Common Hazards To Puppies

Updated November 29, 2020

Before I show you the causes of the most serious problems we see in young puppies at my clinic, there’s one thing that you have to do: know where to go.

Plan your route before you need it. This map shows your closest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital in Adelaide.

Also visit our related page on the Ten Tips to keep pets safe.

Fences and Cars

Test your fencing as thoroughly as your puppy will when you leave him or her alone. Go around your fence at puppy level and poke and prod all the weak points with a tool the same width as your puppy’s head. Don’t forget they will dig too, and bend down loose wire! A new section of fencing may seem a ridiculous expense but it’s nothing compared with losing a puppy (and you were probably going to do it anyway!)

Swimming Pools and Ponds

You might think there is no way a puppy will fall in but they are silly, clumsy and inquisitive. Try this experiment: put your puppy on a table surface and stay very close; he or she will almost certainly walk straight off the edge unless you are there to catch.

Securely block access to a swimming pool if you have one, and perhaps sink an exit ramp in the pool on the closest side to the house. That’s where they usually swim. You can also try to train your pup to get out of the pool but there’s no guarantee they’ll do it in an emergency.


Puppies have very weak bones while they are growing and fractures from falls are common. Most falls are from children’s arms, but sometimes even just from beds and chairs. A good rule is to only let kids pick up their puppy if they are sitting on the floor or with an adult, and to avoid letting puppies get on furniture.


Make no mistake. Parvovirus is common in parts of Adelaide. The virus stays infectious in the soil for long periods in our climate. To protect your puppy:

  • Don’t let your puppy go in public areas where any dog could have visited.
  • Only let your puppy play with known, vaccinated dogs on private property.
  • Get your puppy fully vaccinated as soon as possible. This is at 10 weeks of age. Then at 11 weeks your puppy will be protected and can go out.


Snake bite is not often a problem in backyards unless there is a lot of long grass and rubbish for snakes to hide in or you live near parks, farms or bushland. Clean up rubbish and other ground cover and control mouse and rat populations to reduce the attractiveness of the area to snakes. Be careful when in unfamiliar surroundings. If a bite is suspected immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

Read all about snake bite signs and treatment here.

Bee Sting and Spider Bite

Bee stings in puppies cause severe and life-threatening reactions. Signs can include swelling, collapse, vomiting, or shock. Facial swelling is a good clue to the origin of the problem. Spider bite can cause similar signs and also require attention.

If bee or spider envenomation occurs, visit us straight away. Neither bees nor spiders should cause death if your puppy is seen quickly by a vet.


There are NO tick problems in or near Adelaide. You will often see tick paralysis discussed on national pet shows but you do not need to worry unless you live in or travel out of the Adelaide region.

Ingestion of Foreign Bodies (non-food items)

Puppies will often swallow things they enjoy chewing which then block the small intestine. This is the commonest cause of severe vomiting in a puppy.

Common items to beware of include corn cobs, satay sticks, cooked bones, icecream sticks, meat wrapping, underwear and broken or chewed fragments of toys or household items. The solution:

  • Be very careful in keeping rubbish bins and used clothes out of reach
  • Only buy good quality puppy toys and dispose of them if damaged
  • Any other chewable items such as shoes & kids’ toys should be packed away

Car Accidents and Injuries

Puppies not restrained in cars are dangerous both to drivers and themselves. The best and safest thing to do is either:

  • Put them in a cat carrier (if they fit!) and put the carrier in the foot well or between the seats so it can’t move in an accident.
  • Use an approved car harness. Most models are not strong enough in an accident; we only recommend the Petlife Roadie Seatbelt as featured in our safe car travel page.
  • Get a passenger to restrain them. However, although this will make driving safe it may not protect your puppy if you crash.


Pets who have ingested any possible poison require immediate attention within 30 minutes to induce vomiting before the toxin is absorbed. This includes human medications and recreational drugs such as marijuana.

Puppies love to chew anything. If they get access to household cleaners or chemicals, you can be sure they will have a great time chewing open the container. The same applies to loose blister packs of tablets which seem to be especially fun to chew. Then, of course, there is the chocolate someone leaves on a bench thinking here is no way the puppy can reach it.

Read a list of the poisonings we see in Adelaide here and the top 20 fatal poisons here. There is no alternative to keeping these things securely locked away.

Poisonous Plants

We like to remind puppy owners that every normal backyard has at least one poisonous plant. Most have several. The trick is to prevent access until they learn what not to chew up. This is another reason why young puppies are best not given full access to a yard when not being observed.

Common Adelaide examples include English Ivy, Agapanthus, Azaleas, Oleander and White Cedar Check your garden plants at Toxic  & toxic plants.

Toadstools and compost are also extremely dangerous.

Human medications

Human medications are one of the most common and dangerous poisonings we see on a regular basis. Almost any medicine used by a person is toxic to a puppy simply due to the body size difference.

Even if the medication is used safely in dogs, the difference between a 2kg puppy dose and an 80kg human dose means your puppy might receive 40 times the safe limit.

Many common medications are exquisitely dangerous to dogs. Top of the list are the anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Nurofen® and generics), naproxen, Voltaren® etc. These cause permanent severe kidney damage and a single tablet can easily kill.

Some bright spark thought it was a good idea to sugarcoat most human pills. It is a good idea to put your puppy out of the room if you take a medication as they will pounce on any dropped pills before you can get to them.

Dog Bites

Puppies are silly and don’t know the rules. They’ll run straight up to any dog, jump on them and even eat their food and take their toys. While most dogs will back away and just look unhappy, a few will react badly.

Puppies need to be closely supervised around other dogs. To avoid aggression, remove food and treasured toys and be prepared to give older dogs ‘time out’ to relax away from the puppy. Reward the older dog when they behave well, and always treat them as ‘top dog’.

When dogs bite, the teeth create punctures and then the skin moves with the jaw as it closes. This means the surface wounds look small, whereas there is usually a large amount of tearing and damage under the skin. If your puppy is bitten, you should visit the vet within six hours. This is the ‘golden period’ before infection sets in.

Our page on safe dog park use with puppies strongly advises you not to use them until at least 6 months of age.

In conclusion, these are just the more common hazards. Your puppy is going to be silly enough find all sorts of trouble. However, I can reassure you that with proper supervision, deaths are very, very rare.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.