For the Love of Vets

For the Love of Vets

3 Types Of Specialists A Dog With Chronic Lethargy May Need To See

Erin Steeves

Most dogs get a little tired now and then. However, if your dog seems downright lethargic, and this is a symptom that seems to linger, then there is probably something bigger going on. Your first step should be to take them to their ordinary vet to rule out common causes, such as infection. But don't be surprised if your vet them refers your dog on to one or more of the following specialists.


Sometimes chronic lethargy is the result of a cardiovascular problem. Your dog could have had a heart attack, or he or she may have plaque accumulation in the arteries that is impeding circulation. Chronic heart failure is also a possibility, as is low blood pressure. A veterinarian who specializes in cardiology can conduct tests including an EKG and an echocardiogram. By measuring the strength at which the heart pumps, visualizing the heart, and also running some blood tests, they may be able to find a cardiac cause for your dog's lethargy. Then, a modified diet and medications to lower the blood pressure can be prescribed. Open heart surgery may also be recommended if the arteries are severely blocked.


A veterinary neurologist is a vet who specializes in disorders of the nervous system. If your vet feels your dog's lethargy may be due to a nervous system disorder, then this is the specialist they'll send you do. Sometimes lethargy is caused by a tumor that is pressing on a nerve, the spinal cord, or the brain. It could also be caused by a problem called myelopathy, which causes the lining of the spinal cord to break down.

Not all nervous system conditions are treatable, but if the veterinary neurologist is able to figure out what's wrong, at least you'll have an idea of your possible courses of action. Sometimes euthenasia is the best choice for dogs with serious neurological conditions, and other times, anti-seizure medications work wonders.


If your dog has any other symptoms that suggest to the vet that they may have cancer, then you'll likely be referred to a veterinary oncologist. This is a vet who is specially trained to locate, diagnose, and treat cancer in dogs. Cancer in almost any organ system can lead to lethargy in the mid to late stages of disease, so your dog will need a thorough examination, including an MRI. Once the cancer is located, the vet can recommend either surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these three.

If your dog is lethargic much of the time, do not ignore this symptom. Visit you vet, and then follow up with the relevant veterinarian specialists.


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For the Love of Vets

Did you know that when a veterinarian graduates from veterinary school, they must take an oath before they are allowed to practice? This is similar to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take upon graduating from medical school. The new vets promise that they will work to relieve animal suffering and promote the overall health of pets. They also promise to uphold their profession with dignity. If you have ever taken your pet to the vet, you've probably seen a vet live this oath firsthand. You can be confident your pet is in good hands. Learn more about vets and the wonderful work they do in the articles curated here.