As the weather gets warmer and us humans start to head outside to check on our spring bulbs, we need be to cautious for our loved ones. Each year poison control companies receive tens of thousands of calls regarding pet exposure to hazardous chemicals used to keep your flowers beautiful. With a little care while planning your gardens, you can enjoy both of your passions this season- while keeping everyone safe! The ASPCA Poison Control Center has provided some expert knowledge on this topic that I am including below. Here is a list of common concerns to think about:
Poisonous Plants: When designing and planting your green space, it's a good idea to keep in mind that many popular outdoor plants—including sago palm, rhododendron and azalea—are toxic to cats and dogs. Sago palm and other members of the Cycad family as well as mushrooms can cause liver failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe all affect the heart.
Fertilizer: Just like you, plants need food. But pet parents, take care—the fertilizer that keeps our plants healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.
Cocoa Mulch: Many gardeners use cocoa bean shells—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping. Popular for its attractive odor and color, cocoa mulch also attracts dogs with its sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our canine companions. Depending on the amount involved, ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and even seizures. Consider using a less-toxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark, but always supervise curious canines in yards where mulch is spread.
Insecticides: Like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren't meant for four-legged consumption. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and read the manufacturer's label carefully for proper usage and storage.
Compost: You're doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earth—you're composting! Food and garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you're tossing in the compost bin, they can also pose problems for our pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so read up on people foods to avoid feeding your pet.
Garden Tools: Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet's body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don't appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.
Now that we have gone over how to keep your pet safe, how about keeping your beautiful garden safe from your pet? We know that our pets have their favorite spots in the backyard, easily pointed out as worn paths in the yard. It is important when choosing a spot for a new garden that you consider an area that will not intrude on your pals lounge spot, as they will be less likely to disrupt the garden. Some dogs just can’t resist digging up your plants, and in that case you should use a low fence or vocal commands to teach your dog about boundaries. Another way to protect your plants is to try the addition of raised beds. This is especially a good idea for new seedlings that you may even step on yourself. Finally, make sure your pup has all of the luxuries that you want to have in your backyard, such as a place to lie in the sun and a hideaway when they need to lay under the bushes or in their dog house to escape for some shade. Enjoy your beautiful gardens!