Green thumbs, not green pawsGardening and Your Pet Things to be Mindful of. 

                    By: Bob Baker, DVM   

Dogs and sometimes cats can spend quite a bit of time outside and sometimes conflicts between your landscaping and gardens will arise with the family pet.

Probably the most common complaint we get is that the dog’s urine is killing the grass, creating those familiar brown spots in the lawn.  There are companies that market supplements to change the dog’s urine pH and composition to prevent this and my advice about these products is that they are a waste of time, money, and potentially dangerous for your dog.  The problem with dog urine killing grass is not so much with the dog urine but the lawn itself.  The waste products in the dog urine are very concentrated, almost like too much fertilizer for the grass to process.  The solution to the problem is to over water those dead patches of the grass, soon you will have very green patches in your lawn.

Another problem with pets and our yards involves intoxications or poisonings.  Probably the most common of where the beloved family dog or cat reverts to it’s natural instincts and finds a dead critter to chew on and eat…or even a live one to hunt down and feast upon.  This actually is most often the least dangerous intoxication, generally some gastrointestinal distress, a little vomiting and 24 hours of diarrhea and the problem has passed so to speak.  On occasion, we may need to treat these guys if the clinical signs persist.

Chemical intoxications from herbicides, pesticides…especially the rodent poisons are potentially the most serious for pets.  The herbicide 2-4-D has historically been implicated as a cause of cancer, specifically lymphoma in the dog.  Other herbicides, for example Roundup are reportedly safer alternatives, but common sense would dictate to minimize exposure to such products.  Insecticides such as disulfoton are extremely toxic to dogs.  Products such as ant bait traps however, are generally safer choices. The rodenticides such as D-con (anticoagulant poisons) essentially cause the victim to bleed to death internally, clinical signs may not show up for days after ingestion so my advice for anticoagulant poisons…if you have a dog, don’t have anticoagulant poisons around…they will find them and get into them.  Zinc Phosphide is another rodent poison that is highly dangerous, not only to rodents, but dogs, children, and veterinary staff that treat the poisoned individual.  Metaldehyde or snail bait is not used around here as we really have a minimal snail and slug problem, but again a very dangerous substance, poisoned individuals are call “shake and bake” because of the tremor, seizure, and high body temperature that kills rapidly.  If you are getting my point as a veterinarian, please don’t have these products around your pets.  If you need to use such products, I would recommend hiring a licensed and bonded professional exterminator.

Most basic fertilizers are not particularly dangerous, but can cause gastrointestinal distress, and rarely central nervous system signs. Again, avoidance of exposure is key.

We also have to be careful about the plants we choose in our landscape, some are toxic to pets, and things you would not even think of like grapes in dogs, and lilys in cats can be potentially toxic.  A full listing of poisonous plants is beyond the scope of this discussion but listings are available on the internet.

One last thought involves the use of power tools around your pet.  Generally lawnmowers, weed trimmers, rototillers, chainsaws, etc. do not mix well with pets.  Put them away in a safe place while using such devices.