Yes, puppies are the cutest things on Earth (except maybe kittens), but taking care of one is an enormous responsibility. That’s not just because puppies are young and small and almost entirely unable to take care of themselves, but because they have boundless curiosity and zero training. Just about everything in and out of your home is a potential hazard, and you’ll need to be always on your guard to keep your puppy safe from pests, plants, poisons and other “plagues.” Here are 12 of the most important ones to watch out for.
Worms of various kinds are a common health problem for dogs, and puppies in particular. Owners should be on the lookout for roundworms, hookworms, heartworms and tapeworms. That said, worms can be hard to detect. You may be able to see them in your puppy’s dookie, but most likely not. Symptoms can vary, but may include diarrhea, vomiting, low energy, appetite loss and a round, bloated belly in puppies. If you suspect your puppy has worms, bring it to the vet. The good news is that worms are easy to treat and get rid of. A newly adopted puppy should always be checked and treated for worms in any case.
Even people who don’t own dogs probably know that chocolate is very toxic to them. Chocolate can poison any dog, but puppies may be more in danger simply because they can’t keep their mouths to themselves, so puppy owners need to be extra vigilant about where they put their chocolate, and where their puppies put their snouts. Remember that the amount of chocolate a puppy eats can affect the level of toxicity, as well as the type of chocolate. For example, baking chocolate is most dangerous because it has the highest concentration of theobromine, the agent in chocolate that is toxic to dogs. If you suspect your puppy of ingesting chocolate, know what to do, and contact a vet ASAP.
All dogs are apt to put their mouths on things they’re not supposed to, but puppies are particularly prone because they tend to explore their exciting world orally even more than adult dogs, and they haven’t yet been trained not to. Puppy-proof your home inside and outside to prevent your new dog from choking on something hazardous. Put away any small or dangerous items in every room of the house, the yard, the garage, etc. And even if you’re already a clean person, take extra care to sweep, wash or vacuum your floors regularly. Something could fall on the ground that you’d never notice, but that your puppy will find easily, and try to swallow. Read more about pica, the phenomenon of dogs eating objects that aren’t food.
4. FERTILIZERS/LAWN CHEMICALS
We know you’re proud of your beautiful lawn and garden, but if you’ve maintained their beauty and color using dangerous chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, etc., you may need to reevaluate your priorities now that you’ve adopted a puppy. You don’t necessarily have to abandon yard care altogether, because there are lawn and plant treatments that can be safe for pets if used correctly. However, we don’t blame you if you choose a better-safe-than-sorry approach by not treating your lawn, at least not while your dog is a puppy and in its heaviest explore-everything-it's-not-supposed-to phase. Check out our guide to dogs and lawn safety for more information.
Here’s another big no-no food for your puppy. Never feed it grapes. We’re not exactly sure why, but grapes are extremely dangerous for dogs to eat, and can lead to irreversible kidney damage for your puppy. Raisins, which are simply dried grapes, are just as toxic. Don’t feed these treats to your pup, and if you should drop one on the floor, pick it up before your little guy makes a grab for it himself.
Fleas can be a nightmare for any dog, but are of particular concern for puppies, because of these parasites set to feasting on a tiny puppy’s blood, the infestation can lead to severe anemia or even death much quicker than a healthy adult dog. Fleas also can transmit other parasites like tapeworms. Preventative care is the key to keeping fleas away from your pup. Flea medication that comes in oral, topical or other forms is an important defense (but should never be administered before a puppy is at least 6 weeks old), as are regular spot checks and regular grooming. Even citrus fruits have been known to keep fleas at bay. Read our guide to fleas for more tips.
7. HUMAN MEDICINE
It should come as no surprise that your prescriptions are not meant for your puppy. But, of course, you have a responsibility to make sure that your puppy can’t access your meds at any time. Maybe you’re accustomed to taking your pills and leaving the bottle out on the bathroom counter. That was fine before you had baby animals in the house, but it could be a deadly mistake if your curious puppy goes looking for snacks. In addition, even over-the-counter drugs can be extremely dangerous to dogs, and puppies especially. Many owners think it’s safe to administer everyday drugs like Advil or Tylenol to a dog, but this isn’t true. Yes, some pain relievers we take are also prescribed to dogs, but in much different dosages. No medicine should ever be given to a puppy without a vet’s say-so. Even a small amount of Tylenol can wreak havoc on a tiny puppy’s stomach, liver or kidneys.
Xylitol is a sugar-free, calorie-free sweetener found in many chewing gums, mints, candies and toothpastes. It’s a boon for humans because it’s actually good for teeth, yet it’s deadly toxic to dogs, potentially causing liver disease or seizures. So don’t leave your artificially sweetened treat around where your puppy can snag them, and dispose of your chewing gum properly.
If you’re bringing a puppy home, it will be a good idea to re-evaluate and restructure your garden or your indoor decorative plants as soon as possible. Hundreds of plants can poison your curious puppy, and many of them will surprise you. Take, for example, Lily, a 14-month-old Jack Russell Terrier/Beagle mix who nearly died in May after eating a poisonous sago palm on her owner’s property. Lily’s life was saved, but it could have gone the other way. Her owners had no idea their plants were poisonous to dogs. Educate yourself. The ASPCA has an extensive list of plants that can poison dogs. Make sure your puppy doesn’t have access to any of them.
Like fleas, ticks are blood-sucking parasites. And like fleas, they can present a greater threat to a small puppy than to a large dog because they more quickly can drain a puppy of too much blood, leading to anemia or death. Ticks are also well-known for their tendency to transmit other diseases — like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, haemobartonellosis and tick paralysis — many of which can lead to serious health problems for your puppy. Read our guide to ticks to learn more.
11. MACADAMIA NUTS
Dogs can eat many nuts (yes, even peanuts and peanut butter) without issue, but macadamia nuts are not among those. They are one of the most potentially dangerous human foods for puppies to eat. If consumed in even small amounts, macadamia nuts can cause neurological symptoms like weakness, vomiting, walking "drunk," tremors, lameness (especially in the rear legs) or even a complete (but temporary) inability to walk. If you have a puppy, pick another nut to snack on, at least until you can train it not to eat your snacks. Read about more potentially harmful foods in our guide to dangerous people food for pets.
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Chemical products like antifreeze and bleach are present in almost every home, but they must be stored securely in a safe place where puppies can’t access them. Antifreeze is particularly dangerous because of its sweet taste, which makes it especially attractive to curious puppies searching for tasty treats. It only takes about a tablespoon of the stuff to do enough damage to kill a 10-pound dog. Be sure that all chemical containers in your home are sealed and put away.
12 Puppy Plaguesdogs decoded
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