Lawn and Garden Poisons
Can Harm Your Dog

Do you use lawn and garden poisons to keep your grass weed-free and your plants free of disease and pests?

If you do, your dog's health may be suffering.

Gardening is a multi-billion dollar business in North America, with billions more being spent around the world.

Chemical biocides — herbicides, insecticides and disease inhibitors — and synthetic fertilizers are used by millions of people.


Lawn and garden poisons are designed to do one thing: kill plants, insects and disease microorganisms. Unfortunately, they can also damage animals, including pets.

The best way to protect your dog is to stop using these lawn and garden poisons. North Americans are obsessed with having their lawns absolutely weed-free.

If they observe a single dandelion or other "weed," out comes the herbicide. If they see aphids on the roses, out comes the insecticide.

Unfortunately, these lawn and garden poisons often kill the beneficial insects and microorganisms that might have kept the problem under control.

Synthetic Fertilizers

Millions of pounds of synthetic fertilizers are used every year to keep lawns green and flower gardens blooming. Unfortunately, these synthetic NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, or phosphate, and potassium, or potash) fertilizers create a dependence that is hard to break.

Billions — yes, billions — of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and others) thrive in one teaspoon (5 ml) of soil.

Their ongoing lifecycles are the true generators of fertility. They convert minerals to forms that plants can use.

When they die, they decompose and become food for other organisms, or add to the buildup of humus in the soil. They add to the soil's tilth, improving it every day.

Synthetic fertilizers kill off many of these microorganisms. This leaves the soil sterile and increasingly dependent on the fertilizers.

This dependence is also bad for your dog. Why? Because he could get into a bag of fertilizer, or even lick some off the ground. In addition, he's closer to the ground than we are, and doesn't wear shoes. Some chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, or licked off later.

A large amount might very well be fatal. Smaller amounts will, at the least, lead to stomach upset, and possibly to more serious consequences.

Protect Your Dog

You can protect your dog from these lawn and garden poisons. The following is a list of actions you can take to keep him safe while in the yard.

  • Stop using biocides, especially the organochlorines and organophosphates. I don't recommend the use of organic biocides either. Rhotenone and pyrethrum are toxic, so it's best to avoid these lawn and garden poisons as well.

A few well timed weeding sessions (especially before flowers go to seed) will reduce the number of weeds in your lawn and garden. (If the weeds are seed-free, throw them in your compost, or add them to your gardens under the mulch.) In the garden, mulches help keep weeds under control.

However, do not use cocoa bean hull mulches. Just like chocolate (see Toxic Foods for more on chocolate poisoning), they have chemicals that are toxic to dogs, and fatal to cats, although cats are unlikely to eat these mulches.

Insects attack plants that are weak. You can grow healthier plants by ensuring they have the nutrients they need (see below). You can also use insect traps and pheromone traps (which lure male insects to a sticky death, leaving the females unfertilized).

Diseases also attack plants that are weak. You can make your plants stronger by improving the soil with compost.

Compost tea has been shown to reduce the incidence of disease. You can make your own or buy compost tea concentrate, which you then mix with water. Spray it on your plants as an immediate immunity booster. Re-apply on a regular basis, every few weeks, or sooner in rainy or damp weather.

  • Stop using synthetic fertilizers. You can make your own compost, or buy composted manure from a garden centre. Compost adds billions of fertility-promoting microorganisms to your soil, and improves the texture of the soil.

Mulches will add some fertility to the soil, in the form of carbon. Please note, however, that as the mulches break down, they use up nitrogen, so be sure to add compost below the mulch layer. As I mentioned above, do not use cocoa bean hull mulches.

  • Let your grass grow longer in the warm, dry months. The shorter the cut, the more stress to the grass plants. During the lush early and late season months, the grass can overcome the stress.

In the hot summer months, this stress takes its toll, weakening the plants and giving disease and weeds a toehold.

Another option is to get rid of your lawn entirely. Consider using groundcovers that are less time- and resource-intensive. Or increase the size and number of garden beds.

  • Using compost, mulches, traps and compost tea, and weeding your lawn by hand are labour-intensive activities. You may not want to do them. You can still protect your dog from lawn and garden poisons by keeping him in the house, or in his dog run, for the period of time recommended on the bottle or package you're using.

Do not spray lawn and garden poisons on windy days. They may drift to where your dog is located. If he's restrained, he'll be unable to escape the spray coming his way.

If you hire a company to do your yard work, or to spray lawn and garden poisons, follow their instructions about letting your dog outside. There are companies now that specialize in ecologically safe lawn care management, so you can avoid many of these issues.

Following these guidelines will keep your dog safe from lawn and garden poisons in your own yard. You can't control what your neighbors do, however. If you know they use poisons, keep your dog safe by keeping him in your yard. The best way is with a fence.

See add a fence or restraint system to prevent him from reaching the treated area.

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