarian immediately, because heatstroke can rapidly become deadly.


Any time unfamiliar dogs and/or dogs with different temperaments are mixed, there is a risk of conflict and injury. Bite wounds should be immediately evaluated by a veterinarian and efforts should be made to determine the rabies vaccination status of the biting dog. Overweight dogs and dogs accustomed to more sedentary lifestyles should be encouraged to become more active, but excessive activity can put them at risk of injury to joints, bones or muscles. If your dog is overweight and/or you plan to increase its activity level, consult with your veterinarian about the best plan to get your dog active with the least risk of injury.

Intestinal parasites

Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms lay eggs that are passed in the dog’s stool and infect other dogs when they eat contaminated soil, lick contaminated fur or paws, or drink water contaminated with the stool from infected dogs. Tapeworms are spread when dogs eat fleas, lice, or rodents infected with tapeworms.

These worms can cause malnutrition (because they steal nutrients as food is being digested) and diarrhea, and hookworms can cause blood loss. There are many products available to treat worms, and you should consult their veterinarian for the appropriate products for your pets.

Coccidia and Giardia are single-celled parasites that damage the lining of the intestine. Dogs can become infected with coccidia by eating infected soil or licking contaminated paws or fur. Puppies are at the highest risk of infection and illness.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough can be caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. It is very contagious and your dog can become infected if it comes into contact with an infected dog. Dogs with kennel cough may not seem ill in the early stages of the disease but they can still infect other dogs. Most commonly, dogs with kennel cough will have a snotty nose and a dry, hacking cough.

There are vaccines for kennel cough, but not all dogs need to receive the vaccine. Consult your veterinarian about whether or not the kennel cough (Bordetella) vaccine is right for your dog.


Leptospirosis is caused by species of the Leptospira bacteria. The bacteria are shed in the urine of infected animals, and animals and people usually become infected by drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with contaminated soil or food. Dogs infected with Leptospira may develop fever, muscle weakness, vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, and kidney or liver failure. There is a vaccine for leptospirosis; consult your veterinarian about whether or not the vaccine is appropriate for your dog. Some canine distemper combination vaccines include a Leptospira vaccine.


Any mammal is capable of being infected with the virus that causes rabies. Most dog parks and organized dog gatherings require proof of rabies vaccination, but some do not. Rabies is caused by the rabies virus and is 100% fatal in animals once they start to show signs of disease. The virus is spread by saliva, either by a bite from an infected animal or by saliva contaminating a skin wound. In addition, any contact with wildlife (including bats) can introduce the risk of rabies infection. Raccoons, skunks and other wild animals can carry the rabies virus and may be present in areas where dogs gather.

Fortunately, rabies infection is preventable with vaccination. Many local and state governments require regular rabies vaccination for dogs.

Regional wildlife risks and feral animals

Wildlife mixing with dogs can increase the risk of diseases, such as rabies and plague, as well as the risk of injury. In some areas of the U.S., prairie dogs often invade dog parks. Prairie dogs carry fleas that can carry the bacteria that causes plague. Skunks, raccoons, foxes, feral cats and pigs, and other wildlife can also carry rabies and other diseases that can infect dogs. Feral dogs present disease and injury risks.


Although its name suggests it’s a worm, ringworm is actually due to fungal infection of the skin. It can be spread by contact with an infected dog, its bedding or something that has come in contact with the infected dog. The fungus can also survive in the soil. Ringworm gets its name because it often causes circular patches of hair loss. Some dogs will excessively scratch the areas, while others may not be itchy. Many dogs will recover without treatment, but they are often treated to prevent them from spreading the infection to other dogs or to people.

Tick-borne diseases (hemobartonellosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, rickettsial diseases such as Lyme disease, and others)

A variety of diseases that can infect dogs are spread by ticks, including Lyme disease and many others. Some diseases are more common in specific areas of the U.S. These diseases can cause anemia (blood loss), lameness, weakness, lethargy, organ failure, and even death. The best way to prevent these diseases is to prevent tick bites. There are many products available that reduce tick bites and kill ticks on dogs; consult your veterinarian about the best product for your dog. Check your dog for ticks after any outside dog gatherings and remove the tick(s) as soon as possible.

Toxic plants

Toxic plants can cause a variety of illnesses. Some ornamental plants can be very toxic to animals. Cocoa mulch is also toxic to dogs. For more information about toxic plants, visit the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center Web site.

