Fall Lawn Care Tips: How to Create a Pet-Safe Yard

Man holding leaf blower
iStockphoto
Don't blow leaves toward your pet. Some leaf blowers can blow leaves and debris at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.

With a few weeks left before winter begins to settle in, many gardeners are taking final passes at their lawns and gardens. No reason the yard shouldn't shine right up until the first snowfall, right?

When you're a pet owner and animal lover, though, there are several things to keep in mind to help keep pets safe as you go about your gardening and lawn care this fall.

1. Equipment

You've seen your dog go crazy barking and chasing leaves when a gust of wind comes through, so maybe you think it would be even more fun to create that gust of wind yourself by blowing leaves at him with your leaf blower.

But don't do it! Some leaf blowers can blow leaves — and whatever other debris might be hiding within those festive piles — at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, which means that objects caught within the gusts could hit your pup with considerable force.

2. Chemicals

When it comes to choosing which chemicals to use on your lawn and garden, it's important to note which are pet safe (and which are likely to attract a curious dog or cat). For example, dogs often love to eat fertilizers — the organic ones in particular. Fertilizers typically have a low degree of toxicity, but if you suspect your pet ate fertilizer, call your veterinarian.

Herbicides, which are used to kill weeds or grass, can also pose problems if not used safely. For best (and safest) results, follow the directions for the correct dilution of liquid products; for granular products, follow the recommended application rate, water them in and allow the product to dry. Any spilled granular materials should be swept up, and in the case of liquids, puddles should be diluted with water. Once the lawn is clean and dry, pets can be allowed back out, but if your pet ingests an herbicide, watch for drooling and vomiting. If signs are more than mild, contact your vet.

Insecticides can be harmful to pets, so read and follow label directions closely. As with herbicides, keep pets off the lawn and out of the yard until any products that have been applied are dry, and dilute any spilled products. If ingested, insecticides can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors or worse, so if you believe your pet ingested or came into contact with an insecticide, call your veterinarian immediately.

Snail bait typically comes in two options: an iron-based type, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea that may be tinged with blood; and metaldehyde, which is especially dangerous to dogs because they enjoy the taste. It can cause vomiting, muscle tremors, seizures and death. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your pet ingested either type of snail bait.

Man cutting wild mushroom
Thinkstock
Wild mushrooms can be poisonous to cats and dogs. Be on the lookout for any growing in your mulch.

3. Products and Plants

Since there's a time to reap and a time to sow, you might not be planting too many flowers this time of year. However, if you're covering your flower beds with mulch, avoid cocoa mulch, which has a sweet smell and contains caffeine and theobromine (the same substances that make chocolate dangerous to pets). Pets who ingest cocoa mulch can display the same signs as they do after consuming chocolate — vomiting, diarrhea and even muscle tremors and neurologic signs. When possible, take advantage of other, safer types of mulch. And if your pet ingests cocoa mulch, call your vet right away.

With any mulch product, be mindful of mushrooms, which can grow in it and can be toxic to dogs and cats. For the lowdown on which mushrooms are most dangerous, check out our guide to wild mushrooms.

Mushrooms aren't the only toxic item that grows in the yard, of course, so if you're considering planting a fall garden, read up first on which seasonal fruits and vegetables to avoid. Our article on common household poisons is a good start, but you can also refer to the ASPCA's comprehensive database of plants that are and are not toxic to pets.

And, remember, just because a product is organic or a plant is pretty, that doesn't mean it's safe for your pet.

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