Signs of Neglect in Dogs

By Emma Riley Sutton

Dog owners often do not know how to correctly care for their pets. Because of this, neglect of dogs is on the rise. Many dog owners think chaining their dog, tossing some kibble and a bowl of water is enough. Not only is this physical neglect, it is also emotional neglect. Dogs crave attention and love from their human companions. All dog lovers should be aware of the signs of neglect in dogs so that the neglect will end and the neglectful owners can be educated or punished for their behavior.

Emaciation and Obesity

Dogs that are too thin (bony) or overweight are likely to be neglected. Not enough or too much quality food is neglect. Giving a dog table scraps or "human food" as their main diet is a form of neglect and can cause many different medical problems.


Dogs who do not have an adequate supply of fresh, clean water can easily become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include pale gums and tongue, lethargy, dry mucus membranes and lack of interest in drinking water.

Cuts, Bruises and Burns

One form of neglect in dogs is cuts, bruises and burns that are not properly cared for. Many such injuries will be found on the neck, chest and legs of dogs. This is caused by collars that are too tight, heavy chains, unsafe living quarters and physical abuse.

Lack of Grooming

All dogs, even dogs with short hair, must be brushed and bathed regularly. Dogs who are dirty, have matted fur or bald spots may be neglected by their owners. Long, broken and jagged nails are also signs of neglect.

Parasite Infestations

Dogs should be checked regularly for parasites. This includes fleas, ticks and, in extreme cases, lice. Internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and heartworms can easily be found by an inexpensive fecal test performed by a veterinarian or other veterinary professional.

Abnormal Urination and Defecation

Unusual looking urine and bowel movements are a sign of neglect. Urine should be the same color as a healthy human's urine. Bowel movements should be the same consistency a human's; it should not be runny or too hard. Dogs who urinate or have bowel movements during contact with humans are very likely to be abused.