April showers bring May flowers! Many of us can’t wait to start planting our gardens. By the time July rolls around, we find it quite satisfying to spend time in our gardens and admire our work.
But a beautiful garden can also be toxic for our pets. Mulch, fertilizers, compost material, and certain types of flowers and plants can result in severe illness and even death for your pets. It’s imperative that you do your research before selecting the products that you will use to grow your garden, and choose the types of flowers and plants. It’s also recommended that you watch your pets carefully when they are outside while you’re planting your garden because if they accidentally ingest something, you may find yourself spending the rest of the day at the vet.
Cocoa bean mulch is made of discarded hulls or shells of the cocoa bean, which are by-products of chocolate production. Many dogs simply can’t resist the “chocolate-like” smell and will eat it if given the opportunity. Processed cocoa bean hulls can contain theobromine and caffeine, the two toxins found in chocolate that can cause vomiting and diarrhea for pets, and are toxic to the heart and nervous systems. It can be very difficult to determine the amount of toxins in mulch as it will vary from product to product so careful research should be done.
Cedar and other wood mulches contain essential oils and resins that may cause vomiting and excessive drooling. Wood mulch can cause bowel and stomach obstructions while sharp pieces may also tear the bowels, esophagus or stomach lining. Excessive amounts may produce the same reactions as chocolate poisoning, causing diarrhea, increased heart rate and tremors.
Although many varieties of mulch contain very low amounts of the toxins and are not as dangerous to dogs, those brands with higher toxin concentrations can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Since it can be difficult to determine the amount of toxins in mulch, we recommend that you keep your dog away from it and always supervise your pets while outside. Alternatively, it may be safer to just not use mulch in your garden.
Fertilizers, Soil Additives and Pesticides:
While fertilizers are usually safe for pets, some brands contain blood meal, bone meal, feather meal and iron, which dogs will find very tasty. But these can also be deadly for your four-legged friends. Meal-containing products, when ingested in large quantities, can form a mass in your dog’s stomach and may obstruct the gastrointestinal tract and cause severe pancreatitis. Those products that contain iron may result in iron poisoning. Further, if dogs ingest pesticides and insecticides which contain organophosphates (typically found in systemic rose care products) can be result in death for your dogs. Even a small amount can be very harmful.
Slug and Snail Baits:
Slug and snail baits, available in different varieties – pellets, granular, powder, liquid – contain the active ingredient metaldehyde, which is very poisonous for dogs and cats. Metaldehyde, when ingested, can result in salivation, restlessness, vomiting, tremors, seizures and life-threatening high body temperatures within 1 – 2 hours. It’s imperative that you take your pet to an emergency pet clinic immediately if your pet shows these types of symptoms. Since baits are highly toxic for pets, we recommend that you refrain from using them, particularly, if your pets are outside in your backyard a lot unsupervised.
We recognize that composting is a great step in reducing the volume of garbage that is sent to landfills. However, compost can be very toxic to pets and wildlife so it’s important that you keep it secured and fenced off so that they don’t have access to the material. As organic matter decomposes, moulds can grown, some of which produce hazardous tremorgenic mycotoxins. Animals who ingest mouldy food or compost can become very sick. Symptoms include agitation, panting, drooling, vomiting, tremors and seizures. If you suspect that your pets have consumed compost material, it’s imperative that you take them to a licensed veterinarian immediately for treatment.
Flowers and plants:
There are a number of flowers and plants that can be deadly for pets. We have noted some examples below.
1. Lilies can be deadly to dogs, cats, and rabbits, but particularly for cats. While some varieties cause only minor symptoms, other varieties (Tiger, Asiatic, Easter, Japanese Show and Day Lilies) are toxic because they contain a substance called calledoxalic acid, which is poisonous to pets. The most deadly part of this plant is the root. Even ingesting a small amount of the lily, or being exposed to the pollen or the water in a vase that holds lilies, can result in severe kidney failure. If a cat has consumed any part of a lily, you must seek immediately veterinary care.
2. Daffodils are also deadly to pets. It’s the bulb that is the most dangerous, as it contains toxic alkaloids that cause an entire array of problems, including death.
3. Azaleas are deadly to dogs because they contain a substance called grayanotoxin, which can shut down a dog’s central nervous system.
4. Morning Glory contains seeds that can be highly toxic to dogs. The seeds contain a combination of poisonous chemicals that can result in death.
5. Crocuses, the spring variety, can cause gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea) in dogs and cats. The fall version of the crocus is highly toxic for pets. It causes severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, and organ failure.
6. Oleander shrubs, if ingested by pets, can slow the heart rate, and result in death.
Tips for keeping your pets safe in your garden:
- Check the labels of all plants and flowers before purchasing them to ensure that they are safe for pets.
- Choose pet-friendly plants such as catnip for your garden.
- Be careful when gardening, particularly if your pets are around. Cats and dogs may play with discarded plant material that is harmful for them.
- If you suspect that your dogs is chewing some plant material that is potentially harmful, distract them with a toy or treats. Don’t chase them because they will think that you’re playing a game with them.
- Be careful when using chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers and slug products. Check the labels for warnings related to toxicity for pets. Keep all products locked away, and your pets away from these products if you choose to garden with them.
- If you spray your lawns, keep your pets off of it for 24 hours after it’s been treated.
- Always wipe your pet’s underbelly and paws when you head back into the house after playing outside.
SPECIAL NOTE: Do you know where your nearest emergency veterinarian clinic is? Is there a 24-hour clinic close to where you live? If you don’t know, now is an excellent time to find out. Post the information on your fridge and add it to your cellphone. Don’t wait until you have an emergency with your pet to look for a clinic close to you.
A garden is a beautiful thing. People find gardening very therapeutic, and spending quiet time in your garden is peaceful and provides great rejuvenation for us, both physically and mentally. But one plant or flower can prove to be life-threatening for your pets, so please ensure that you are aware of any dangers and protect them accordingly.