wikiHow to Care for a Neglected Dog

Five Methods:Taking Your New Dog to the VetCleaning Your Neglected DogCreating a Safe EnvironmentProviding the Emotional Support Your Dog NeedsApproaching a Neglectful Dog Owner

Have you taken a stray into your home or adopted a dog that was mistreated or neglected by its owner? Neglected dogs may have a range of problems — both physical and emotional. With a little love, some soap, and a good vet, your dog will start living a happy, healthy life. Or have you seen a dog being neglected by its owner? If so, you’ll need to assess the situation and then decide if you should confront the person or report them to the proper authorities.

Method 1
Taking Your New Dog to the Vet

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    Attempt to find the owner. If you find a stray dog with no tags, take the dog to a veterinarian or a rescue shelter to have the dog scanned for the presence of a microchip. These chips register dogs in the event that they escape their homes, are lost, or are abandoned.[1] Some stray dogs have accidentally become separated or lost from their owner, and they are actually a much loved family pet. In these cases, reuniting the pet with their owner is definitely the right thing to do, no matter how much you have fallen in love with the stray.
    • It might also turn out that the dog is chipped but the owner has deliberately dumped him. Identifying the owner via the chip could allow the authorities to prosecute the owner for neglect.
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    Take the dog to a veterinarian. If you’ve just acquired a stray dog, be sure to take him to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is important for you to be as informed as possible about your new canine companion. Your vet will be able to distinguish between a dog that’s recently gotten dirty and a dog that’s been neglected to the point of becoming filthy. Your vet will also be able to tell if the dog has been a victim of animal cruelty, physical abuse, and/or extreme neglect.
    • The vet will look for any signs of ill health which could explain the animal's poor state, as well as assess cuts or injuries, and advise you as to what treatment is necessary to fix these problems.
    • If you got the dog from a shelter, you can also direct many of your questions towards them. They may have records on the original owners of the dog.
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    Take steps to protect yourself from rabies. Even if the dog you are caring for does not seem rabid when you take him in, it is possible that he has rabies and may begin to show signs after several days. There is no way to be sure about whether or not a dog is rabid, other than to biopsy its brain, which requires waiting until the animal dies or euthanizing it. [2]
    • Do not attempt to catch a dog that seems aggressive or that is acting in a strange way. Call animal control to catch the dog.[3]
    • If you are determined to care for the animal, talk to your veterinarian about testing its blood for the presence of rabies antibodies. This test will not distinguish between actual rabies and a rabies vaccine, but if it is negative you will know that the dog has not been infected or vaccinated.
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    Make sure that you get the appropriate vaccinations. Canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies are considered core vaccines by the American Animal Hospital Association’s Task Force. Every country has a similar list of “core” vaccines that you should give your dog. Ask your veterinarian about mandatory and non-mandatory vaccines to consider.[4]
    • Get a rabies vaccination. Cases of canine rabies in the US each are uncommon, just in case the animal becomes rabid and bites you.[5]
    • If you already have a dog, make sure your dog isn't in contact with the one you adopted until the stray has had its vaccinations and its behavior is stable.
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    Talk to your vet about any emotional or behavioral problems your new dog might have. Emotional pain is often obvious to a veterinarian who has experience dealing with neglected animals.[6] If the previous owner of your dog terrorized, taunted, isolated, abandoned, or over-pressured your dog, a vet will be able to help you identify the signs.[7]
    • For example, a rejected dog may be either attention-hungry or excessively independent.

Method 2
Cleaning Your Neglected Dog

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    Consider getting the dog professionally groomed. Some neglected dogs will only need a bath and a bit of brushing, but many neglected dogs are severely matted. Severely matted fur often requires sedation in order to clip away the matted coat. This is because these mats are so tight to the skin that it is painful for the dog to have them removed. In addition, the dog needs to keep very still or the skin could accidentally be cut.[8]
    • Talk to your veterinarian if the dog has matted fur and needs to be sedated to remove the mats.
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    Remove any parasites. If the dog is nervous or even a little aggressive, get a closed-end muzzle for the dog. Then, brush or comb the dog to remove any parasites, preferably outdoors. If the vet administered a spot-on treatment like Frontline, don't bathe the dog for at least 48 hours. Follow any other instructions your vet gave you to combat fleas and worms.[9]
    • To remove ticks, collect the following: rubbing alcohol, tweezers, and paper towels. Settle the pup down and rub the alcohol on the ticks, then start plucking those nasty ticks off of him. Be sure to dig the entire head of the tick out as well, because the tick may still survive. The dog may whine or wiggle if you hurt it, so soothe the animal by speaking softly and petting it.[10]
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    Take a look at your dog's teeth. Dogs have powerful bacteria in their mouths, but depending on your dog's health or previous living situation, it may need to have its teeth cleaned. In general, vets say dogs should have their teeth cleaned at home weekly.[11] They may also benefit from a professional cleaning now and then. How often your dog should go for a professional cleaning depends on the dog. Ask your vet for their recommendation.[12]
    • Pet stores sell doggie toothbrushes and toothpastes that taste good to dogs. In order to brush your dog's teeth, restrain them (most likely between your legs). Hold their head with your left arm and open their mouth with your left hand. Then brush in a circular motion with you right hand.[13] Give them a treat afterwards. Eventually, they'll learn to love their at-home doggie dental appointments.

