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What is Inactive?

If your normally energetic dog suddenly spends her time lying around, you might think she doesn’t feel well. If your highly active dog becomes lethargic and refuses to eat or drink, you can be assured that something is definitely wrong. Several conditions can cause your dog to become inactive including:

  • Anemia
  • Parasites such as hookworms
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parvovirus

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Why Inactive Occurs in Dogs


Anemia is the loss or destruction of a large amount of red blood cells. Internal or external loss of blood can cause anemia; it is most often caused by injury, an immune system disorder, or cancer. Other than lethargy, signs of anemia include difficulty exercising, decreased appetite, and pale gums. However, some dogs will never show signs of anemia. The underlying problem causing the anemia must be treated first. Anemia can be easily treated; because mild cases may not be symptomatic, it is best to take your dog to the vet for regular check-ups. 

Parasites such as Hookworms

Dogs with untreated hookworms will often lose their appetite, experience weight loss, exhibit itchy paws, weakness, and have pale gums. Dogs whose hookworm infestation has migrated to the lungs will often cough. Hookworms are passed in several ways: dogs can ingest contaminated soil or feces with hookworm larvae, through their mother’s milk (as a puppy), or direct contact with the skin of an infected animal. Dogs with severe cases of hookworms may also have anemia as a secondary condition. 


Osteoarthritis (OA) affects twenty-five percent of the adult dog population. OA is a chronic disease in which articular cartilage (which covers the ends of bones) is degenerating. As a result, the joint will often form new bone around the affected joints, causing inflammation and pain. Obesity and genetics often contribute to OA in dogs. You will begin to notice your dog become reluctant to exercise with a lessening of all activity as a whole, stiffness, and changes in gait (limping, “bunny-hopping”) may become evident as well. You may also notice behavioral changes such as aggressiveness upon manipulation of the affected joint.  Normally, older dogs are affected by osteoarthritis. While any breed may be affected, larger dogs such as Bulldogs and German Shepherds are prone to the disease.


Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid glands become underactive and don’t produce enough of the hormones typical of the thyroid. You may notice your dog seems depressed, is no longer as active, or is gaining weight. You may also notice skin changes such as dryness and hair loss. Chronic ear and skin infections are another sign of hypothyroidism in dogs. Frequent naps and an overall lack of interest in any play or physical activity are also symptomatic of hypothyroidism. Miniature and toy breeds are usually not susceptible to hypothyroidism, but medium and large dogs of any breed are at risk for developing the condition. Spayed females are more likely to have the disease. Several breeds are born with a predisposition to the disease: Airedale Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Greyhounds, and Irish Setters.


Parvovirus, or “parvo,” is an extremely contagious disease which can be fatal in young dogs. Parvo is a serious gastrointestinal illness causing both vomiting and diarrhea. A dog with parvo may develop a fever and refuse food or water at the onset of the illness. Within 24 to 48 hours, the vomiting and diarrhea progress almost nonstop. Bleeding will often be present in the stool or vomit. Left untreated, your dog could become dehydrated, go into cardiac arrest, or develop sepsis. Parvo is almost always fatal if left untreated, and it progresses quickly, so see your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has contracted the parvovirus.

What to do if your Dog is Inactive

If your dog is simply inactive, monitor him for a couple of days. If he presents no other symptoms, it is best to take him to the vet for some blood tests as there could be a parasitical infection or anemia occurring. In the case of parasitical infections such as hookworms, you want to catch the infestation as soon as possible. You may notice worms in your dog’s stool; if so, get him to the vet immediately. In the case of parvo, if you notice lethargy coupled with a lack of appetite as well as reluctance to drink water, get your dog to the vet immediately. Often, once diarrhea and vomiting due to parvovirus have set it, your dog is actually very, very sick and may not recover. Parvo is especially dangerous in puppies, so any changes in their play should be noted. A quick trip to the vet can rule out parvo, which can be especially lethal to young puppies. 

Prevention of Inactive

Many of the conditions discussed above can be prevented with regular vet check-ups. Regular deworming will prevent hookworms and other forms of parasites that can cause your dog to lose energy. Regular bloodwork can help to find anemia at an early stage, when it is almost always manageable, if not reversible. Hypothyroidism can also be prevented by regular blood work. Your vet can monitor slight changes and irregularities in your dog’s blood levels; if necessary, your vet can prescribe synthetic hormones to replace those not produced in the thyroid. It should be noted that it is important that your vet rule out adrenal disorders such as Cushing’s disease before treating hypothyroidism.

Cost of Inactive

Parvovirus can be an expensive disease to treat. Treatment cost often depends upon the progression of the disease. Early detection of the disease prior to severe dehydration is estimated to cost an average of $250. Treatment in the later stages can cost from $250 to $1000. The elimination of hookworms may average in price at $350.

Inactive Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


I have just taken my son's dog as they had to move and couuldn't have her with them. But, she is only a few years old and will not play with any toys. She sleeps all the time. Even at their house, she was not active at all. They told me she is the fun police. She cannot tolerate anyone playing or rough housing around her. Should I be worried?

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German Spitz
10 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting looks like foaming water

My dog is very dull and inactive since yesterday. She refuse to eat anything. And drink water rarely. And she have throw ups. What is wrong with her. Please help me

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Without seeing Zuki, I can't determine what might be going on with her, unfortunately. Puppies are very prone to infectious diseases and parasites, and it would be best to have her seen right away by a veterinarian, as they can get dehydrated quickly. I hope that she is okay.

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