Garden Hazards for Pets

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"I see it all the time in my clinic in the springtime,” says Dr. James Cook, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals get into fertilizers and pesticides—those used on a home or on a farm—and they make the animals sick.”

Organic consumers already know about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, which can be toxic for pets. Even when these chemicals aren’t lethal, long-term health concerns exist. Studies indicate their use may be tied to increased rates of specific cancers in dogs. If your pet is exposed in a park or neighbor’s lawn, immediately wash him with soap and water and call your veterinarian.

Lawn fertilizers—even the organic kind—can be toxic, as well. Store fertilizer in an area far from where your dog or cat (and your children, for that matter) can reach it. After fertilizing your lawn, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how long to wait before allowing your pet into the area.

Cocoa bean mulch, with its fragrant shells, is becoming a popular garden aid. But chocolate products, whether edible or in mulch form, are highly toxic to dogs.

As for specific plants and flowers, oleander, azalea, yew, foxglove, rhododendron and kalanchoe may cause heart problems if ingested. Lilies, one of the most common spring flowers, are extremely toxic to cats. Cats will often chew them, and even small amounts can lead to kidney failure and death.

Rhubarb makes a fine pie, and it's a staple in many vegetable gardens. The leaves, however, are poisonous and can cause kidney failure.

“People need to be aware of these potential hazards,” says Dr. Cook (right), who treats pets in Lebanon, KY. “Along with better weather, spring brings with it the use of a number of common lawn chemicals and the blooming of plants that can be hazardous to pets."

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Photo courtesy of AVMA/ARA

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