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20 Signs of Poor Care in Dogs

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Rough or dry coat can indicate a lack of essential fatty acids in the diet
  • Frequent vomiting may suggest an intestinal obstruction or an adverse reaction to food
  • Unusual eating behavior can be a sign of dental problems or physical issues
  • Loss of interest in activities may indicate depression or changes in routine or environment
  • Dry, red, or cloudy eyes can be a result of matted fur or breed-related eye problems
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Sunday 13 June 2021
Last updated on
Thursday 13 July 2023
signs of poor care in dogs
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As a doting pet parent, you already give your dog everything they need to live a long and happy life. However, responsible dog ownership means keeping up to date on the signs of poor care in dogs.

The improper care of a dog can cause unwanted sicknesses and injuries. So, we will discuss 20 signs of poor care in a dog, and what they might mean for your pup’s health.

Rough or Dry Coat

Do you notice your dog’s coat becoming dull or dry? While there are many reasons that your dog might have a dry coat, your dog’s diet is often the main culprit. Despite how convenient commercial dog foods are, they are sometimes lacking essential fatty acids and other important nutrients. Fatty acids promote undercoat growth, reduce inflammation, and help to reduce shedding, overall improving your dog’s coat. Be sure to give your dog a high-quality, balanced diet every day to keep their coat shiny and healthy!


Your dog might vomit if they have eaten too much too fast. However, frequent vomiting is one of the signs of poor care in a dog. Chronic vomiting can suggest an intestinal obstruction, caused by your dog eating something they shouldn’t have. This could be rocks, wood, or even items of clothing, which is known as pica. Vomiting can also suggest that you are feeding your dog something that doesn’t agree with them. Be sure to monitor your pooch for signs of pica, and double-check that what you give them is safe to eat.

Odd Eating Behaviour

Unusual eating behavior can indicate that there is a physical problem with your dog. Firstly, neglected dental health can lead to pain when chewing and swallowing food. While many owners choose not to brush their dogs’ teeth, it is advisable to brush them twice a day. This helps to prevent dental decay and subsequent dental conditions.

Losing Interest in Some Activities

Dogs who are not exercised and given attention regularly may lose interest in activities that normally excite them. Like people, dogs can develop depression, causing symptoms like a lack of appetite and lack of interest in play. The other causes of depression in dogs include changes of routine, changes in a social group, and changes in the environment. Unresolved phobias and chronic stress are also common causes of depression.

Dry, Red, or Cloudy Eyes

In some cases, problems with the eyes can indicate poor dog care. This is especially true for dogs with matted, overgrown fur, which can cause blindness and injuries to the eyes. Some breeds are more prone to eye problems than others, such as the Pug and the English Bulldog. Make sure to research any common eye problems with your breed to ensure that you give the best care possible. Also, many problems with the eyes can be treated when caught early, so do not delay in getting your pup to the vet if they show signs of dry, red, or cloudy eyes.

Stiffness or Having Difficulties in Rising or Climbing Stairs

Stiffness and difficulty rising are common issues for older dogs. However, these problems can sometimes indicate poor dog care. A dog might become stiff and unwilling to climb stairs if they have an untreated injury to the legs or paws. If your dog finds it difficult to move as normal, make sure to take them to a vet as soon as possible for treatment.

Sudden Weight Loss

While sudden weight loss can indicate an underlying disease, it can also be a sign of a poor choice of diet. If your dog doesn’t get enough calories and nutrition, the result may be sudden, or gradual, weight loss. Is your dog getting enough calories for their size and age? Are you feeding them puppy food when they should be eating adult dog food? Check-in with a veterinary nutritionist if you have any concerns about your pup’s meals. Also, sudden weight loss can indicate dental problems. Be sure to regularly brush and inspect your dog’s teeth for signs of decay, and book them in with your vet at the first sign that something is wrong.

Scooting or Dragging their Rear

Does your dog drag its bottom across the floor? While some owners might ignore this behavior, or even find it amusing, it is a sign that something is wrong with your pet. Scooting can indicate anal sac problems, a dirty bottom, rectal prolapse, and worms. Worms are perhaps the most common cause of this behavior. If your dog has worms, it is important to get treatment from a vet as soon as possible. Leaving a worm infestation untreated will lead to intestinal blockages and nutritional deficiencies. This leads to weight loss, an inability to put on weight, and lethargy.

scooting their rear
Rear scooting could be a sign that something is wrong with your dog.

Unusual or Excessive Drinking

You know your dog best, and you would notice if they started drinking water more or less often. However, some dogs will display excessive or unusual drinking behavior if not given access to clean, fresh water regularly. Other dogs will display unusual drinking habits due to an underlying health problem. Unfortunately, many problems will cause this, and it is difficult to find which condition could be causing the behavior without the help of your vet. A dog who drinks more often may be struggling with diabetes, cancer, an infection, kidney disease, or liver disease.

