Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are full of toxins that are harmful to dogs and cats. Using safe natural methods to keep your lawn and garden growing is one of the best things you can do to keep your companion healthy.
Now that spring is here, everyone with a green thumb will soon be scrambling to groom their garden and grow their grass. Unfortunately, many people turn to toxic pesticides, herbicides and harsh fertilizers to maintain their lawns and gardens. These chemicals are harmful not only to wildlife, but also to your dog or cat, as well as your human family. The good news is that you can opt for natural alternatives that are safer for you, the environment — and, of course, your pet! So ditch those pesticides and herbicides and try these safer approaches instead.
Dogs and cats love to sniff, eat and roll in grass, or explore garden foliage. If the grass and plants have been sprayed with a chemical, the residues end up on their coats and skin, and get into their digestive and respiratory systems. So it’s important to seek products that won’t harm your animal’s health.
Espoma Naturals is just one company that offers a line of natural organic lawn and gardening products that are safe for people and their pets. “Using animal-friendly products on lawns and gardens is a part of ‘petscaping’, which uses natural elements to create an environment that’s safe for animals,” says Jaime Brunner, the Espoma’s Brand Manager. “Organic products keep paws free of harmful garden or lawn chemicals that can easily be ingested or tracked into homes.” These chemicals then end up on your flooring and furniture, where they can be absorbed and inhaled by you and your human or animal family members. Reaching for organic options, on the other hand, keeps everyone safe.
“Using animal-friendly products on lawns and gardens is a part of ‘petscaping’, which uses natural elements to create an environment that’s safe for animals.”
When shopping for a natural lawn and garden product, be sure to read the label carefully. Just because something includes the word “natural” on the packaging doesn’t necessarily mean it is. If you’re in any doubt, visit the manufacturer’s website for more information, or contact them for details on the ingredients they use in their products.
If you have the time, making your own garden boosters is a great way to ensure a pet-friendly result. Here are a few easy DIY solutions to common gardening problems:
Garlic pesticide spray – Most bugs don’t like the taste of garlic, so using this spray on your plants will help keep pests at bay. Roughly chop an entire bulb of peeled garlic and add it to a blender with two cups of water. Puree until smooth, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain out and discard the pulp, and add another three liters of fresh water to the garlic water. Pour into a spray bottle, and lightly coat the leaves of all your plants.
For added insect-repelling action, add a few teaspoons of unscented castile soap and a dash of cayenne pepper to the garlic water. A few drops of high quality food-grade peppermint essential oil will also help ward off pesky pests, and help cut the garlicky smell of the spray. None of these ingredients are harmful to pets in small amounts, so you don’t have to worry if they sneak a taste!
According to veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton, catnip and cedarwood essential oils are also great options for repelling bugs. But no matter which oil you choose for your homemade lawn and garden blends, it’s important to ensure they’re pure, therapeutic-grade products. “Using poor quality essential oils on your plants is similar to spraying them with air freshener,” says Dr. Shelton. “Not only is this bad for your garden, but it’s also bad for your pets!”
Scrap food fertilizer – Composting leftover food has been a trusted gardening trick for many years – and it’s easy to do. Rather than tossing vegetable and fruit waste in the trash, store it in a separate composting container. When it’s full, add a few nitrogen-rich dead leaves, and till it into your soil!
Certain scraps such as eggshells, banana peels, orange peels and garlic don’t need to be composted to help your garden grow. Simply dig a hole next to your plants and bury these food items to deliver valuable nutrients to the roots.
Keep in mind that while rotten grapes, onions, apple cores with seeds, used coffee grinds and discarded tea bags make great fertilizers, they are harmful to pets and should be kept out of your compost.
Salt and vinegar herbicide – Salt and vinegar make a delicious chip flavour – but did you know this combination is also a safe way to combat weeds? Stir half a cup of salt into a cup of hot water. Once the salt is dissolved, add a cup of white vinegar and pour the blend into a spray bottle. Too much salt isn’t good for your soil, so do your best to apply it directly on the weeds only. If desired, add a few drops of clove essential oil – another effective herbicide.
Mother Nature’s medicine
While natural homemade and purchased products are great ways to keep your garden and lawn looking good, never underestimate the power of nature itself! It’s also important to focus on helping your lawn and garden thrive on their own.
Learn about your plants’ individual care requirements, aerate your soil, and cut your grass to an appropriate length; experts recommend keeping grass around 3” high to protect the surface roots and soil.
If your yard still isn’t thriving, consider experimenting with beneficial nematodes. These microscopic worms help prevent insects from eating your plants. Nematodes can be purchased at most garden centers, and are easy to integrate into your yard’s ecosystem. Simply mix them into water and spray where desired.
Signs of toxin exposure
Synthetic garden and lawn chemicals can be a primary contribution to the numerous toxins our pets are exposed to on a daily basis. Through ingestion, absorption and inhalation, these dangerous pollutants can lead to serious health problems in dogs and cats, including skin irritation, respiratory complications and nausea.
If you notice some or all of the following signs and symptoms of toxin exposure, contact your veterinarian.
- Muscle tremors
- Excessive drooling
- Constricted pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of balance
- Difficulty breathing
This gardening season, be mindful of the methods you use to maintain your yard. It’s healthier for you, your plants and your pets!
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.