Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

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Garden and outdoor dangers

Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

Puppies seem to love eating things they shouldn’t in the house, and being outdoors is no different. From scavaging scraps, to eating slugs, snails or even poo, there are many garden and outdoor dangers which can impact your puppy’s health.

A dirty issue

As disgusting as it may seem, some puppies will eat poo. There can be a number of reasons for this, it may simply smell of food to your puppy and it can actually taste good! However, sometimes puppies can learn the behaviour, if they have got into trouble for pooing in the house they can learn that eating poo is an effective way of hiding the evidence! In a similar vein, they will have noticed you rushing to clean up poo and of course eating it is the most effective way for them to imitate this.

Even when we have a better understanding of these reasons, it is certainly a behaviour to be stopped. As well as disgusting us it can be a harmful, eating the faeces of other dogs risk the transmission of disease: an unwormed, unvaccinated dog can transmit intestinal worms and parvovirus. This is why, as well as preventing your puppy eating poo, up-to-date vaccinations and robust worm control are so vital.

On the hunt

Many puppies chase other animals like squirrels, rats or the neighbour’s cat, and many will root through a carcass if they find one. Both should be discouraged and training is needed.

Carcasses carry a risk of bacterial infection, leading to unpleasant but temporary vomiting and diarrhoea.

A dog chasing live wildlife is a problem too. When you’re out for walkies with your pooch, it’s a good idea to have some distraction techniques up your sleeve. A tennis ball for a game of throw and fetch, or a tug toy can help redirect attention away from the real chase. However, the best solution is to return to recall training, see our top tips for recall training here.

Remember, dogs are naturally pack hunters, so unless the pack leader gives the signal to hunt it is natural that an individual dog running off on his own would be reprimanded.  So while chasing a squirrel may seem like a natural canine behaviour, training your puppy not to is also ‘natural’.

Scavenging scraps

Scavenging from bins can be a serious risk. Puppies and adult dogs can suffer from bowel obstructions from cooked bone fragments and corn husks. Mouldy food can pose a risk too as it can cause a neurological problem called mycotoxicosis, which requires emergency veterinary intervention.

The ultimate remedy to bin-rooting is training so that your puppy understands that “find it” means “this is something to seek out”, while “leave” means the reverse.

Garden nasties

Lungworm, carried by slugs and snails, is more of a risk in spring and summer, but mild, wet weather can mean that these pests stick around late into the year. Make sure you know the warning signs of lungworm infection (a chronic cough, difficulty breathing, weight loss and lethargy). Ensure your dog’s vaccinations and worming are appropriate and always up-to-date and speak to your vet if you are in any doubt.

Some dogs like snuffling for acorns, which you should discourage – they contain tannic acid and may cause damage to the liver and kidneys. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, lack of appetite and lethargy. Conkers cause less serious stomach problems, but both can create intestinal blockages which require veterinary attention. See our article, what puppies shouldn’t eat for more details.

Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

Brian graduated from Edinburgh Vet School in 1995 and worked in mixed practice before studying for an MBA at Nottingham Business School in 2000/2001. After setting up and developing numerous veterinary practices in Suffolk in the 2000s, Brian was awarded the Petplan-UK Vet of the Year in 2008 after having been runner-up in 2007. Brian is currently the Petplan Pet Insurance media and PR vet and works in his own small animal veterinary practice 3 days a week. During his 20 year career Brian has worked in over 250 veterinary practices as a clinician, consultant and confidence coach.

Puppy of the week


  1. Stanley Stanley on 18 September 2019 at 12:59

    Stanley likes to eat baby mice that my cats bring home for me. Can this be harmful to Stanley.

    • on 2 October 2019 at 11:16

      Hi Lesley,
      Charlotte from Petplan here, we have spoken to Brian Faulkner our resident vet. Brian advises that it’s no more harmful for a dog to eat mice than a cat. Good luck with Stanley.


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