Young reader worries about her lethargic dog

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Young reader worries about her lethargic dog

Dear Cathy,

I am a thirteen-year-old girl. My parents and I adopted a three-year-old mixed-lab female dog last August from a rescue group in South Carolina. At first, Dorie was very timid and thin, but she has gained a lot of weight and is not at all active. She prefers to either lay on her bed or on the back deck in the sun. Although our huge yard is fenced, she doesn’t like to explore. She refuses to walk on a leash, and when I hook her up to it, she sits or lies down. We stand her up, bribe her with treats, but she just plops down. I don’t believe the dog knows how to play because she isn’t interested in balls, Frisbees or tugs.

Dorie can wait hours to urinate, even when brought outside several times a day. She seems to be drinking ample water and never has had an accident. She is very fearful of the car and when we need to take her in it, my parents have to carry her to the car. She also gets carsick and anxious. Perhaps it was the long ride from South Carolina to Long Island that made her this way. Dorie has a wonderful disposition, but as you can see, she can be stubborn. I want to play with her and take her for walks, so she won’t gain any more weight. Should we worry, because she doesn’t urinate frequently? Can you please help me?

– Emma, Oakdale, New York

Dear Emma,

I don’t think Dorie is being stubborn. I think she may be older than three-years-old or have a health problem, like a thyroid condition, that is making her lethargic. Ask your parents to take her to a veterinarian for an exam and blood work and get a second opinion on her age.

If she doesn’t have a health problem or is not an older dog, then the added weight can undoubtedly make her lethargic and uncomfortable, especially in her joints. She might be more motivated to move if you reduce her weight first with a high-quality calorie-restricted diet. Your veterinarian can recommend a prescription dog food, but there are several available at pet stores. 

Regarding her limited urination during the day, it may just be a habit she developed with her previous family. If the doctor finds no health problem, there is nothing to worry about there.

As for exploring and playing, if her former family never played with her, she will need to learn how to play from you. Put a few pieces of low-calorie dog food into a simple puzzle toy, like a Kong, with a little peanut butter to tempt her. Hopefully, she will play with the toy to get the food pieces out.

She may never race around the yard looking for toys, but if you can use puzzle toys to keep her mind busy and engaged, she may eventually become a more engaged and active pet.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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