Raising a puppy is exciting, fun, but also terrifying at times. They are babies that need to be protected and guided by us. Here is a list of the most common risks for a puppy and how you can avoid them.

Risk #1 – Strangulation

Collars pose a strangulation risk when puppies are crated or left alone in the house or backyard. Our own puppy almost died from getting his collar stuck on the crate while we were driving. Take the collar off when you are not with your pet, or when they are crated. Tags also pose a risk of getting caught on things. Therefore, I recommend avoiding tags and suggest embroiding your pets info on the collar itself. If you have more than one dog it is essential to take their collars off when they are playing. One can get his teeth stuck in the other’s collar and cause strangulation. Unfortunately, this is one issue we see often in the ER. Drapery cords are another risk. Be sure that the cords from your drapes or blinds are out of reach.

Risk #2 – Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal obstruction can occur when your puppy ingests a foreign object such as a toy, clothing, etc. Puppies use their mouths to investigate the world and will chew and eat things that they shouldn’t. If they swallow non-digestible material, it may get lodged in their intestines and require surgery. Puppy-proof an area in your house where your puppy will spend most of his time and never leave your puppy unattended. Crate your puppy when you are not able to watch him.

Risk #3 – Poisonous Plants

Some common plants that may surprise you as being poisonous to dogs are tulips, hyacinths, philodendron, Oleander, Japanese Yew, Lily of the Valley, Sago Palm, Dieffenbachia, and irises. All are considered toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms varying from vomiting, diarrhea and drooling to heart rate changes, arrhythmias, blood pressure changes, seizures, and even death. In many of these plants the toxins are most concentrated in the bulbs of the plant, making the bulb the most dangerous part. Compare this list from the ASPCA to plants in your home and yard. If you find your puppy chewing on a plant, remove it, gently rinse the mouth with water and then call a poison control hotline. Here is the ASPCA hotline (888) 426-4425.

Risk #4 – Toxic Chemicals

Puppies tend to get into everything therefore it is important to keep chemicals out of reach. Rodenticides and ethylene glycol (found in antifreeze) are common causes of dog deaths. It is also important to keep any medications or drugs locked away and out of reach. If your puppy ingests a chemical or drug, call poison control immediately and head to your veterinarian for treatment. I do not recommend inducing vomiting at home. It is safer to have your veterinarian do this.

Risk #5 – Toxic Foods

It is essential for every dog owner to learn about the foods that can be toxic to their dogs. Post a list on your fridge for the family to check before sharing food with the puppy. Common foods that are toxic to your puppy include chocolate, onions, excessive garlic, xylitol found in candy and gum, grapes, raisins, coffee, alcohol, nicotine, apricot pits, apples seeds, and raw bread dough.

Risk #6 – Infections and Viruses from Other Dogs

There are life-threatening viruses such as parvovirus and distemper for which your puppy can be susceptible. Be sure that your puppy is fully vaccinated (two rounds of parvo/distemper vaccine at 8 and 12 weeks and then a titer) before introducing him to other puppies and dogs.

Risk #7 – Environmental Risks

The outside environment can pose many risks to your new puppy such as cars, wild animals, other dogs, bodies of water, and a multitude of objects that your puppy will try to eat off of the ground. The best way to keep your puppy safe out there is to provide a fenced yard, a secure harness, and leash when walking and obedience training. You can start to train your new puppy as early as 8 weeks to learn basic commands such as sit, down, stay, and come. A solid obedience command can save his life if your puppy gets loose. I do not recommend leaving your puppy in the yard alone for, at least, the first six months..

Risk #8 – Travel

It is important to keep your puppy safe when traveling in the car. In a crate with his collar off is the best choice. Harnesses that hook onto seat belts can be an option as your puppy gets older and is more well behaved in the car. Avoid leaving your puppy loose in the car.

Risk #9 – Other Household Pets and Children

Be sure that when you introduce your new puppy to other household pets that it is done in a gradual and safe manner. One way to help your other pets adjust to a new puppy is to place the puppy in a wire crate so they can safely investigate each other. Be sure to educate your children on how to handle a new puppy and avoid letting young children hold the puppy. I have seen too many puppy deaths from them dropping out of a child’s arms. Never leave the puppy and children unsupervised. Puppies also pose a risk to children because of nipping and scratching, which is natural behavior for young puppies.

Additional risks include cooked bones, garbage cans, and stairs. Be sure your garbage cans are secure and out of reach. Baby gates are a great way to keep your puppy in a safe environment and away from stairs. Raw bones are great for your puppy’s teeth. However, cooked bones can splinter and be a choking hazard.

Foods that are high in fat, salt, or sugar can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and should be avoided. Puppies are also susceptible to parasites from their mothers. Therefore, it is important to have their stools checked by a veterinarian when you first bring them home.

Symptoms that may indicate that your puppy is sick or may have ingested something toxic or foreign include excessive drooling, vomiting, inappetance, diarrhea, lethargy, painful abdomen, and abnormal behavior. If your puppy experiences any of these symptoms please have him checked by your veterinarian. It is better to catch these things early than to wait until it becomes more serious.

A new puppy can bring so much joy and fun to your household. If you educate yourself and follow basic guidelines, you can ensure a safe and happy puppy experience.