Do a walk through of your yard, and pretend to be your pet. Sometimes this is easier if you take a young child along – they can see with a pet’s perspective much easier than adults!

1. Look for any chemicals – fertilizers, insecticides, paint and gasoline in sealed containers. Make sure these are out of reach of all pets (and kids too!). According to the ASPCA fact sheet on pet-safe gardening, many exposures occur because products were within reach of pets, or pets were allowed onto lawns before treatments were completely dry. ASPCA says the worst incidents include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons.

2. An easy way to make your pet safe in your yard is to commit to organic yard care. Getting rid of the chemicals will go a long way to keeping your pet safe. You can learn how to carry out an organic lawn care here. You don’t need to jump in all at once either. Phase in your organic yard care. Soon you won’t need to worry about exposing pets or kids or yourselves to chemicals!

3. Fleas and ticks lurk in shady edges and wooded areas. It may make sense to fence pets out of risky areas. Plus keep your grass shorter, at a height of 3 – 3.5 inches. The grass needs less water this way. Any shorter and the grass won’t help suppress weeds.

4. Flower and plants create beauty in the garden. Remember thought that dogs and cats are the most curious of creatures – which is part of the reason why we love them! But dogs like to taste new materials. And cats love to nibble plants. Check these websites to make sure the plants in your garden are safe for your pets.

  • Growers Direct – toxic flowers and plants for pets, with plant pictures.
  • ASPCA site – plants toxic to pets with searchable database by plant name or animal species.

5. Composting is a fabulous gardener’s tool but it can be a serious problem for pets. Not because of the food that you put in the compost, but because the mold that can grow on some food items can be quite toxic. To protect your pets, build or use proper composting containers and keep them closed from curious paws. This will also make your compost degrade faster!

6. Standing water can be a breeding ground for parasites, bacteria, worms and mosquitoes. Especially when the weather gets really hot! Pets will drink any water if they are thirsty. First thing, put fresh water outside for your pets everyday, so that they know where to find it. Second, try to remove standing water from your yard. This might mean drainage work or installing a rainbarrel to catch runoff. Ask the folks at your local hardware store for the easiest or best ideas for getting rid of standing water.

7. Garden tools with pointy, sharp edges or blades can harm curious noses and paws. Tools with rust or dirt can post a tetanus risk for pets, especially dogs, if they puncture the skin. cat garden toolRemember to clean your tools and put them away when the work is done. Your tools will last longer that way as well!

8. Think about your garden art as well, from the perspective of your pet. Will they get hurt if they come close to it? In this era of upcycling, saw blades and other pointed objects are appearing in art projects. Is the art rusty or dirty? Tetanus is a risk for dogs especially. If you have garden art that might be harmful, move it so that your pets do not have access to it. That’s a win for everyone!

Based on an article from the Safe Paws site, with additions for pets in Greater Vancouver area. The Safe Paws campaign and the ASPCA both offer some tips for keeping pets safe from sudden emergencies as well as long-term exposure to toxins that might cause cancer.
(1) “Case-Controlled Study of Canine Malignant Lymphoma: Positive Association with Dog Owner’s Use of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid Herbicides.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol 83 No. 17 September, 1991.
(2) “Herbicide Exposure and the Risk of Transitional Cell Carcinoma of the Urinary Bladder in Scottish Terrier Dogs” Lawrence T. Glickman, Malathi Raghavan, Deborah W. Knapp, Patty L. Bonney, and Marcia H. Dawson, (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2004; 24:1290-1297