Your pup probably loves to romp and play outdoors. But is your garden safe for your four-legged family members?
Sunshine, fresh air and room to run make outside a fun place to be. But, while your dog plays, you want to be mindful of dangers that could be looming in your garden. From certain types of flowers to the mulch and fertilizers you use to keep your lawn and garden healthy, it’s important to know what’s safe and what could be harmful to your pets.
“In a pet emergency room, it’s common to see dogs coming in because of something they ingested from their owner’s lawn or garden,” says Dr. John Gicking, a board-certified specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care at the BluePearl Specialty + Emergency Pet Hospital in Tampa.
You may find it surprising to learn that one of the most common garden dangers for dogs is actually an aromatic variety of mulch. Cocoa mulch, known for its rich chocolate-brown color and nutritional benefits for soil, is toxic to canines. It contains cocoa bean shells and various chemicals that can make a dog sick if ingested, just as if he had eaten too much chocolate candy.
Unfortunately, the chocolate aroma appeals to many dogs, making cocoa mulch a huge threat in the gardens of pet families. Cocoa mulch ingestion can lead to:
While cocoa mulch may look appealing, dog owners may want to choose a safer alternative such as dirt, stones or mulch made from shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark.
Keeping your garden healthy and beautiful can be a lot of work. Many people turn to fertilizers to help feed their lawns and gardens. While they can work wonders for your plants, those fertilizers can spell trouble for your pup.
While commercial fertilizers may provide nutrition for plants, they contain harmful chemicals which are toxic to dogs. Your dog can accidentally consume these chemicals when they are sprinkled on the lawn or garden just by running and playing outside and then grooming himself.
While even small amounts can cause issues, you want to keep your pet away from fertilizers altogether. When a pet consumes larger amounts of fertilizer, like when they find the bag in storage, it can become a life-threatening situation.
“Be aware of when you apply fertilizers and pesticides and how your store them,” says Dr. Gicking. “The key is to minimize your pet’s exposure to them.”
Signs that your dog consumed fertilizer include:
Organic fertilizers sound safe. But surprisingly, many of them are actually more dangerous. Organic or “natural” fertilizers often contain various “meal” leftovers from the farming or meat industries. These products, such as bone meal, blood meal, feather meal and fish meal, are attractive to dogs, but unhealthy for their digestive systems.
Signs and Complications include:
Flowers add color and beauty to any garden. But before you begin planting, keep your pets in mind. Some common garden flowers can pose dangers. According to petMD, the following common plants are poisonous to dogs:
You’re probably not growing any mushrooms in your lawn or garden intentionally, but every once in a while, they still pop up. While many are harmless, there are some mushrooms that can be dangerous or even deadly if consumed by your pets. For many homeowners, it can be very difficult to distinguish the harmless from the dangerous.
The Amanita family of mushrooms is one of the more commonly found, but harmful mushrooms. This family includes the “death cap” and gives off a fishy odor, making them tempting to dogs. Other dangerous mushrooms include the Lepiota and Galerina families.
Dr. Gicking says that the best method is simply to play it safe. “If you see mushrooms growing in your yard or garden, you want to remove them.”
Always actively supervise your dogs when they are outdoors. If your pet ingests a harmful toxin in the garden, seek immediate emergency veterinary care. If you know that they ate something harmful, bring a sample of the substance with you.
It’s great to get outside with your dog. The fresh air and exercise is good for both you and them. If you want to keep your pup happy and safe, create a lawn and garden that’s as pet-friendly as it is beautiful.
For questions about outdoor pet safety, please contact your family veterinarian or a BluePearl Pet Hospital near you.