Tips for a Pet-Friendly Yard

Spring is here! With the weather finally warming up and the flowers in full bloom, your backyard quickly becomes a private oasis. Though it’s a perfect place to relax, play, and entertain, there are certain dangers for our furbabies. It’s our job as pet parents to ensure our furbabies have a safe and comfortable place to rest, play, explore, and potty.  Hazardous encounters with gardening tools, insecticides, weed killers, and toxic plants could mean a trip to the emergency room for our furry companions. Here are some things to keep in mind while gearing up for spring.

  1. Avoid toxic plants. When designing or landscaping, remember that many plants are hazardous to pets. Azaleas and Rhododendrons may be beautiful, but they are toxic to dogs and cats; as are Sago Palms and other members of the Cycad family. Wild mushrooms can cause liver failure, while Rhododendrons, Lilies of the Valley, Oleander, Azaleas, Rosebay, Kalanchoe, and Foxglove can affect the heart.  However, African Violets, Snapdragons, Crepe Myrtles, Zinnias, Hibiscus, Petunias, and Sunflowers are all pet friendly.
  2. Avoid insecticides. It goes without saying that insecticides are not for pet or human consumption, so take extra care to store them out of reach of pets and children. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, systemic insecticides that contain disyston or disulfoton, fly bait with methomyl, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide, and most forms of rat poisons. If you must use them, make sure your dog cannot access areas where you’ve spread chemicals until they’ve dissipated. Consider pet-friendly options such as insecticides with acetamiprid, nitenpyram, lufenuron, or spinosad.
  3. Keep fertilizers away from pets. Fertilizers and plant food help to keep your garden healthy and green, but they can harm your pet’s digestive tract. Pets who ingest large amounts of fertilizer can experience upset stomach and may suffer life-threatening gastro-intestinal issues. Follow all instructions and wait appropriate time periods before allowing your pet to come in contact with fertilized greenery.
  4. Keep compost out of reach. Food and garden waste can enrich the life of your soil but can harm your pet. Coffee, moldy food, and some fruits and vegetables, as well as stems, seeds, and leaves can be toxic to your pet.
  5. Avoid cocoa mulch. Like chocolate, cocoa mulch can pose a threat to our pets. It is a by-product of chocolate that is often used for landscaping. Depending on the amount ingested, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, increased heart rate, and seizures. Consider using cedar, shredded pine, and hemlock bark instead.
  6. Safely store gardening tools. It may not seem like a big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes, trowels, shears and blades pose a threat to children and animals. Rusty and/or sharp tools are potential tetanus and puncture hazards. Remember to clean up after yourself and safely store tools in a shed or garage.
  7. Keep fleas and ticks in check. Ticks and fleas love to hide in tall grass and overgrown brush, so it’s important to keep lawns short and brush trimmed. Fleas can cause scratching, scabs, hot spots, hair loss, tapeworms, and even anemia from potential blood loss. Ticks can cause similar issues and have the potential of spreading diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and Babesia. Flea and tick treatment is an excellent way to keep your pet safe during peak pest season.

Remember to always read pesticide, fertilizer, and mulch ingredients and instructions carefully. Always supervise pets while in your yard. Take it upon yourself to do what you can and research plant and fertilizer options that are safe for your pets. Enjoy the great outdoors!