ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center experts field tens of thousands of calls each year involving animal companions who've had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed killers and pet-toxic plants. "Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you've stepped outside," says Dana Farbman, pet poison prevention expert. "Protecting your pet from potential hazards in your yard is just as critical." Here are things you should watch out for. Special to the Times
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 affect the heart. Go to www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/ for a list and photos of toxic and non-toxic plants for your garden.
Just like you, plants need food. But 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 result in a life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.
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.
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 disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poison. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas.
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 fruits and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats.
Fleas and ticks
Since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it's important to keep those lawns mowed. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a variety of complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis.
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. Store all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.
Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets have allergies to foods, dust and even plants. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can even cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock if the reaction is severe. If you do suspect your pet has an allergy, please don't give him any medication that isn't prescribed by a veterinarian. It's also smart to keep your pet out of other people's yards, especially if you're unsure of what kinds of plants or flowers lurk there.