See also:

  • Dogs’ social lives and disease risks
  • Protect your dog, yourself and others
  • Disease risks for people

The AVMA would like to thank the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Robert Belden, Dr. Ron Schultz, the American College of Veterinary Behavior, and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior for their roles in developing this document.

This information has been prepared as a service by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Redistribution is acceptable, but the document’s original content and format must be maintained, and its source must be prominently identified.

  • Kennel Cough
  • Parvo Facts
  • Spaying & Neutering

Vaccination Schedule

This is just one veterinarian’s general schedule of vaccinations for puppies. Your veterinarian’s may be different.

  • 6 to 7 weeks of age: Give first combination vaccine. (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza)
  • 10 weeks of age: Give second combination vaccine.
  • 14 weeks of age: Give the third combination injection.
  • 18 weeks of age: Give the last combination vaccine.

12 to 16 weeks of age: Rabies vaccine is given. (Local and State laws apply regarding Rabies vaccine since this can be a human disease, too. Your veterinarian will tell you the proper time intervals for booster vaccines for Rabies.)

Multivalent vaccines are those that have more than one disease antigen combined into one injection. A typical multivalent vaccine is the DHPP vaccine for dogs. Instead of giving five different injections, all these “vaccines” or antigens can be given in a single small volume injection. Certainly this is easier on the dog than getting five separate injections.

DHLPP stands for:

  • D… Canine Distemper Virus… a dangerous viral infection. “Distemper” is an odd name for a viral infection and this disease has no relationship to nor connection with a dog’s temperament.
  • H… Hepatitis…a viral infection caused by two related viruses that mainly affects the liver.
  • L… Leptospirosis… a bacterial infection affecting the kidneys. This class of bacteria can infect humans, cows, dogs, pigs and other mammals.
  • P… Parainfluenza… a virus that along with the Hepatitis virus can cause upper respiratory infections.
  • P… Parvovirus… a severe and often fatal virus affecting the lining of the intestinal tract.

Kennel Cough


Kennel cough is a bronchitis characterized by a harsh, hacking cough which most people describe as sounding like “something stuck in my dog’s throat.” It is analogous to a chest cold for humans and is only a serious condition in special circumstances (see below); in general, it resolves on its own..


The normal respiratory tract has substantial safeguards against invading infectious agents. The most important of these is probably what is called the “mucociliary escalator.” This safeguard consists of tiny hairlike structures called cilia, which protrude from the cells lining the respiratory tract, and a coat of mucus over them. The cilia beat in a coordinated fashion. Debris, including infectious agents, get trapped in the sticky mucus and the cilia move the mucus upward towards the throat where the collection of debris and mucus may be coughed up and/or swallowed.
The mucociliary escalator is damaged by the following:

  • Shipping stress
  • Infectious agents (viruses such as reovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, and even the distemper virus can be initiating infections)
  • Cold temperature
  • Poor ventilation

Without this protective mechanism, invading bacteria, especially Bordetella bronchiseptica may simply march down the airways unimpeded.

Bordetella bronchiseptica has some tricks of its own as well:

  • It is able to bind directly to cilia, rendering them unable to move within 3 hours of contact.
  • It secretes substances that disable the immune cells normally responsible for consuming & destroying bacteria

Because it is common for Bordetella to be accompanied by at least one other infections agent (such as one of the viruses listed above), “Kennel Cough” is actually a complex of infections, rather than infection by one agent.

Classically, dogs get infected when they are kept in a (i.e. a boarding kennel, vaccination clinic, obedience class, local park, animal shelter, animal hospital waiting room, or grooming parlor). In reality, most causes of coughing that begin acutely in the dog are due to infectious causes and usually represent some form of Kennel Cough.


Bordetella infection can be picked up by rabbits, guinea pigs, pigs, cats (if they are very young and housed in groups), and other dogs. It is not contagious to humans though it is closely related to Bordetella pertussis, the agent of Whooping Cough. Among dogs it is fairly contagious depending on stress level, vaccination status, and exposure to minor viruses. Our hospital recommends keeping all dogs current on their Bordetella vaccinations as you never know when they be in an unexpected situation


Although most cases will go away on their own, we like to think we can hasten recovery with antibiotics to directly kill the Bordetella organism. Alternatively, Kennel Cough may be treated with cough suppressants to provide comfort during natural recovery. Or antibiotics and cough suppressants can be combined.

