Make Your Gardens and Lawn Safe for Pets

Celebrating the Seasons

From April 2008 E-newsletter

Make Your Gardens and Lawn Safe for Pets

Garden products can be harmful to pets, so always take precautions to keep your animal companions safe. Some pesticides — and even some fertilizers — can be hazardous if they are ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the pads on the animals' feet. Follow these guidelines to protect pets (and wildlife).

  • Consider least-toxic alternatives. Use corn gluten herbicide to control crabgrass. Insecticidal soap is an effective and safe way to treat many insect pest problems. However, note that even organic alternatives can be toxic to pets so use all lawn and garden products with care.
  • Read and follow the directions on product labels. Check caution statements. For example, pesticide labels may tell you to keep pets away from plants for 24 hours after application.
  • Mix and apply solutions carefully. More is not better, and a too-strong concentration of a pesticide or fertilizer can harm plants as well as pets.
  • Store fertilizers and pesticides in their original containers, making sure the covers are on tight. Store in a secure area inaccessible to pets.
  • Choose nontoxic plants, especially around puppies and other pets that like to eat plants.
  • Use cocoa mulch with care; some pets are attracted to the scent and will eat it. Like chocolate, cocoa mulch can be toxic to pets.
  • Use only products labeled for your type of pet. Don't use human sunscreen on a dog, for example, or dog flea-control products on cats.

In particular, keep pets away from:

  • Slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde (choose a safer iron phosphate bait instead)
  • Poison baits used to control rodents
  • Citronella products
  • Mosquito repellants containing DEET

Common symptoms of poisoning include:

  • Muscle tremors, seizures
  • Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Excessive salivation and licking the mouth
  • Swelling (commonly seen with insect bites and stings)

If you suspect a poisoning, call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately. Note the type and quantity of the suspected toxin as well as all the symptoms your pet is exhibiting. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so.

Learn more at the National Animal Poison Control Center's What To Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned Web page.

The Animal Poison Control Center offers a free Pet Safety Pack which includes an Animal Poison Control Center magnet with the APCC's emergency number and Web site address.

Watch for next month's newsletter, where I'll provide a list of poisonous plants that pets should avoid. Be prepared to be shocked.

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