My Puppy Is Lethargic

Yorkie-Pom mix is very inactive after having his shots a few weeks ago

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Q: I have a 8-week-old Yorkie-Pomeranian mix. He had his shots a few weeks ago and is very inactive. He sleeps  a lot and only plays about 15 minutes and then he is back off to sleep. Is this normal? He is eating dry food but only small amounts. He is also drinking. Should I be concerned or is this normal behavior for a puppy?

A: The lethargy and inactivity you are describing in your Yorkie/Pom is concerning, because it is not normal. The vaccinations typically will affect a puppy for one to two days, making them lay around and sometimes lose their appetite. Vaccination reactions that last up to two weeks are possible, but unusual. These longer reactions sometimes include involve vomiting, lethargy and fever.

More likely would be some breed-related diseases that affect your dog's mentation (mental alertness), social interaction and energy levels. These conditions are most common in Yorkie breeds.

Hydrocephalus is a condition where the dog is born with extra fluid around their brain, compressing the brain tissue itself and altering normal behavior. It is very difficult to diagnose but sometimes can appear as an enlarged head in relation to the rest of the body size.

The second possibility is a PSS, or portosystemic shunt. In this condition, toxins in blood bypass the liver, where they are normally detoxified, get into the bloodstream, and eventually the brain. Here, they also alter behavior and mental skills, due to high levels of ammonia in the blood, basically acting as a toxin.

A PSS can be diagnosed with an initial blood test, an ultrasound of the abdomen, and sometimes other advanced tests. It is fixable, but can require an expensive surgery.

If your puppy continues to sleep a lot, is not as interactive as expected, or has any seizure-like activity, please check with your regular veterinarian to rule out hydrocephalus and a portosystemic shunt.

Hopefully your puppy will begin acting more normally and regain the energy you would expect.

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