Canine Parvovirus


Canine Parvovirus is a viral disease of dogs that was first reported in early 1978. Parvovirus is capable of causing two different sets of clinical problems. The first to be recognized, and most common, is the “intestinal” form which is manifested by diarrhea; often bloody vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, fever, and sometimes death. The second syndrome, the “cardiac” form, occurs in very young pups and is manifested by an acute inflammation of the heart muscle.

Any age, breed or sex of dog could be affected by Parvovirus. However, infection with Parvovirus does not automatically mean illness. Several factors such as age, environment, stress, parasites and general health status of each individual dog infected could affect the severity of illness. The degree of illness could range from very mild and not apparent, to very severe, often resulting in death. The disease is usually more severe in young dogs (less than 6 months of age) or old dogs.


Experts agree that canine Parvovirus is closely related to Parvoviruses that affect other animals. Where the virus originally came from remains unknown, but it is possible that it is a mutant from another Parvovirus that affects other species of animals. Man is not known to be affected by canine Parvovirus. Since its first appearance in 1978, canine Parvovirus has spread to every continent in the world, probably the result of the hardy nature of the virus. It is resistant to extremes of temperature (i.e., it survives freezing and extreme heat) and is unharmed by detergents, alcohol and common disinfectants. Direct transmission occurs when an infected dog comes in contact with a healthy dog. The virus is found in heavy concentration in the infected dog’s stool. The virus particles can be easily spread on shoes, clothing and other inanimate objects. Fleas, as well as people, can therefore act as indirect sources of infection. Once it gets a foothold in a kennel, it is difficult to eliminate.

Oral Phase:

The disease process begins with the oral ingestion of Parvovirus from the feces of an infected dog. The virus initially invades the lymph glands of the throat (lymph nodes and tonsils) where it multiplies. Following multiplication in the lymph glands for l to 2 days, the virus then enters the blood stream which causes the VIREMIA phase (virus in the blood).

Viremia Phase:

This phase is characterized by massive amounts of virus in the dog’s bloodstream, which in turn is spread to all parts of the body, such as, the intestine, bone marrow, spleen, other lymph nodes and the heart (in young pups less than 8 weeks of age). As infection spreads, the symptoms of illness become apparent. (See “symptoms” in next section). The Viremia phase can last for approximately l to 9 days.

Contagious Stage:

The final phase in the cycle is the contagious or “shedding” phase. As many as 30 billion Parvovirus particles can be shed from the intestines of an infected dog in every ounce of stool. The highest concentration of virus in the stool is seen when the infected dog is showing signs of illness. A dog can, however, be a source of infection to other dogs without having observable signs of illness. Transmission can occur for at least 3 weeks after a dog becomes infected with the virus. Chronic “carriers” are not know to exist as in other virus disease. Parvovirus in the environment can infect susceptible dogs for many months once shed in the stool.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms below indicate a problem warranting medical attention. Early, vigorous treatment of illness caused by canine Parvovirus infection is imperative since vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration and chemical imbalance in the body. If your dog shows these signs, see your veterinarian. Early treatment can save lives. Intestinal Form (any age dog affected, but more severe in puppies).

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever (above 103 degrees F)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea with or without blood (more serious if blood present)
  • Low white blood count

How is it controlled?

Control of Parvovirus by sanitation measures alone extremely difficult because the virus is such a resistant, hardy organism and because it is so easily spread. Contact with other dogs and especially their stool, should be minimized. Clorox diluted one part to 30 parts with water has been effective in disinfecting inanimate objects such as clothing, floors, kennels, etc. However, it is impractical, if not impossible, to disinfect public streets, parts, etc. Isolation of infected dogs is another method of control, although moderately effective. Both of these measures will help reduce the amount of contagious virus in the environment, but only vaccination will control the actual source of infection, the contagious shedding dog.

Vaccination is the most effective control measure for canine Parvovirus disease. A properly immunized dog will have circulating antibodies in the blood that will destroy Parvovirus following exposure.


Maternal antibodies are antibodies against Parvovirus which are passed from the mother to the puppies through the “first milk” or colostrum. They provide the puppy with an immediate temporary or “passive” immunity. The mother obtains these antibodies from prior vaccination or by natural exposure to Parvovirus. However, maternal antibody is a two-edged sword; it protects the puppy against disease early in life, but it also blocks active immunization. In the case of Parvovirus, maternal antibody can interfere with vaccination for as long as 14 to 16 weeks of age in some pups. A refractory period can exist in some pups where very low, almost undetectable levels of maternal antibody will inhibit the vaccination process but will not prevent Parvovirus infection. Since the level of maternal antibody varies from puppy to puppy, it is important to begin vaccination at an early age and repeat every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is at least 16 – 18 weeks old.

