Healing Paws: Recognizing and Helping Abused Dogs

By Dr. Cherice Roth, KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor

As a veterinarian deeply committed to animal welfare, I find Animal Cruelty Week an essential time to reflect on our role in protecting the most vulnerable among us. Abused dogs often carry the invisible scars of their past, making it crucial for us as a community to recognize the signs of abuse and understand how to help these animals heal and find loving homes.

Signs of an Abused Dog


Physical Signs

Abused dogs might show multiple physical signs of mistreatment. Look for unexplained cuts, bruises, or bald patches. Repeated injuries, signs of malnutrition, or evidence of untreated medical conditions are also red flags.

Behavioral Signs

Abused dogs can exhibit a wide range of abnormal behaviors. They might be excessively fearful or unusually aggressive. They may display extreme submissiveness, such as cowering, tucking their tail, or avoiding eye contact. A common heartbreaking sign is a dog that flinches at sudden movements or recoils from human touch.

Environmental Signs

Sometimes, the conditions in which a dog is found can also indicate abuse. Dogs that are kept isolated, tethered with short chains, or confined in small spaces without shelter often show signs of neglect and abuse.

First Steps to Help an Abused Dog  

Veterinary Care  

Immediate veterinary assessment is crucial. This check-up will treat the dog’s physical ailments and help document abuse, which can aid in legal proceedings.

Safe Environment  

Creating a safe environment is essential for an abused dog’s recovery. Provide a quiet, comforting space with soft bedding and minimal stressors. This haven will become a cornerstone of their rehabilitation.

 Legal Considerations

Always report suspected animal abuse to local authorities. Understanding the process of legally rescuing an animal is essential to ensure you’re not unintentionally breaking the law.

Preparing for a New Home

Emotional Rehabilitation

Healing from emotional trauma takes time. Patience and gentle handling are key. Start with basic training to build communication and gradually introduce more complex interactions as the dog becomes more comfortable.

Behavioral Training 

Professional trainers who specialize in behavioral rehabilitation for abused animals can be invaluable. They can provide tailored strategies to address the dog’s fears and traumas.

Integration with Other Pets 

Introducing an abused dog to other pets in the home should be done slowly and under controlled conditions. This can prevent aggressive or fearful reactions.

Long-Term Care and Support

Regular Health Checks

Veterinary care is vital to monitor the dog’s physical and mental health. Regular check-ups help catch any recurring or new health issues early.

Emotional Support

Abused dogs may suffer from long-term psychological effects. Support, possibly including socialization classes or therapy, can help them lead a more regular and happy life.

Community Support 

Encourage engagement with online forums, local support groups, or national organizations dedicated to animal abuse prevention and pet rehabilitation.

Call to action

Each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of abused animals. We can help dogs receive the love and care they deserve by staying informed and proactive.Consider volunteering, donating, or simply spreading the word about animal cruelty prevention. Together, we can make a significant impact!

Learn more about KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor, Dr. Cherice Roth, by visiting her on LinkedIn.