Abused Dog Red Flags: What You Need to Know - Pet Hub USA

Abused Dog Red Flags: What You Need to Know

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All 50 states and DC have felony animal abuse laws on the books. Companion animals usually receive the strongest level of protection under state laws. Animal cruelty includes neglect. Here are 10 signs to look for.

10. Emaciated or Extremely Thin

Emaciated dog
Hungry Stray Dog” by AdamCohn is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

An animal that is extremely thin or emaciated, in the absence of disease or illness, may be suffering from abuse. Failure to treat an animal’s medical condition can also be considered abuse through neglect. An animal with visible bones, such as all of its ribs protruding, is a sign of potential neglect.

9. Open Wounds or Evidence of Multiple Healed Wounds

puppy lying on stair
Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash

A dog that has a visible wound, bruising, or scars or scabs from old wounds, could be a neglected, mistreated, or abused animal. Dogs used for fighting will often appear this way. An animal should have stitched and/or covered wounds (if the particular area can be bandaged) to indicate it is being properly cared for.

8. Limping or Inability to Walk or Stand

Limping stray dog
Stray Dog 3” by chibij918 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are many legitimate reasons a dog demonstrates issues with its gait or standing. Hip dysplasia or patellar luxation are common. Senior dogs may have arthritis or degenerative joint disease. However, a dog that has received physical abuse could demonstrate weakness, limping, or an inability to stand or walk due to injuries.

7. Parasite Infestation

Dog with fleas
Itchy” by jilliancyork is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Parasite infestation signals a neglected dog. An infestation of fleas, ticks, or other parasites can cause a dog to develop skin rashes or hair loss due to constant scratching, or obsessively rubbing its body on objects or the ground. Frequent head shaking may signify parasites or infections in the ears. Severely infested animals can become emaciated and weak.

6. Evidence of a Too-Tight Collar

Close-up portrait shot of a stray dog
Close-up portrait shot of a stray dog” by Ivan Radic is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wounds, cuts, scabs, or missing hair around the neck could be signs of an animal wearing a collar that’s too tight. Such markings appear when a neglected dog has worn the collar too long, and is not adjusted as the dog grows. In a worst-case scenario, the collar can even become embedded in the skin.


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5. Lack of Grooming

Stray Dogs
Stray Dogs” by BenStoney is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dogs with matted hair, a dirty coat, or overgrown nails may indicate an animal that has been neglected. Certain breeds require frequent and constant grooming or such neglect can lead to serious problems. Ungroomed pets can develop skin, eye, and ear infections. Paw infections can occur when nails break off.

4. Witnessing Dog Spending Long Periods Outside Alone

Dog tied up
Tied Up -1” by zeevveez is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A dog that is restrained and left outside in the elements during rain, snow, or heat is not only neglected but also a crime in many areas. Another sign is a dog that hasn’t moved from a particular spot over several days. All 50 states make it illegal to cruelly transport, confine, chain, or tether an animal.

3. Living in Unsafe Conditions

tied up dogs
curiosity killed the cat and tied up the dog” by 3rd Wheel is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Keeping an animal in an unsafe environment, whether indoors or outdoors, is abuse. This includes areas that have broken glass, nails, garbage, vermin, or other harmful objects. Confining an animal where it is surrounded by its own urine and feces is also abuse. Abuse also includes indoor confinement with waste that may make the air toxic to breathe.

Read More: 10 Dog Training Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

2. Spoiled or Lack of Food and Water

Dog drinking water outside
Little Dog, Big Water Bowl” by alleykitten is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Providing clean food and water is the basic responsibility of any pet owner. An owner who fails to do this can be cited for animal abuse. Dogs without clean, uncontaminated water and healthy, unspoiled food can become sick, malnourished, and may eventually die. Food and water bowls should be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria from building up.

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1. Witnessing Abuse Occurring

two puppy sitting on brown board
Photo by Evan Clark on Unsplash

Someone beating, kicking, or otherwise physically harming an animal is absolutely a sign of cruelty. If possible, capture video or photographs. Report the abuse immediately. All 50 US states and the District of Columbia have anti-animal cruelty laws. Some include felony provisions. Laws vary by state. Some people feel some states lack penalties that match the severity of the crime.

Read More: 10 Things to Know About Applying for an Emotional Support Animal


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