Facts you should know about Parvo Virus:

  1. It is contagious to dogs only – not cats or people.
  2. Signs include vomiting, fever, and bloody diarrhea with a very foul odor.
  3. The virus sometimes may attack the HEART muscle causing myocarditis (inflammation). This may occur for up to 3-6 weeks after apparent recovery from the intestinal form of the disease. This “heart” form is ALWAYS FATAL!
  4. The YOUNGER the dog, the GREATER the chance it will NOT recover.
  5. Dogs that recover from Parvo are often weak, making them even more susceptible to other diseases, such as DISTEMPER.
  6. The virus is transmitted through the FECES of an infected dog. It can be carried on dog’s hair and feet as well as live on contaminated rugs, bedding, shoes, and other objects.
  7. The most effective disinfectant is 4 oz. Clorox in l gallon of water.
  8. Dogs that recover from Parvo continue to spread the virus in the feces for a month or longer. (Carriers).
  9. Dogs remain HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE to Parvo until after the LAST injection of the immunization series.
  10. Death from Parvo Virus results from:
    1. Dehydration
    2. Overwhelming bacterial infection resulting from the pet’s lowered resistance
    3. Blood loss from internal hemorrhage
    4. Heart attack from invasion of the heart muscle by the virus
  11. Treatment is aimed at maintaining the normal body composition and preventing secondary bacterial infection. We have NO CURE for any animal virus, just as there is NO CURE for any human virus.
  12. The body normally is about 80% water. Life is NOT possible when 12-15 % of the normal body fluids are lost. With Parvo Virus, the pet often quickly becomes dehydrated from the vomiting, diarrhea, and inability to consume fluids. This is the reason fluid therapy is so important in Parvo Virus Therapy.


What Do the Terms “Spaying” and “Neutering” Mean?

“Spaying” and “neutering” are surgical procedures used to prevent pets from reproducing. In a female animal, “spaying” consists of removing the uterus and ovaries. The technical term is ovario-hysterectomy. For a male animal, “neutering” involves the removal of the testicles, and this is known as castration.

Does It Hurt?

As the surgery is done under a general anesthetic it is painless. The operation for both males and for females is straightforward and low risk. Recovery is usually uneventful. The worst your pet might experience is some discomfort for a short time after the operation.

When Should It Be Done?

The usual recommendation is at 6 to 7 months for both cats and dogs. Your veterinarian should be consulted to determine the best time for your pet.

Shouldn’t A Female Pet Have One Litter First?

Allowing a female dog or cat to produce a litter does not have any benefits. There are health risks to the mother during the pregnancy and when giving birth.

Will My Pet Become Fat and Lazy Once He or She is Sterilized?

No. Your pet will actually benefit from spaying or neutering, because he or she will lead a healthier and longer life. Pets become fat and lazy as a result of overeating and a lack of exercise, not from spaying or neutering. Furthermore, spaying a female eliminates the possibility of her developing uterine and/or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the chance of breast cancer. Neutering a male reduces the incidence of prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.

Will It Change My Pet’s Personality?

Generally not. For a female there is virtually no change at all. For males it usually results in a diminishing of some aggressive behaviours. Spayed/neutered pets are free from sexual anxiety and are, therefore, calmer and more content to stay at home. Also, if you have more than one pet, you will find they get along much better if they are all spayed or neutered.

What is It Going To Cost To Spay/Neuter My Pet?

The cost of spaying or neutering your pet depends on many factors. For example, a large dog will cost more than a small dog; if your pet is overweight or in season this can also add to the cost. Contact your veterinarian to get a more accurate idea of the costs involved for your pet. The cost of spaying/neutering is really quite small when compared, for example, to what you will spend on food for your pet over its lifetime.

My dog has a cough, what can I give him? – Treatment for coughs in dogs

The aim of any treatment will be to deal with the underlying cause of the cough as diagnosed by your vet. Treatment may include a course of antibiotics if the cough is due to presence of a bacterial infection. Viral infections often have to run their natural course but your dog can be supported with other helpful measures to reduce symptoms such as exercise modification, rest and encouragement to eat and drink fluids regularly. Keeping your dog in a calm relaxed state, away from extremes of temperature may also help to minimise symptoms.

