Spring is in the air, and so are some hidden dangers lurking in your yard that could be deadly to your four-legged family members.
You know when warmer weather is approaching by the constant puppy-eye look begging for more time outside. And with thrills of chasing squirrels and warding off the mail carrier comes more danger from the ground they guard.
March is National Pet Poison Prevention Month and also offers an excellent way to help educate pet owners on the dangers of accidental pet poisonings and how to prevent them.
10 year-old Border Terrier dog, Jess, enjoys the sunshine in a country garden, England. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Every year the Animal Poison Control Center with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals compiles its data from the calls received about pets exposed to toxins and releases the top 10 categories of potential poisons.
One-tenth of those calls were related to indoor and outdoor plant ingestion. Rodenticides, insecticides and garden products were also most frequent.
Avoid toxic plants
Many common plants can be harmful to pets like azaleas, rhododendrons, yews, English Ivy, daffodils and tulips.
"Bulbs of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths can cause all sorts of issues from gastric upset to heart problems for our dogs," said Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety.
If your dog likes to dig, you should keep bulbs out of the landscape.
Lilies will also start growing soon, and they are exceptionally toxic to cats.
"Their leaves, flowers, pollen and stems can cause kidney failure," Wolko said. "Easter lilies will also be available at your local stores for those that celebrate the holiday. If you have cats, you won’t want to bring lilies home."
Mulches and landscape invaders
"Some wild mushrooms are toxic, and yet somehow our dogs are attracted to dangerous fungi," Wolko said.
If you see mushrooms growing in your yard, remove them promptly. Plants with thorns can also harm paw pads and result in eye issues.
Horticulture agent Dennis Patton of the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension recommends using natural wood mulches and avoiding cocoa mulches. Dyes can also cause issues depending on the pet.
Fertilizers, pesticides and compost
Springtime fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used to boost blooming for flowers or lawn applications can be harmful to pets.
The chemicals can irritate your pet’s paws or nasal passages, or if ingested, they can be toxic.
"In some cases, when you’re not certain, it’s best to rinse and dry their paws at the end of the walk. The company that manufactures or applies these chemicals to your lawn should have material safety data sheets and guidance for those that have pets," Wolko said.
You might consider avoiding using such chemicals if possible or using alternative controls.
"Make sure you secure the lid to any compost bins around your yard to keep pets out and potentially consuming materials in the bin," Patton said.
Spring is also the time of year when neighbors may put out poisons for rodents.
"If your pet consumes a poisoned rodent, they too ingest the toxic substance. Be vigilant and inspect your surrounding yard and walking path frequently," Wolko said.
Contact your veterinarian or emergency vet if you suspect that your pet has ingested a poison or toxic plant.
Ticks, misquotes and fleas
As spring arrives, keep the grass mown and remove any weedy growth and leaf litter around the yard. These conditions can increase tick and flea populations. You should also avoid any standing water which breeds misquotes.
Besides the obvious in providing plenty of fresh water and shade, you need to establish boundaries with pets and adequately train them to respect the landscape.
Patton suggests shielding or protecting any prized or toxic plants from pets and providing a safe space for play and exercise.
"Create pathways in the garden for pets, and you are a must," Patton said.
Another area worth creating is an outdoor potty area using pea gravel which acts as kitty litter for your dog. It drains well and won’t wash away in the rain or blow away in heavy winds.