My Dog Won’t Eat or Drink and Just Lays Around (Reasons Why and What Should I Do)

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Changes in your dog’s appetite and behavior can be concerning, especially if your dog stops eating and drinking and just lays around.

Some of the reasons why are benign (like your dog is adjusting to changes), while others require medical attention (such as infections).

We’ll start by going over what may cause your dog to stop eating or drinking, followed by reasons why your dog may exhibit lethargy (not eating or drinking and just laying around).

At the close of this article, we’ll provide you with information about what you should do if your dog is lethargic.

6 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Eat

There are many things that may cause your dog to stop eating. In some cases, your dog may even stop eating any food, including treats. The following are six reasons why your dog isn’t eating his food.

  1. Upset stomach
  2. Pickiness
  3. Emotional distress
  4. Pain
  5. Infection
  6. Other medical conditions

Upset Stomach

There are many causes of upset stomach in dogs. If your dog has recently eaten spoiled food, poisonous plants, or garbage, he may develop an upset stomach.

Rapid changes in their eating habits (such as switching to a new food too quickly) may also cause an upset stomach.

Pickiness

While some dogs will eat just about any food, others are finicky eaters. If your dog is a picky eater, he may turn up his nose at certain foods.

Emotional Distress

Dogs often stop eating when they’re stressed or facing other emotional distress. For example, they may stop eating when their owner is gone or there’s been a big change in their household.

Pain

When your dog is in pain, he may stop eating. This is especially true if he’s experiencing dental pain that makes it hard to chew. However, pain anywhere else in the body may also cause your dog to stop eating.

Infection

Dogs often stop eating when they have infections, such as digestive infections or anything that impacts their ability to smell or taste food (such as respiratory infections, which dampen their sense of smell).

Other Medical Conditions

Underlying medical conditions could also be the cause of your dog’s change in appetite.

For example, dogs may stop eating because of kidney failure, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, parasites, or other major medical conditions.

If you don’t know why your dog isn’t eating, it’s important to talk to your dog’s veterinarian to rule out serious medical conditions.

2 Main Reasons Your Dog Won’t Drink

It’s essential for your dog to drink water to stay hydrated. If your dog’s appetite is normal, it is very strange for them to stop drinking. The following are the two main reasons your dog might not be drinking.

Change in Diet

If you’ve recently changed your dog’s diet, it may impact how much water they drink.

For example, switching a dog from dry food to food with a lot of moisture (like canned food) means your dog won’t need to drink as much from their bowl to get the hydration he needs.

Medical Conditions

If your dog hasn’t had any food or water for a whole day, take him to the veterinarian for evaluation.

Medical conditions such as kidney disease, parasites, cancer, and infections may all cause your dog to stop drinking.

Since your dog cannot go more than a few days without water, it is always important to take his loss of thirst seriously.

9 Causes of Lethargy in Dogs

Lethargy is defined by a lack of interest in food, drink, and activity. When your dog isn’t eating or drinking or playing, his lethargy can be caused by a number of things. The following are nine causes of lethargy in dogs.

  1. Illness
  2. Moving
  3. Family Changes
  4. Traveling
  5. Depression
  6. Grief
  7. Pain
  8. Old Age
  9. Last Days

Illness

There are a number of illnesses that may cause lethargy in your dog:

  • Infections like parvovirus, kennel cough, distemper, and leptospirosis
  • Heart problems
  • Liver problems
  • Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Anemia
  • Parasites
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Tumors

Because there are so many medical causes for lethargy, it’s important to get your dog evaluated if you believe illness is the root cause of their changed behavior.

Moving

Dogs can often take a long time to adjust to changes in their living arrangements. For many dogs, moving to a new home is a distressing thing.

If you’re moving to a new home, do what you can to set up your dog’s space as soon as possible. This will give them the comfort they need to smooth the transition.