If the cause of your dog’s cough is diagnosed as a parasitic infection such as lung worm or round worm then your dog will be prescribed a course of appropriate worming treatment and they will require regular check-ups to ensure the infection has completely cleared.

If an allergy (air pollution, pollens, cigarette smoke, air fresheners) has been diagnosed as the cause of your dog’s cough, the symptoms will often subside once the dog has been removed from the source of the problem.

Others causes of coughs, such as serious infections may require more specific treatments which could result in your dog staying at the vets for in-patient treatment. Your vet will be able to explain the reason for this to you and you will receive regular updates on your dog’s progress. Most cases will be treated at home.

Preventing coughs in dogs

  • Coughs caused by infectious viruses such as distemper can be prevented by a vaccination programme starting from when your dog is a puppy. Yearly booster vaccinations will be required. Your dog’s vaccination programme may also include the kennel cough vaccine. This is recommended especially if you are planning to put your dog into kennels or doggy day care.
  • Regular parasite control is an important part of your pet’s preventative health care programme to guard against infection from internal and external parasites.
  • Routine health checks, often carried out at the time of your dog’s annual vaccination can help to pick up any underlying medical issues which may otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Keeping your dog’s weight within normal ranges can help to reduce the risk of your pet developing a disease or condition which may result in your dog coughing.
  • Keep any dangerous items which your puppy or dog may be tempted to chew or swallow well out of harms reach.

My dog has a cough and is having difficulty breathing. What should I do?

If your dog is having difficulty breathing (associated with their cough) you may see them open mouth breathing or gasping for air. You may hear unusual respiratory noises or wheezing and their breathing rate or rhythm may look abnormal, either rapid (tachypnoea) or very slow and laboured (dyspnoea). Your dog may extend their head or neck forwards in an effort to get more air and you may also notice their gums are grey or blue tinged in colour compared to the normal pink.

If your dog is having difficulty breathing, is wheezing or you can hear unusual respiratory noises OR if they have coughed up a significant amount of blood you should consider this an emergency and contact your vet immediately.

Why has my dog suddenly started to cough?

If your dog suddenly develops a persistent, distressing or acute cough, check first for any obvious airway obstructions. Has your dog recently had a bone or were they playing with or chewing a toy which is now missing?

If you believe your pet may have an airway obstruction you should contact your vet immediately.

Why is my dog coughing and how can I tell if it is serious?

A cough is a natural response to an irritant in your dog’s airways. If your pet is bright and lively and only has a mild cough without any other clinical symptoms then the cough may not be serious.

Our experienced UK veterinary nurses at PetGP will be able to help assess your dog and let you know if we think you need to contact your vet.

What to do if my dog has a cough?

If your dog has developed cough it is best to keep them calm and avoid any situations where they could become excited or anxious as this could make the cough worse. Keep exercise to a minimum and contact one of our experienced nurses at PetGP will be able to help assess your dog and let you know if we think you need to contact your vet.

My dog has heart disease but why does that make him cough?

The first sign that most owners notice when there dog has a heart condition is a cough. Some heart conditions can result in the heart becoming enlarged along with a build- up of fluid in the lungs which can put pressure on the airways, triggering a dry and unproductive cough. The cough can become worse on exercise when the heart and lungs are working harder and may also be worse during the evening when your dog is lying down for extended periods of time.

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a highly contagious but common upper respiratory infection. The most common causes of canine kennel cough are the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica and two viruses called Parainfluenza virus and Adenovirus. Symptoms can be mild or severe and can last from a few days up to a few weeks. The infection often results in a dry, hacking and relentless cough which can be markedly worse following exercise or when your dog is excited. The cough can sound like your pet has something stuck in its throat. Other symptoms may include, sneezing, runny nose, eye discharge, reverse sneezing and in some cases loss of appetite and lethargy. Most dogs will not feel particularly unwell with kennel cough but occasionally dogs can become ill and require supportive treatments. Kennel cough is easily spread and transmission is airborne or via direct contact between dogs.

How can I stop my dog from getting kennel cough?

It is possible to vaccinate your dog against kennel cough. You will need to have this done at your vets and is usually given as a nasal spray, which is suitable for puppies over two weeks old. An injectable vaccine is also available for dogs and can form part of their yearly vaccination programme. Some kennels and doggy day care providers insist that your dog has received this vaccination before going to stay with them. This will need to be done 7-10 days before your dog goes into kennels and often the kennels will ask to see proof that this has been done. Your vet will sign a vaccination certificate for you.

