How to Plant a Pet-Safe Garden This Spring
A flat of begonias? Check. Rose food? Check. Crabgrass killer? Check.
A lot of planning goes into designing a beautiful garden, but there's one consideration that many pet owners tend to neglect: Are all those blooms and garden goods really safe for your dogs and cats? Unfortunately, many things that help to produce gorgeous gardens can also make our critters very sick.
Even Organic Can Be Dangerous
Here are just a few organic substances that can be toxic to animals:
Blood meal This is exactly what it sounds like: ground-up animal blood. So is it any wonder that it brings out the predatory nature in your pet? Ingesting too much blood meal can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis. Some blood meal may also contain dangerous levels of iron.
Bone meal For some dogs, the next best thing to a steak bone is ground-up animal bones. The problem is that once it's swallowed, the bone meal can turn into a hard ball and obstruct the digestive tract, potentially requiring surgical removal. By the way, steak bones and other animal bones are also dangerous for pets, in part because they can puncture or otherwise damage the stomach or intestines.
Compost Dogs often find moldy organic matter hard to resist, but it can contain mycotoxins, which can lead to hyperthermia, vomiting and seizures if ingested. To prevent this from happening, keep your compost area fenced off to protect pets and wildlife.
Cocoa mulch There’s nothing like the chocolaty scent of cocoa mulch roasting in the sunshine for some canines. Although most of the poisonous methylxanthine is removed during processing, it still contains theobromine and caffeine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. Bottom line: Opt for cedar or pine chips instead.
Pretty Might Be Poisonous
Although restaurants have been known to garnish plates with edible petals, many garden plants are off-limits to pets. Some of these garden-popular picks include tulips, hyacinth bulbs, daffodils, crocuses, lilies of the valley, sago palms, azaleas, foxglove, clematis and rhododendron.
And certain varieties of lilies can be extremely toxic to cats, in particular, such as tiger, Asiatic, day, easter and Japanese show lilies. If your kitty ingests even a small amount of one of these plants, it could end in kidney failure.
For a more extensive guide to toxic plants, check out the ASPCA's Pet Poison website.
If It Kills Pests, It May Be Bad For Your Pets
Garden stores are chock-full of pesticides designed to keep varmints out of your flower patch, but many of these products are extremely dangerous for pets, causing everything from vomiting and seizures to internal bleeding and even death.
Products that are especially problematic include:
- Slug and snail bait, particularly those containing metaldehyde
- Mole and gopher baits made with zinc phosphide
- Insecticides with disyston or disulfoton
- Most rat and mice poisons
- Fly bait containing methomyl
A Heathy Lawn May Have Hidden Hazards
Fertilizers and weed killers can cause digestive problems in dogs and cats, and far worse if they contain organophosphates or carbamates. While walking your dog, keep him off treated neighborhood lawns until the applications have fully dried.
Since your pets may be frolicking (and potentially digging) in gardens other than your own, it’s a good idea to keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control phone number handy: 888-426-4435.