Make your puppy's first Christmas the safest it can be

Picture your puppy on Christmas morning, experiencing all those new sights, sounds and smells for the first time.

Their first Christmas is sure to be like nothing they’ve ever known before.

But with all this excitement comes lots of hazards that could cause your puppy harm and, unfortunately, our vets see a huge increase in pet emergencies over the Christmas period.

But don’t panic, with some preparation you can ensure your puppy’s first Christmas is one you’ll never forget, for all the right reasons.

If you’ve welcomed a puppy into your home this year, here are a few things you should know to make sure they stay safe before, during and after the big day.

Image of a puppy in front of a Christmas tree for Vets Now article on puppy's first Christmas

1. The Christmas tree is a hotbed of hazards

It’s hard to imagine Christmas without a tree but are you aware of all the dangers it presents to your puppy? Tinsel is like sparkly spaghetti to some dogs – they’ll eat the lot, blissfully unaware of the emergency surgery they might need if it causes an obstruction in their stomach or intestines. Salt dough ornaments can cause potentially fatal salt toxicity if eaten, chocolate decorations are poisonous, tree lights can result in electrocution if chewed, glass baubles can shatter and sharp pine needles can injure their mouth and stomach.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. You can prepare for these dangers when you know they exist. So, place a suitable guard around your tree arrangement this year to keep your puppy at a safe distance. This way you can enjoy the decorations and protect your pup at the same time.

2. Santa’s treats should be kept up high

If you’re planning on leaving a few mince pies and a glass of whisky out for Santa this year make sure there’s no way your puppy can get a hold of them. Mischievous pups won’t know that these tasty treats are reserved for Santa – or that scoffing them could make them seriously ill.

Alcohol is extremely toxic to dogs and even a small amount could cause serious harm, while mince pies contain raisins which can cause kidney damage, as well as sugar and fat which can cause stomach upset. So, before you go to bed on Christmas Eve, double check that the treats are well out of your dog’s reach.

3. New people can be scary

While you might be expecting fewer visitors than usual this Christmas, the presence of any new people in your home over the festive period could be overwhelming to your dog – especially if they haven’t had the chance to meet many new people this year. Make sure your dog has a comfortable safe space to take themselves off to if the noise and excitement gets too much and they need some alone time.

You should make sure your guests know how to keep your puppy safe too. Ask them to keep food and drink out of your dog’s reach and not to feed them anything without your knowledge. They should also keep their bags out of the way so your curious pup can’t rummage through them.

Image of a Jack Russel puppy sitting on a chair in front of a Christmas tree for Vets Now article on puppy's first Christmas

4. Mind the packaging

Opening presents on Christmas morning is one of the highlights of the day, but once you’ve ripped open the wrapping paper and admired your gifts be sure to pop the packaging out of reach of little paws. Scraps of paper and bits of ribbons might look like the perfect playthings to your puppy but eating a large amount could cause an obstruction in their stomach. Little silica gel packets commonly found in packaging are a hazard too, so be sure to keep an eye out for these and get rid of any you find.

Packaging adhesive can also cause problems. If you’ve ever felt the glue on some online delivery packages you’ll know how sticky it is – just imagine if your pup got their teeth into it. Our vets have even seen cases of dogs’ teeth being stuck together after nibbling on a parcel.

5. Play it safe with toys

Your puppy’s first Christmas is bound to include presents, but make sure the products you choose are safe. Toys must be tough enough to withstand your pup’s boundless energy and razor-sharp teeth, and anything they could accidentally swallow and choke on should be avoided. Never give your dog bones as they can damage their teeth, cause intestinal obstruction and splinter, piercing their mouth or digestive tract. Whatever you decide to get your dog for Christmas, always make sure you’re around to supervise when they’re playing with their new toys. We’ve drawn up a list of dog gifts to avoid.

6. Careful at Christmas dinner

The incredible smells coming from the dinner table might drive your pup to distraction but resist the urge to feed them scraps off your plate. There are lots of human foods that are toxic to dogs and could make your puppy unwell. Alcohol, chocolate, onions, garlic and blue cheese are just some of the hazards you might have on your Christmas dinner table, among many others.

But even foods that aren’t toxic to dogs should be treated with caution as introducing new food into your puppy’s diet all in one go could give them an upset stomach.

It might be tough but, by not giving in to those puppy dog eyes, you could be saving your puppy from spending Christmas night in one of our pet emergency clinics.

Image of a spaniel puppy asleep under a blanket for Vets Now article puppy's first Christmas

7. Change your Christmas routine

If your Christmas routine typically involves sliding from the dinner table to the couch for a post-dinner nap you might need to alter it slightly this year. Before you settle down to relax, make sure anything that could harm your dog is out of reach. Any leftovers should be put away, boxes of chocolates you might usually have lying around should be out of reach and drinks should be in a safe place. Even new toys should be removed if your puppy won’t be supervised. After all the excitement, your puppy will probably need a nap too.

8. Get rid of leftovers

What could be more interesting to your inquisitive puppy than a bag of tasty food scraps? If they manage to get their teeth into it, they might think you’ve left the best present till last. But your rubbish on Christmas day may be filled with serious hazards, from cooked bones, and leftover toxic foods to sharp tins and glass. Avoid any emergencies by bagging your rubbish and taking it outside right away.

9. Have a plan

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, pet emergencies still happen, so it’s wise to have a plan in place just in case. If your puppy is unwell over the festive period when your daytime vet is closed, our teams will be here for you in more than 60 clinics across the country. Click here to find your nearest Vets Now clinic and save our number in case you ever need us.

If you’re looking for some advice on caring for your puppy this Christmas, you can video chat with our vets from the comfort of your home.

Find lots more pet advice on our Christmas hub.