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Veterinary Medicine

Watch for lawn and garden mainstays that may be hazardous to furry friends

August 21, 2013
By Dr. Camille Torres-Henderson

Summertime is a great time for gardening, yet some products that make your garden beautiful might be harmful to your pet.

Puppy in flower garden.Here is some information that will help you take precautions to protect pets.

Fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides

When label instructions are correctly followed, these products are typically safe after being applied to your lawn and garden.

There have been some reports of increased risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers exposed to herbicides and insecticides, however further research is needed to confirm a causative relationship.

To avoid problems, store products safely away from pets, and follow label instructions closely.

Cocoa bean mulch

This type of mulch, also called cocoa shell mulch, is popular because of its appearance and fragrance. The mulch is made with the shell of cocoa beans and contains compounds that are found in chocolate.

Of interest to pet owners are the compounds theobromine and methylxanthine. These can be toxic to dogs if ingested.

Some manufactures treat their cocoa mulch to remove these compounds.  Yet the safest practice is to avoid using this type of mulch in areas where dogs will be unsupervised.

Grass awns and foxtails

Several grass varieties have spikelets or spikelet clusters that hold plant seeds and mature in late summer. The barbed bristles on these spikelets help seeds penetrate the soil. These are often unwanted plants in home gardens – and they are definitely unwanted for pets.

The barbed bristles can be very damaging to pets, as they may migrate into the nose, ears, feet, coat, and throughout the body.

It is best to keep pets away from areas where this grass growing. When that is not practical, inspect your pet carefully to find and remove any hidden seeds. Be sure to check paws, and between the toes.

If you find a foxtail that cannot be easily removed, or if you notice signs of irritation, swelling, or infection, be sure to take your pet to its veterinarian.

Dr. Camille Torres-Henderson is a veterinarian with the Community Practice group at CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The team provides general care, wellness services, and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses for pets.