Gardens are often thought of as an oasis; a welcome sign of the end of a long and cold winter. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows a serious gardener, that the “perfect” garden could run well into the thousands of dollars and take many hours of do-it-yourself work or even professional help to get it just right.
It’s hard to believe that when you look at your beautiful flowers or weed-free lawn, if you have pets, you have to also wonder if the chemicals you use to get those blooms or keep that lawn weed-free are not killing your pet.
In fact, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s (APCC) experts field tens of thousands of calls each year involving animal companions who’ve had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed-killers and pet-toxic plants, the center reports.
Here is a list of items commonly found in the garden that pet owners may want to pay attention to:
Marijuana : Ingestion of cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and incoordination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma. Not to mention, it is still illegal to grow in many places so it may not be to good for the pet parent either.
Azalea/Rhododendron: Members of the Rhododendron (a gardener’s favorite) family contain substances known as grayan toxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.
Autumn Crocus : Ingestion of colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression.
Fertilizer: Just like all living things, plants need food. But if you have pets, take care; the fertilizer that keeps our plants healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of your pets. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.
Cocoa Mulch: Many gardeners use cocoa bean shells—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping. Popular for its attractive odor and color, cocoa mulch also attracts dogs with its sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our canine companions. Depending on the amount involved, ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and even seizures. Consider using a less-toxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark, but always supervise curious canines in yards where mulch is spread.
Insecticides: Like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides and all chemicals out of the reach of pets—and read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage and storage.
Compost: You’re doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earth if you’re composting! Food and garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you’re tossing in the compost bin, they can also pose problems for pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so make sure you are using a compost bin that your pet can’t get into.
Fleas and Ticks: Since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it’s important to keep those lawns mowed and trimmed. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a variety of complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Garden Tools: Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet’s body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don’t appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in a safe area, not left where they could hurt your pet
Most importantly don’t let your pet roam in your neighbor’s yard. Not only will this anger your neighbor, but it could put your pet at risk for being poisoned by something he may get into there.