Log in Log inRegister

Forgotten your password?


Sorry, your email or password is incorrect.

Limited Time Only: Get any 3 for 2 across our whole range! 


How to Spot a Poor Diet in Dogs

by Lauren Samet

Despite the many advances in canine nutrition, poor diet is still an issue for some dogs. In this article, we’ll look at what defines a “poor diet” and how you might identify potential issues. 

What is a Poor Diet in Dogs? 

Put simply, a poor diet is one that does not provide dogs with the essential nutrients they need to maintain good health. 

Put another way, a poor diet is unlikely to keep a dog free from poor health and disease. 

Appropriate macro and micronutrient levels, fluids, and adequate energy content are all key factors in a suitable balanced diet.

It is important to note that optimal levels of nutrients vary between species, individual animals, and between life stages too. For example, the appropriate diet for a geriatric Pug will be very different to that of a growing Great Dane. 

There are two forms that poor nutrition may take:

Before we discuss some of the signs of poor diets in dogs it is important to point out that some of the signs we mention can also be caused by other factors or disease states too. If you suspect any signs of suboptimal health in your pet then it is always best to speak to your vet before planning any major dietary changes.

High Body Condition Score 

An overweight dog may be consuming too many calories for their energy needs. Obesity and excess weight should not be seen as normal for any dog, regardless of breed or age. 

Excess weight in dogs can increase the risk of several health conditions including diabetes and cancer. It may also put additional strain on joints and worsen health conditions such as arthritis. 

Speak to a vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s body condition.

Low Body Condition Score  

A very low body condition score in dogs may indicate they are not consuming enough calories.  This can often be resolved by following recommended dietary feeding guidelines on pet food labels. 

Low body condition score can be associated with other disease states too so check with a vet if your dog does not put on weight even after increasing their food ration.

A Change in Toilet Habits 

Stools that are regularly too hard and dry, or too runny and loose can be a symptom of poor diet. 

Similarly, there is evidence that some causes of excessive urination (known medically as polyuria) are related to an imbalance in nutrient consumption, for example, excessive levels of vitamin D in the diet.

A Very Greasy or Dull Coat and/or Dry Flaky Skin 

A dog’s coat and skin reflect their general health. For example, stress levels, diet and hydration status can all lead to changes in skin and coat condition. A poor diet may contribute to a lacklustre coat or dry flaky skin.
In contrast, a good diet should support the production of oils, cell turnover, appropriate shedding, temperature regulation, and moisture control. As a result, skin and coat take on a far healthier appearance. 

Hair Loss or Thinning Hair 

As per the above sign, a poor diet may result in hair loss or thinning of the coat in patches, due to a lack of nutrients to support healthy hair growth and maintenance. 

Wounds Take a Long Time to Heal or Dog Prone to Infections 

Wounds and cuts may take longer to heal where insufficient nutrients are available. This is an external sign of a poor diet but internal systems may also be impacted by poor diet. If the same struggles are occurring inside the body then the immune system can become compromised, increasing the risk of disease. 

A Change in Drinking Habits 

A marked change in thirst – either increased or decreased - can be a sign of many things. In the context of this article, these changes can indicate toxic levels of micronutrients in the diet (such as excessive sodium or vitamin D). 

Excessive drinking can also be a sign of diabetes mellitus in dogs, which if suspected must be addressed with a veterinary professional as a matter of urgency.

Bowed Legs or Poor Skeletal Growth / Conformation 

Skeletal abnormalities may indicate an issue with calcium, vitamin D or a number of other minerals. 

Sadly, such issues can sometimes be a sign of advanced nutrient deficiency and so may not be reversible. 

Luckily, in the modern age of pet food, feeding a complete and balanced diet designed for dogs in amounts recommended by manufacturers, means this sign of dietary inadequacy is rarely encountered anymore. 

Chronic Health Conditions 

Excessive fat in a dog’s diet can lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Furthermore, continuous excesses of certain micronutrients such as sodium, phosphorus, and potassium can put a strain on the renal system and can eventually lead to kidney disease. 

A Change in Behaviour 

Increased appetite, sudden appetite loss, drinking or urinating more, excessive drooling, lack of energy, increased scratching, hyperactivity, or other behavioural changes you notice in your dog after a dietary change might indicate an issue with nutritional balance or a reaction to certain ingredients. However, there are many additional causes for these changes, so it is best to speak to a vet first before assuming an immediate correlation.


Vomiting can be a possible side effect of vitamin toxicity. In these situations, food is expelled to reduce excessive/toxic levels of a vitamin in the body. See a vet if your dog is vomiting regularly.

In summary, there are several signs that a dog may not be receiving an appropriate diet, however,  this article is not an exhaustive list, however, and by no means suggests that there are not other causes for the signs mentioned here. 
If you notice any signs of sub-optimal health in your pet it is always best to speak to a veterinary professional. 

Equally, if you have any concerns about the quality or nutritional content of your pet's food then any responsible pet food manufacturers should be willing and able to assist with any questions and queries you may have.