Warmer weather is finally here, and just as many of us will be spending more of our time outdoors, so too will our pets. Whether it’s in our own yard, a park, or a neighbor’s yard which your dog may enter while you are out on a walk, you can help to insure the safety of your pet by familiarizing yourself with the potential poisons that you may encounter.
We all enjoy a beautifully landscaped yard, but when you are designing your green space, please keep in mind that not all plants are safe for your pets. Some of the most common toxic plants are: Amaryllis, Azalea, Calla Lily, Daffodil, Daisy, Elderberry, Elephant Ears, Eucalyptus, Foxglove, Hens-and-Chicks, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Iris, Jimson Weed, Jonquil, Lily-of-the-Valley, Morning Glory, Nightshade, Poinsettia, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Rhododendron, Rhubarb, Tomato Leaves, Tulip, Wisteria and Yew. If your pet ingests a plant that is poisonous, first remove any remnants from your pet’s mouth and save it for identification purposes for your veterinarian. Then, wash out your pet’s mouth with water and check for any irritation, swelling or discoloration. If your pet is vomiting, has excessive drooling, diarrhea or seizers, or if your pet is unconscious or acting lethargic, and you suspect he/she has consumed a poisonous plant, seek veterinary care immediately.
Mulch and Compost
Cocoa mulch is popular for its attractive color and odor but it is highly toxic for pets. This mulch is a byproduct of chocolate and its sweet smell can be very enticing to pets. Ingesting cocoa mulch can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, seizures and other neurological problems, and if consumed in large enough quantities, can even cause death. Pets should also be kept away from your compost pile. Although composting is great for the environment, make sure your compost pile is in a secure area and safely away from your pets. Moldy food, coffee and a variety of other foods can be toxic to your pets.
Fertilizer, Weed Killer and Insecticides
Fertilizer, weed killer and insecticide can all be helpful in producing a lush green lawn and a beautiful garden, but they must all be used with caution. Fertilizer and week killer can be especially problematic to your pet’s digestive tract and consumption may even result in a life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Most product labeling cautions to keep your pets off of the treated areas until the product is dry, but other safety experts recommend keeping your pet off of the treated area for at least 24 hours. Like fertilizers and week killers, insecticides can also be quite harmful if consumed by pets. Snail, fly, mole, gopher, mouse and rat baits are all toxic to pets. If you choose to use these items, manufacture labels should be read and followed carefully to ensure the safety of your pets. If you find that any of these products have been consumed by your pet, call the Pet Poison Center at 888-426-4435 and immediately seek veterinary care.
Garden tools can also be a safety hazard for our pets. Rusty, sharp tools or those that are stored with contaminated dirt still on them can pose a risk to an overly curious pet. After use of all garden tools, make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and stored safely away from your pets.
Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, wasps/hornet/bees and some spiders can all be harmful to your pets. The best protection from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes is to have your pets on monthly flea, tick and heartworm preventative year-round. For spider bites, clean the area with hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine or povidone iodine. If your pet develops a rash, fever, chills, diarrhea, is vomiting, or becomes lethargic, seek veterinary attention immediately. If your pet is stung by a wasp, hornet or bee, carefully remove the stinger by wiping it off/out with a credit card, knife or fingernail. DO NOT use tweezers. Next, apply a paste of baking soda and water to the area, and then apply an ice pack to relieve any swelling. Benadryl (the regular one, not the one for sinus relief – 1mg. per pound of body weight) can also be helpful in alleviating any swelling. Most stings are not seriously problematic, but if your pet was stung on the head, especially around the eyes, ears, nose or mouth, or has any sort of allergic reaction, fever or low body temperature, wheezing, rapid breathing, trembling, pale gums, vomiting or diarrhea, it is crucial to get him/her to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Multiple stings, especially bee stings, (as a swarm of bees can often be aggressive and pursue you or your pet over some distance), will likely present the worst case scenario. In this case, antihistamines must be administered immediately to prevent shock, maintain fluid volume and protect the various internal organs which may be at risk. Again, in extreme cases such as this, it is best to seek immediate medical attention from your veterinarian.
Summer is a great time to be outside and to share our time outside with our pets. With careful planning and then taking the appropriate safety precautions, the warm weather months can be a safe and happy time for you and your pet(s). Always have your veterinarian’s phone number close at hand, along with the Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435. We wish you and all of your pets a safe and happy summer!
Written by Karen Brown
Development Associate at Wayside Waifs