Let your dogs and cats play on your lawn or in your garden, knowing they’re free from chemicals and dangerous tools.
If you are a pet owner, you want to give your cat or dog a pet-friendly yard where they can run around, play fetch and explore the great outdoors — without having to worry about their safety.
But you have to be careful about how you take care of your yard, or your outdoor home improvement efforts could end up making your pets sick, or worse.
From toxic chemicals to dangerous tools, there are many garden hazards that, if not properly stored, can pose deadly risks to dogs and cats, says Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center.
She offers pet-friendly advice on how to make sure your yard is safe for your dog or cat.
1. Keep the garage and shed closed at all times.
“Dogs explore the world with their mouths, and there are numerous items that are commonly kept in garages that could be toxic to pets,” Wismer says. These include herbicides, pesticides, road salt, fertilizer, paint, oil and any other chemical that could make animals sick if they ingest it.
“Cats are also natural-born explorers and like to climb, which could result in fragile or dangerous items being knocked over and broken,” she warns.
2. Avoid chemical rodent killer or keep it locked away.
You may be trying to wipe out pests, but these toxic chemicals can also cause death or serious injury to pets. Common reactions include bleeding, seizures, and damage to the kidneys and other vital organs, Wismer says. “One possible alternative to chemical rodenticides would be the use of live traps to capture and relocate rodents,” she suggests.
3. Choose non-toxic plants and mulch.
Many popular garden plants — like sago palm, rhododendron and azalea — are toxic to cats and dogs, Wismer says. Research the safety of the plants you choose for any garden that will be accessible to your pets before making planting decisions. The ASPCA has a list of toxic and non-toxic plants that can help you out.
4. Avoid animal byproduct-based fertilizers.
Fertilizers made with dried blood, poultry manure or bone meal will naturally attract pets. “Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction,” Wismer warns. Whenever using fertilizer, keep pets off the lawn until the directions say it is safe for them to return.
5. Put tools away when you are done.
The sharp edge of a rake, hoe or tiller hidden in the grass can cut sensitive paws, noses or other parts of a pet’s body. “Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin,” Wismer says. Keep tools safe, clean and stored away when they are not in use, she advises.
6. Don’t leave equipment dangling.
Cats like to climb, and hanging sports equipment, garden implements and construction tools can be especially dangerous, Wismer says. “If they are not secured correctly, they could fall, injuring your pet and whatever is underneath them.”