Method 3
Creating a Safe Environment

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    Feed it. A neglected dog is almost always a hungry dog. If you found the dog, then offer the dog water to drink, and if he is thin or emaciated, offer him a small amount to eat. Chose something bland such as boiled white rice. Giving a full sized meal or rich food is likely to upset the dog's stomach when he isn't used to eating. In the short term, feed little and often, such as 4 - 6 small meals spaced through the day. This allows the stomach to get used to having food in it.
    • An emaciated or thin dog needs building up, but do this slow over the weeks and months to come. Aim to give 2 to 4 meals a day of good quality food. Avoid foods that are high in cereal content (cereal is listed first on the food label) as this is harder to digest as it ferments in the gut, which is likely to cause stomach upsets.[14]
    • Chose a good quality food that is age appropriate (puppy food for juniors, adult food for adults). Look on the food label and chose one that list actual meat as the top ingredients (as opposed to meat meal, which is processed organ and offal).[15]
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    Give your dog a place to sleep. Provide a soft blanket in a quiet corner and leave the animal alone to rest. It is best to restrict the dog to one room so that he isn't overwhelmed. Provide him with a bed, and praise him when he uses it to help him realize this is his space.
    • It is best to restrict the dog to one room so that he isn't overwhelmed. Provide him with a bed, and praise him when he uses it to help him realize this is his space. At this stage you may not know if he is house trained or not, so put puppy pads by the door just in case.
    • When the dog wakes, give him a chance to go into the yard for a toilet break. Likewise take him out immediately after eating and about half an hour later as food in the stomach stimulates the bowel to move.
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    Consider your dog’s bathroom needs. A stray dog may not be house-trained. Do not punish the dog for going potty inside, as this may further damage the animal's already nervous disposition. Watch the dog's habits and bring it outside every few hours, allowing it enough time to sniff around, get acquainted with the area, and then do its business.

Method 4
Providing the Emotional Support Your Dog Needs

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    Establish a daily routine as soon as possible. Dogs appreciate routine and it helps them feel secure. Work to establish a routine with your dog right away. Give meals at the same time, let him out to go potty, and take him for walks at a predictable time each day. Here is a sample schedule that might help you: :[16]
    • 7:00am: wake up and let dog outside
    • 8:00am: feed dog breakfast
    • 8:30am: let dog outside
    • 1:00pm: let dog outside
    • 5:00pm: let dog outside
    • 7:00pm: feed dog dinner
    • 7:30pm: take dog for a walk
    • 9:00pm: let dog outside
    • 10:00pm: bedtime
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    Give your new dog some love. A dog that has just been neglected needs a loving and responsible pack. Make it feel loved and let it know that you will care for his future needs. Loving the dog doesn't mean that he should be given free rein to do what he wants. He actually appreciates the security of having someone in charge and will thrive when given kind guidance.
    • Pet your dog regularly. Do so carefully. Many neglected dogs will be hand shy. It may even respond violently, if it has been the victim of physical abuse. Until you understand your dog’s temperament be gentle and very careful, but make sure to pet him every day. By making physical contact with your dog, he’ll learn to trust you and will be comforted by this contact.[17]
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    Play with your dog. Remember that dogs are social creatures by nature and they love to play. Play is a great way to bond with the animal and to help it get the exercise it needs. Play is also a great way to teach your dog how to behave around you. Pick out a variety of toys like tennis balls, pull toys, squeak toys, and frisbees. Take the dog outside and let it run around with these toys.[18]
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    Learn about dog training and use reward-based methods. Once your dog has regained his health, you can start to train him in basic obedience. If the dog is not trained, then be patient and never chastise him for getting things wrong or being disobedient. Ignore puddles or accidents - and instead praise what he does right. Start by teaching simple such as essential commands such as "sit".
    • Try “click-and-treat-training”. In this type of training, the pet is empowered by having the opportunity to find a way to make you click and thus receive a reward. Once pets figure out how the game is played, they may prefer the “game” over the reward. Tell your dog to “come” and click. Do this repeatedly. Then try just clicking and see if the dog comes.[19]

Method 5
Approaching a Neglectful Dog Owner

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    Evaluate the situation carefully. If you are suspicious that a dog owner may be neglecting his dog, be sure that you understand the situation before you try to do anything. Look for signs that the dog is being neglected. There are some obvious signs of neglect to be on the lookout for:
    • No shelter
    • Collar too tight
    • Lack of grooming
    • Mange (missing hair, body covered in sores)
    • Starvation[20]
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    Approach the person if you think that they may be neglecting their dog. It is important to be tactful when approaching someone who you suspect is neglecting their dog or you may make the situation worse. You might offend the person or even worse, that person may take out their aggression on their dog. Bring the subject up in casual conversation and don’t accuse them of neglect. Say things like, “I’ve noticed your dog spends a lot of time outside” or ask “how’s your dog doing? He’s such a pretty dog.” Don’t put the person on the offensive.[21]
    • Try to understand their situation before you jump to any conclusions. Poor dog care resulting from poverty is different than malice.
    • Figure out how you can best help the dog. You may offer to lend a helping hand. You could offer to walk or play with the dog when the owner isn’t around. Or you may need to contact the authorities.
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    Report the person to the proper authorities if you suspect neglect. It is important to report a dog owner who you suspect is neglecting their dog, but the prosecution process can take time. Keep in mind that animal cruelty officers do their best to respond to reports as quickly as possible, but they get a lot of complaints.[22] You can dial 911 and ask to speak with the animal cruelty officer. Contact the Humane Society of the United States at 1-866-720-2676 or a similar agency in your country.[23]

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Categories: Canine Health