Undertaking the Dog Friendly Backyard

Undertaking the Dog Friendly Backyard

Undertaking a Dog Friendly Backyard

Did you know that there are many plants and products for plants that are harmful or toxic to dogs or can be harmful to dogs in other ways?  Making your backyard safe for your dog may come with a price tag.  The price might be eliminating a prized plant or a way of tending your yard or even what you have been applying to your yard to help it grow so beautifully.

Many plants are toxic to dogs, and for that matter, to humans.  Additionally, many plant parts can also be inhaled and cause internal damage.  By being aware of what you plant, and being cautious as to which products you apply to your yard (as well as how you apply them), you can have a beautiful lush yard while maintaining a safe environment for your dog.

There are many toxic plants to mention all of them here. Just be aware that many landscape plants have toxic parts or toxic sap.  Some examples of common toxic landscape plants are foxglove (Digitalis), Lilies, Wisteria, Yew, Lantana, Privet (Ligustrum), Clematis, Juniper berries, English Boxwood, Holly berries, Rhododendron, Oleander, Azalea and Daffodils.  These are just a few of the commonly seen plants frequently sold in local nurseries.  I am not suggesting that you avoid these plants; they are beautiful and extremely useful in many areas of the country.  I am simply suggesting that one should be aware that they could pose a problem if ingested by a dog. 

Many weeds are also toxic.  Nightshade, Yellow or curly dock, and milkweed are three common weeds that can have deadly outcomes if eaten.  Weeds seeds can get into almost any orifice of a dog and that can potentially result in death.  Weed management should be a priority for any property owner whether it is a small yard or a larger property.  At the very least, weeds should be mowed down to reduce their negative impact on dogs. 

Many of the plant growing products such as fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides can be detrimental to dogs, so one should use these products with care.  The first and foremost rule is to store these chemicals appropriately.  Storing chemicals properly is a common safety procedure for companies, but not as common for private households.  Dogs are inquisitive animals, and when bored, can get themselves into serious trouble by getting into household yard products.  Store these products in a cabinet, which can be closed  and locked, or in a separate building, away from where dogs frequent.  This safety procedure will prove useful in preventing accidental exposure to your dog.

We must also take care that, when applying dangerous products to our yards, exposure to dogs remains minimal.  Insecticides can cause death to a dog when ingested full-strength.  A dog can even develop seizures, (an attack on the central nervous system), due to ingesting from very diluted sources, such as drinking from puddles of water that contain insecticide residue!  A pattern of life-long seizures can develop as a result of exposure to yard care chemicals.  

 While most herbicides are known to be safe to animals and humans, however there are some known to be dangerous.  Glyphosate, (an broad-spectrum herbicide), toxicity can:   disrupt the function of enzymes of animals, cause salivary gland lesions, inflamed stomach linings, effects in reproduction, liver tumors and thyroid cancer.  The surfactant, (a chemical substance added to reduce the surface tension of a liquid-making the chemical more absorbable), for glyphosate is even more acutely toxic than the glyphosate itself. Both ingredients in this herbicide are of concern.  The manufacturers’ recommend allowing the product dry thoroughly before permitting humans or dogs access to the area of application.

There are a number of studies suggest that, some yard care chemicals, may actually remain active for a month or longer. One of the issues related to the manufacturers’ recommendations, is the lack of understanding with respect to the nature of a dogs’ feet.  A dog’s paws are significantly more absorbent than human hands.  Thus, they can more readily and completely absorb what you have applied to your lawn.  If trying to minimize weeds in your back yard, manual removal may be the desired avenue.   There will be no chemicals to worry about but there will be more work on the homeowner’s part.

According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), it is unknown if common fertilizers are acutely toxic, a carcinogen, or an endocrine disruptor.  PAN does know that common fertilizer is not a cholinesterase inhibitor.  That is good news for those who like a nice, lush, green lawn.  Care should still be taken when using fertilizers.  A dog will most assuredly become ill if fertilizer is eaten.  At the very least, after fertilizer is applied, be sure to water in well.  This saturation will drive the fertilizer down the grass (or plant) blade and to the soil, where the dog is less likely to find and eat it.

From watching out for toxic plants, to storing yard care chemicals properly undertaking a dog friendly backyard is a challenge.  Keep weeds to a minimum and eliminate the unfriendly ones.  Reduce the frequency of applying insecticides and herbicides and not only will your pocket book be happier, so will your dog.  Everyone should avoid direct contact with all yard care chemicals.  When in doubt, call a veterinarian.

This article has been written as information only.  Seek a veterinarian immediately if chemical toxicity is suspected.


Submitted by:Stephanie Summers


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