Pet-friendly gardening tips


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Spring is the season to get your hands dirty — in the garden, we mean. It’s easy to get caught up in all the veggies and flowers blooming around you, but if you have four-legged friends running underfoot, it’s crucial to keep them safe around the foliage.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Poison Control Center experts field tens of thousands of calls each year that involve pets who have come into contact with insecticides, weed killers and pet-toxic plants.

“Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you’ve stepped outside,” said Dana Farbman, APCC pet poison prevention expert.

Not sure what could harm your favorite furballs? We’ve got the top gardening dangers to keep away from your pets:

Toxic plants
Some plants, while fine for humans, can be toxic to your pets. Sago palm and other members of the Cycad family, and mushrooms can cause liver failure. Rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe all affect the heart.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the top pet-toxic plants are:

1. Autumn Crocus
2. Azalea
3. Cyclamen
4. Kalanchoe
5. Lilies
6. Oleander
7. Dieffenbachia
8. Daffodils
9. Lily of the Valley
10. Sago Palm
11. Tulips and Hyacinths

But fear not; there is plenty of safe foliage you can choose. For example, PetMD recommends the burdock herb for an outdoor garden. This plant is known to treat allergies and digestive and kidney issues. Other good choices are milk thistle, peppermint, Astragalus herb, wheat berries and barley grass.

For a full list of toxic and nontoxic plants from the ASPCA, click here.

Ingesting fertilizer can do major damage to the digestive tracts of our pets, from an upset stomach to life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Follow the instructions on your chosen fertilizer and wait the appropriate amount of time before letting your pets run around outside.

Gardening tools
Because our pets like to put their noses in all kinds of business, don’t forget about your garden tools. Rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can cause trauma to paws, noses or other body parts. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt can cause tetanus if they puncture skin. Make sure to store all unused tools in a safe, inaccessible area.

Such insecticides as herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are dangerous for our pets if consumed. The most dangerous forms? Snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients Di-Syston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide, and most forms of rat poisons, according to the ASPCA. Always keep pesticides in inaccessible areas and follow the label for proper usage and storage.

Certain items you’re throwing into your compost can be a danger to your pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so make sure you’re aware of people foods to avoid feeding your pet.

Allergy-causing flora
Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause anaphylactic shock if the reaction is severe enough. If you think your pet has an allergy, don’t give him medication that isn’t prescribed by a veterinarian. And keep your pet out of other people’s yards, as you don’t know what kind of plants are growing there.

Fleas and ticks
It’s important to keep lawns mowed and trim, since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots, tapeworms and anemia from blood loss in cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a variety of complications, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Babesia.

Cocoa mulch
A byproduct of chocolate production, cocoa mulch has an attractive odor and color, and attracts dogs with its sweet smell. Ingesting cocoa mulch can cause vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and seizures. Use a less toxic alternative — such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark — but always watch your dogs if you spread mulch on your yard.