Unusual Stool

Your dog’s bowel movements can reveal a lot about their health. As a responsible owner, it is good practice to monitor your dog’s poop to make sure that you notice when something is wrong. Healthy dog poop is compact, moist, and holds its shape. Your dog should go to the toilet a consistent number of times each day – this may be once or four times per day. Perhaps the most important thing to monitor is your dog’s poop color. Green indicates a gall bladder issue, orange indicates a liver issue, black suggests internal bleeding, and white spots suggest worms of an excess of calcium.

Uncontrollable Bladder

In some cases, an uncontrollable bladder can indicate poor care in dogs. First and foremost, one of the most common causes of incontinence is a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI may be caused by unsanitary living conditions. Such conditions expose a dog to a lot of bacteria, which increase the odds of a UTI developing. An uncontrollable bladder can also indicate stress. If a dog is constantly under stress from poor care, incontinence can develop as your dog loses the ability to cope.

Too Much Licking

For some dogs, excessive licking is a way of coping with stress. Your dog might lick a specific body part, such as the paw, to soothe themselves when experiencing chronic stress. This can lead to problems like lick granuloma, sore skin, and the development of obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common problem for dogs with neglected teeth. For many abandoned or neglected dogs, their dental care is completely disregarded, leading to problems with tooth decay and periodontitis. The build-up of bacteria in the mouth, as well as food trapped between the teeth, causes halitosis. Halitosis can also be caused by diabetes and respiratory infections.

Dry Nose

Some dog breeds naturally have drier noses than others. As such, a dry nose doesn’t always suggest that something is wrong with your dog, and not all dog noses are constantly wet. However, when poor care is present, a dry, cracked nose can indicate dehydration or an underlying illness. For dogs without regular access to water, dry skin, in general, can become a big problem. In the latter case, some diseases like lupus erythematosus can cause scabby, cracked skin to form around the nose.

Runny Eyes

Untreated eye problems in dogs can become chronic or even cause blindness. The causes of runny eyes include eye infections, corneal ulcers, eyelash problems, exposure keratitis, and nasolacrimal duct problems. Be sure to get your pup to the vet at the first sign that they have an eye problem!

Blue or Pale Gums

Your dog’s gum color reveals a lot about their health. For example, blue gums suggest that your dog doesn’t have enough oxygen in their blood supply. This may be due to pneumonia, congestive heart failure, or a respiratory problem. On the other hand, bright red gums suggest inflammation or overheating. Lastly, pale pink or white gums indicate a lack of blood or hemoglobin. This can happen if your dog has a chronic worm infestation or another condition that causes anemia.

Becoming Unresponsive to Calls

If your dog doesn’t respond to their name, hearing loss could be to blame. However, in some cases, being unresponsive to calls and commands may be a sign of poor care. It can be an indication that the owner has not taken the time to train the dog, or that the dog doesn’t know their name yet. Untreated ear infections can cause hearing loss, too, which is another sign of poor care in dogs. In severe abuse cases, some dogs will “shut down” and become unresponsive to all verbal encouragement.

Hair Matting and Tangling

Perhaps one of the most obvious signs of neglect, matted hair suggests that a dog is not being groomed regularly. If your dog has long hair, be sure to groom them regularly to prevent matting and tangling. Removing these mats and tangles often becomes painful for the dog, and your dog may learn to become defensive if you try to groom them in the future. If your dog has severely matted fur, it may be wise to seek veterinary help – sedation or anesthesia may be necessary as removal can be stressful and uncomfortable.

Flinching When Humans Come Near, Touch Them, or Raise Their Hand

Flinching in response to touch, movement, and perceived threats is a common sign of physical abuse in dogs. A dog will also cower and try to avoid the person, or become very defensive if they have been abused in the past. A dog with severe anxiety may also react defensively to touch and movement. Be sure to only use positive reinforcement with your dog. Never punish them, and never use physical force to correct your dog.

Saliva Becomes Thick and Pasty

For dogs without access to clean water, thick and pasty saliva is a common problem. This is often accompanied by dry and sticky gums. These symptoms are known as xerostomia, a sign of severe dehydration in dogs. Be sure to provide your dog with access to clean, fresh water at all times of day, and take measures to avoid heatstroke too.

Signs of poor care in dogs can be subtle or obvious. Some of the most obvious signs are matting of the coat, flinching and cowering behavior, and problems with the eyes. More subtle signs include unusual drinking behavior and over-grooming. As a responsible and loving dog owner, you want to provide the best care for your furry friend. So, at the first sign that something is wrong, make sure to see a vet right away.

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