What does kennel cough sound like?

The cough associated with kennel cough infections can often sound dry, hacking or barking in nature and can be quite distressing for your dog and for you the owner to witness. Your dog may sometime gag and retch in response to the airway irritation and the cough can sound like your dog has something stuck or is trying to clear something from their throat.

How long does kennel cough last?

Kennel cough can last for anything from a few days up to a few weeks.

If you are concerned about your dog’s health please contact one of our friendly and professional nurses at PetGP will be able to help assess your dog and let you know if we think you need to contact your vet.

Can kennel cough be passed to humans?

Yes it theory kennel cough can be passed to humans and is classified as a zoonotic disease. Transmission between dogs and humans is extremely rare and generally only affects people with a compromised or undeveloped immune system.

If you are concerned about your own health you should contact your GP who will be able to advise you about this further.

If my dog has kennel cough should I keep him away from other dogs?

Yes. Kennel cough is highly contagious and transmission is either by direct contact or airborne routes so it is best to keep your pet away from others dogs until they are symptom free. Avoid sharing food and water bowls between dogs and if possible try to walk your dog in areas where you are unlikely to meet other dogs and avoid busy times of the day. Dogs with suspected cases of kennel cough are often asked to wait away from the main waiting room at the vets. So, if your dog has been coughing please inform the vets prior to your arrival and they will find you an alternative waiting area. This is to stop the infection spreading to other dogs.

If you are concerned about your dog our experienced and friendly nurses at PetGP will be able to help assess your dog and let you know if we think you need to contact your vet.

My dog has a cough, what can I give him/her?

A cough suppressant may sometimes be recommended by your vet to help with the symptoms of a cough, however it is not advisable to administer any human cough preparations or suppressants to your dog without consulting with your vet first. Some human cough preparations contain ingredients such as xylitol, caffeine and ibuprofen which are all extremely toxic to dogs. Some cough preparations also contain high levels of anti-histamines and decongestants which can also be unsafe for your dog to have.

Finding the cause of your dog’s cough – why does my dog cough?

As noted above, the causes of coughing in dogs can be wide ranging.

At PetGP our UK based veterinary nurses follow strict guidelines laid out by our veterinary director and ask a series of questions that determine the relative seriousness of your pet’s condition.

These will hopefully rule out the more serious cases (which must be dealt with by a vet) and leads to advice on what you should do next for your pet. If appropriate, our experienced and knowledgeable veterinary nurses will give advice relevant to your pet’s condition based on your answers.

  • Our UK based Registered Veterinary Nurses will ask you several questions designed to assess (triage) the condition.
  • You will need to be with your dog as we will ask you to check a few things while you are on the phone to us.
  • We will ask if you how long your dog has had a cough for and any other symptoms you have noticed such as tiredness, reduced appetite and if the cough is productive.
  • We will ask if your dog is currently on any medication or has any diagnosed medical conditions as this information could also be relevant.

Call us at PetGP or visit if you are unsure or worried and our expert nurses will advise you on what to do next. If the situation does not merit a trip to the vet, we will give you suitable advice for managing the situation at

Loss of Appetite in Dogs – A Reason for Concern?

A temporary loss of appetite in your dog is not something to become immediately concerned about. Just like us, dogs are sometimes not hungry or else some stress in their day has caused them to lose interest in food. However, a more prolonged loss of appetite in your dog is a serious sign that something is wrong. It’s unusual for a dog to refuse more than one or two meals and this can indicate anything from depression to disease. Sometimes a stressful situation or an upset stomach can be to blame, but these things are often resolved within a day. If more than 48 hours go by with your dog still refusing to eat, take them to the vet immediately.

Loss Of Appetite In Dogs Symptoms

Signs that your dog has lost its appetite may include the following:

  • Eating less than usual
  • Refusing to eat at all
  • Not eating treats
  • Trying to eat, but not being able to finish a meal
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Vomiting

Sudden Loss Of Appetite In Dogs

Most importantly, you should take note of changes in your dog’s eating habits. It may be that your dog is not eating the recommended amount of food, but this is not a sign of loss of appetite if your dog is generally a light eater or is small for its age or breed. The main concern is when a dog who is often enthusiastic about its food loses interests in it. This sudden loss of appetite is an indicator that something is wrong. It may be something as simple as your dog has just received its vaccinations and is feeling a bit under the weather or it may be a sign that your dog is sick and needs medical attention. Monitor your dog’s behaviour over the next few hours or day and see if it gets its appetite back. If not, a trip to the vet is required.

