What Should I do?


With spring having arrived and the weather finally starting to warm up, a great number of people have started to rake the leaves and clean up their front lawns. If you are out walking your furry friend you should expect that there will be fertilizer, weed control and other various agents spread on a homeowner’s lawn and boulevard.


Commercial lawn fertilizer should be applied only as directed on the container and should be kept away from your pet. Applying more fertilizer than directed can actually harm your lawn, but more importantly, can cause serious harm to your pet. After any fertilizer has been applied, be it on your own or anyone else’s property, it is recommended that you keep all pets away from the treated area for at least 48 hours.


Some fertilizers are considered “safe” for your pet to walk on after they have dried, but what happens if your pup decides he wants to have a little snack and starts eating the grass? Also, depending on the type of fertilizer used, it can transfer to your pup’s paws and cause irritation. Alternatively, after a rain or early in the morning when the grass is wet, there is even more likelihood of fertilizers sticking to your pup’s paws causing irritation and, in turn, having your pup lick his paws to try and eliminate the irritation. If you don’t wash your pup’s paws and belly immediately after he has been out frolicking in the grass, it’s possible that he will ingest some of the chemicals that have been applied to the grass.

Also, remember that your pet uses his nose all the time and can breathe in the chemicals contained in commercial fertilizers. So, to be safe, if you see that someone has recently had their lawn and boulevard fertilized or tilled and you’re not certain what was used, keep your pet away from the area. As a further precaution, wash his paws as soon as you get back home.


If a “weed and feed” type of fertilizer has been used, you can never consider them safe, even after they have dried for a few days. These types of fertilizers, if ingested or inhaled by your canine companion, can cause many diseases and intestinal problems.


If your pet has been exposed to any type of fertilizer and is reacting to it, you will notice symptoms such as diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, vomiting or lethargy. If symptoms are severe, do not wait but take your dog immediately to your vet or an emergency animal hospital.

Another common product that is used in treating lawns is pesticides such as slug bait. It’s made with an agent which, if ingested by your pet, can cause seizures or even be fatal to your furry friend. These types of pesticides taste good to your pup and you should be very careful that, if used, your pup should not have access to the area. Pesticides should always be stored in an air-tight container in a shed or other safe spot, well out of reach of your dog.


Herbicides that are used in a large number of lawns and gardens are not quite as dangerous to your pets but can still cause your pup to get sick and experience vomiting and diarrhea. If your pup is a senior or has any type of compromised immune system you should be even more cautious. Remove any toys, water bowls, etc. from the area before applying a herbicide. Keep your pet away from any treated area until the grass is completely dry before allowing them access to the outside and the area you have treated. Once the area is dry, it is considered that the chemicals have reached the roots of the plants and therefore “animal safe”.


Something else you should avoid using or letting your pets have access to is cocoa mulch. This mulch is made from the shells of cocoa beans and has a faint “chocolate” smell which can be very tempting to pets. If your pup ingests the mulch it can be very toxic and cause poisoning. After mulch has been applied, the smell will dissipate within a few weeks from exposure to the sun and heat and will also decrease the chance of any poisoning.


When using any products on your lawn or garden, always read the labels carefully. You should also be very careful of “organic” fertilizers which can be more dangerous to your pet. These products usually contain bone meal, fish meal or blood meal, all of which taste and smell good to a dog. When something smells and tastes good, your pup will be even more tempted to ingest as much as he can and, in large amounts, this can cause your pup to be quite sick. If you suspect your pup has ingested anything or is showing signs of sickness, take him to your vet to be assessed and treated.


Lastly, as it is spring, remember to see your vet and get your pup started on a Flea and Tick control medication. There are various products available and your vet will give you what he thinks is best for your pet. Ticks are already very active and can carry lyme disease so it’s important to protect your precious family member.


So enjoy the spring, warmer weather and longer daylight hours with your family and furry friends.