Family Changes

Dogs are sensitive to family changes. Whether you’ve recently welcomed a new baby (or even another pet) or you’ve said goodbye to a relative, dogs are prone to notice these changes.

New family members may cause your dog both stress and excitement. If a loved one moves away or dies, your dog may mourn. Any changes to your household makeup can cause lethargy.

Traveling

While some dogs love going to new places, some dogs struggle with travel. When their regular routine is disrupted and they have to travel by air or car, it can cause some dogs to become lethargic. 

Depression

Dogs get depressed, too! Your dog may experience depression whenever there are big life changes. Even minor changes can cause a dog to become withdrawn and depressed.

If their owners are working outside the home for longer hours or they’re adjusting to a new dog food brand, they may experience depression.

Grief

Studies have shown that dogs mourn when another pet or family member passes away. If there’s been a recent death in your household, it’s possible that the loss is the cause of your dog’s recent changes. Provide your dog with some time and added emotional support to help them work through their grief.

Pain

Pain is a common reason for lethargy in your dog. Sometimes pain is worse when moving, which can cause your dog to avoid moving whenever possible.

Injuries, digestive blockages, and other medical conditions may cause your dog intense pain while moving. Even urinary tract infections can cause them to exhibit lethargy.

If you suspect your dog is experiencing pain, it’s important to take him to see a veterinarian. Prompt treatment is important for your dog’s health and well-being.

Old Age

When dogs age, they often become less interested in food, water, and play. While this may cause a decrease in appetite and activity, it shouldn’t make your dog stop eating and playing altogether. Nonetheless, lethargic behavior may be a sign that your dog is aging.

Last Days

No one wants to think about their beloved pet passing away. However, extreme lethargy may be a sign that your senior dog will pass away soon. If they stop eating, drinking, and playing altogether, it may be a sign that the end is near.

Whether your dog is old or facing a confirmed terminal illness, lethargy is a common sign that they are in their last days.

What to Do When Your Dog is Experiencing Lethargy

When your dog shows signs of lethargy, it’s important to take special care to tend to his needs. If your dog is lethargic, there are several things you can do to look after his well-being.

Rule out “benign” causes

It’s important to take time to rule out benign causes for your dog’s lethargy. These include things like a recent move or the loss of a family member. While distressing for all involved, these things will not cause your dog any further harm.

If you’ve determined that a change in your dog’s environment is the cause of their lethargy, continue to offer them love and support. Provide them with regular meals and continue to entice them to play. They will eventually come around.

Entice them to eat

There are several methods you can attempt to entice your dog to eat. For example, adding a special treat or canned dog food can help tempt your dog’s appetite.

Warming up their food can also stimulate their sense of smell, causing an increased appetite in your dog.

Some dogs will eat when hand fed. Take some time to hand feed your dog, giving him extra attention and praise when he eats.

Seek medical attention for your dog.

If your dog doesn’t eat or drink for 24 hours, schedule an emergency visit with your dog’s veterinarian. Since dogs cannot go very long without water, it is a medical emergency if they don’t eat or drink for a day or longer.

This will also help you rule out any medical conditions. Since so many medical conditions can cause lethargy, it’s important to rule it out as a cause of your dog’s change in habits.

Your dog’s veterinarian can run diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your dog’s lethargy. Treating underlying medical conditions is an important step for providing for your dog’s well-being.

Conclusion

It’s important to monitor your dog’s condition closely if he’s refusing to eat, drink or play. A lethargic dog may be reacting to changes in his environment. However, he may also be coping with an underlying medical condition.

If you cannot determine what’s causing your dog’s lethargy or if he refuses all food and drink for 24 hours, contact your dog’s veterinarian. Your dog’s vet can help you determine a course of treatment that ensures the health and well-being of your furry friend.

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Lisemaine is a dog lover. She currently owns a Frenchie and enjoys working with and training her. She'll share her best tips with you to keep your dog happy, healthy, and active.


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