Treat Loss Of Appetite In Dogs

If your dog is having difficulty eating, there are a few thing you can try at home to tempt them. You can try changing the food that you’re giving your dog in case there is something in it that your dog has decided it doesn’t like any more or that is causing an upset stomach. You can also try to warm the food a little or soften dried food by adding water to see if that makes it easier to eat and digest. Some dogs will respond to hand feeding when they’re feeling under the weather. After 24-48 hours, if none of these things have worked you should make a visit to your vet.

At the vet’s surgery, your dog may be given intravenous fluids with electrolytes, especially if it hasn’t had water for a day. Your vet may try syringe feeding and if several days have gone by without food, a feeding tube may be necessary. There are also appetite boosting drugs that can be used to try to encourage your dog to eat. The most important thing, however, is finding the cause of the loss of appetite and treating that immediately. This may be an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics or symptomatic care or it may even be due to a dental problem that is causing your dog pain when it eats. Whatever the reason, the underlying cause for the loss of appetite in your dog needs to be addressed in order to solve the issue.

Dogs With Renal Failure Loss Of Appetite

Kidney failure in dogs can present with several gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, increased thirst and a loss of appetite. This is because the kidneys are not filtering the toxins out of the system and they are causing damage to the digestive tract. This means that your dog may feel pain or nausea when eating and will blame the food, therefore refusing to eat any more as it causes such discomfort.

Changes in diet are often used to treat kidney disease and which changes are made depend on the stage and severity of the disease, so check with your vet before going ahead with altering the food you give your dog. Generally, the food needs to be low in protein, phosphorus, sodium and calcium, but contain a good amount of fatty acids and Omega 3. The can result in the food you offer your dog being rather bland and boring and your dog may refuse to eat it. This lack of interest in food is not necessarily due to a loss of appetite, but more that your dog is holding out in the hope of something more tasty.

Lethargy And Loss Of Appetite In Dogs

The most common cause of lethargy and loss of appetite in dogs is infection or disease. Many of the viral infections such as distemper and parvovirus present with lethargy and loss of appetite. It’s also an indicator of liver disease and heart problems. Lethargy may be caused by the lack of appetite, as if your dog is not eating then it is not getting any energy. However, many infections also cause lethargy as energy is being diverted to the immune response to fight off the infection. Either way, seeing these two symptoms together is something to keep an eye on. To keep an eye on recovery and to monitor lethargy, you can use an activity tracker, like the FitBark to monitor how active they are throughout the day.

About the Author: Adam Conrad is the writer at where he enjoys spreading his research for the best dog food for Shih Tzu. He is very keen on eradicating canine distemper and in his spare time away from researching these topics, is an avid sports enthusiast, and a lover of canine companions.

Lethargy is a common symptom of a wide variety of dog ailments. The problems and diseases that cause lethargy range from minor bothers that will typically go away untreated, to serious and sometimes life-threatening issues that require extensive medical care.

No matter what, a lethargic dog points to them being out of the normal spectrum of health and it’s important to understand why your dog may be acting that way. However, before you can go about working toward a diagnosis, it’s important to be able to determine whether or not your dog is, in fact, lethargic.

That’s what we’ll be covering in this post today. By the time you’re done reading you’ll know:

  • How to tell if your dog is lethargic
  • Common causes of lethargy
  • What to do to help your lethargic dog

Let’s get started!

How to Determine Whether or Not You Have a Lethargic Dog

Lethargy is a pretty straightforward problem, and it’s typically easy to tell if your dog is lethargic.

A lethargic dog is typically:

  • Excessively tired, groggy, slow
  • Listless (lacking energy or enthusiasm)
  • Uninterested in normal activities
  • Slower to react to sensory stimulation
  • Doesn’t react at all to stimulation
  • Generally acting out of character

These symptoms point towards a lethargic dog, so pay attention to whether or not your dog is just tired, or acting out of the norm and in need or more serious attention.

Is Your Dog Presenting with Additional Symptoms?

There are several common causes of lethargy. As it is associated with such a wide variety of ailments, it’s important to understand whether your dog is a little “under the weather” or in need of a visit to the vet.

To help determine the severity of your dog’s problem, let’s look at the common problems/symptoms that come along with a lethargic dog:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Pain
  • Breathing issues
  • Restlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral issues
  • Weakness
  • Shaking

Take note of all of your dog’s symptoms to help determine the severity of the problem. Your lethargic dog may or may not need immediate medical attention.

