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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 10922
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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Our dog, a 4 and half year old labrador has been very subdued

Customer Question

Our dog, a 4 and half year old labrador has been very subdued and quiet today. He went for a walk with my husband this afternoon but seemed very reluctant, totally not like him. We both think he is feeling unwell but there are no outward symptoms that we can see apart from him being reluctant to do anything and hanging his head when he stands up. We only gave him 1/2 his normal feed tonight which he ate. He hasn't been sick and his poo has been normal. Any ideas please.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 3 years ago.

Hello Janet, I'm Dr. Deb and will do my best to help you today:

I'm sorry that Bentley isn't feeling well.
I do have a few questions to ask about him first if you don't mind;

1. Can you take his temperature?
2. Can you tell me the color of his gums?
3. Would you say he's moving stiffly?
4. What does he do if you move his head up and down and side to side?
5. How much does he weigh?

There may be a slight delay after I receive your answers since I have to type up a response to you. Thanks for your patience. Deb


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry, we can't take his temperature. The colour of his gums looks normal, pink. He isn't moving stiffly but seems a bit weak. He doesn't respond if we move his head and he weighs 37 kilos.

Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 3 years ago.

Thanks so much for the answers to my questions.

Gum color is normal which is good.

It would be quite helpful if you could manage to get your hands on a thermometer since a fever could easily explain his behavior. Then, or course, we'd have to wonder why he's running a fever and the possible explanations for this are fairly lengthy for a dog this age:

1. Tick diseases can cause fevers and lethargy and the signs can occur quite suddenly with no warning. These could be ticks that fed months ago (lyme disease) or one week ago (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). We do have tests for many of these diseases, but we are testing for antibodies, not the organism itself, in most cases. If antibodies are not being produced (for whatever reason) then the tests could be negative and yet this is still the underlying problem.
I've also come to believe that there are tick diseases that we haven't even been able to identify yet and thus would not have tests for all of them.
Doxycycline is the drug used to treat most tick diseases.

2. I'm not certain if you have Leptospirosis in the UK but it ccan mimic tick diseases and can affect the kidneys and/or liver. This disease is primarily transmitted in the urine of wild animals and dogs can ingest the organism when they drink stagnant water in which a critter has urinated.
However, blood work would be needed to determine to evaluate these organs and then the appropriate medication can be initiated.
Some dogs can become very ill with this disease; some can even die from it (obviously the worse case situation).

3. Viral infections or other bacterial infections can cause these signs but are sometimes difficult to diagnose. Often these issues will resolve on their own after a few days if the former and with broad-spectrum antibiotics if the latter.

Other possible explanations for acute lethargy/weakness might include systemic disease such as issues with the heart or kidneys/liver (not related to Leptospirosis) or even auto-immune diseases.
And, problems with the spine such as compression of the spinal cord can also cause what appears to be lethargy; usually but not always these dogs are somewhat painful when you manipulate their head or spine. So, just because he didn't react, doesn't mean that such a problem could be ruled out.

I'm somewhat hesitant to suggest any over the counter medication until a clearer idea of what the problem might be but you could give Aspirin at a dose of 10 mg/lb twice a day which might be helpful. I always suggest that this drug be given with food to avoid stomach upset.
My only reservations about its use would be that it might interfere with what your vet would want to prescribe if he's seen but several doses should be fine.

I would dearly love to be able to more accurately pinpoint the source of his trouble but as you can see, the list of possible reasons for this behavior are fairly long.

But I hope this helps at least to give you an idea of what might be an explanation for his symptoms. Deb

Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 3 years ago.

I’m just following up on our conversation about Bentley How is he doing? Deb