Common Causes of Lethargy

A lethargic dog can point to such a wide variety of problems that you won’t be able to tell what your dog is suffering from based on a single symptom. It’s important to understand the most common causes of lethargy to help determine what your dog may be experiencing.

Your lethargic dog may have simply ingested something that doesn’t agree with them or be suffering from something far more serious.

If your dog presents their symptoms suddenly, they may be due to:

  • Anemia
  • Bloat
  • Inflammation or infection
  • Drugs or medication
  • Dehydration, reduction in electrolytes
  • Hormonal changes or disorders
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypothermia
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Urinary tract disorders
  • Skin diseases
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Exposure to toxins

However, if it starts as mild lethargy and progressively gets worse, they may be experiencing a more chronic problem:

  • Respiratory conditions
  • Glaucoma
  • Heart conditions
  • Cancer
  • Immune system problems

Mental/Emotional State

Dogs can also become lethargic due to mental/emotional disorders. If you have an otherwise healthy lethargic dog, look for signs of:

  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition
  • Old Age

Be sure you’re aware of your dog’s current mental or emotional state when determining the cause of their lethargy. A lethargic dog may just be a dog that’s missing something in its life. A bored, lonely, depressed, or old dog may simply be slowing down due to outside influences.

Older Dogs

Older dogs may be slowing down as a part of the aging process. With old age comes the potential for a decreased appetite, energy, excitement, and even the chance of developing arthritis. Older dogs need special care in their own right, so be sure to speak with your vet to see how you can help your dog transition into old age.


Also, if your dog is not eating enough food, or eating a low-quality food that doesn’t deliver the proper nutrients necessary to thrive, they may be prone to lethargy. If you have questions about your dog’s nutritional needs or the quality of the food you’re serving, your vet will likely be happy to help you pick out the right food (and amount) for your dog.

What to Do for a Lethargic Dog

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons that you may have a lethargic dog at home. The problem with it bring associated with such a wide variety of ailments is that it can be very difficult to know how to proceed in helping them recover.

How Long Before Going to the Vet?

The most important thing to remember is this—if you’re concerned for the wellbeing of your lethargic dog, the best thing you can do is take them to your vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
If you’re not panicking about your dog’s current state, it may be alright to wait a few hours or even a day or two to see if they improve.
Monitor your lethargic dog closely in order to determine whether or not they are improving. This is typically the best approach if they are not presenting with any other symptoms. The cause of their lethargy may be fleeting, and you may see you dog return to normal in a matter of hours.
That said, if your dog is presenting with one or multiple other symptoms, you should consult with your vet immediately. They’ll be able to help you determine the severity of your dog’s condition and help you address the problem appropriately.
When in doubt, see your vet, especially if your dog seems to be uncomfortable!

What next?

Now that you’re able to determine whether you have a lethargic dog, take a close look at their other symptoms. It’s up to you what you do next. No matter what you decide, be sure to pay close attention to your dog while they’re experiencing this lethargy. Careful monitoring is imperative and may be what saves your dog’s life in the event of a more serious complication.

Lethargy in Dogs

Lethargy is a common term for lack of energy and weakness. This is a vague description of a symptom, but it occurs often with many illnesses in dogs. Lethargy can range from slight (e.g., not as playful as usual), to moderate (e.g., not interested in play, sleeping more than usual), to extreme (e.g., barely moving, difficulty holding head up).

  • Lethargy persists for more than a day or two
  • Your dog becomes more lethargic
  • Lethargy is accompanied by other signs of illness (e.g., fever, sneezing/nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Your dog is hiding and/or avoiding contact with people and/or other pets in the household

What You Can Do

  • Observe your dog closely for other signs of illness.
  • Allow your dog to rest quietly without being disturbed by people or other pets.
  • Offer your dog some extra tasty canned foods, or add chicken broth or boiled chicken to his/her food, to entice him/her to eat more.

Causes of Lethargy

  • Lethargy is a very nonspecific symptom and is associated with a wide variety of possible illnesses.

Treatment of Lethargy

  • Treatment of lethargy will vary greatly based on the cause, so it is essential to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.
  • Your dog may need supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and nutritional supplementation.
  • Pets WebMD: Dog Weakness and Lethargy: Causes and Treatments
  • VCA: What are the causes of decreased appetite and lethargy?

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