The winter is over at last. You can finally get outside, start working in your yard, and begin enjoying your garden again. Your dog is probably just as happy as you are about being outside. But as you retrieve your gardening tools and supplies, there are suddenly all kinds of hidden dangers in your backyard, waiting to hurt your dog.
Do you know which items in your backyard can be hazardous or even poisonous to your pet? And do you know how to make sure Fido stays safe when he’s spending time outside? Read on to make sure you’re aware of all the things in your backyard that can be problematic for your dog.
1. Your fence
Wait a minute. Isn’t your fence supposed to keep your dog safe? It should, but some types of fences can actually be dangerous for dogs. Vetinfo reports that though fences are necessary, so-called “invisible” fences can be painful for your dog. And electric shock fences can also malfunction, resulting in burns or electrocution. (PETA is against these kinds of fences, too.)
But a more standard kind of fence can also be dangerous for your dog. As Whole Dog Journal notes, some dogs dig under or chew through fences. That can result in injuries for your dog and, obviously, your dog escaping. The solution? Make sure your fence goes at least 6 inches deep. Use mesh to line a fence that your dog wants to chew through. And most importantly, don’t leave your dog unattended in a fenced yard for hours on end.
2. The sun
Everybody loves a sunny day, including your dog. But you wouldn’t let your kids play outside in bright sunlight all day with no protection. And you shouldn’t let your dog do so, either. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. These conditions can have fatal consequences. So it’s important to provide plenty of shade (and fresh water) when your dog is playing outside. And believe it or not, dogs can get sunburned. Dog Guide notes canines can develop skin cancer. Again, make sure your yard has shady areas where your dog can get out of the sun.
3. Your pond or lake
Do you live on a lake or have a small pond in your backyard? The views are probably great. But the algae that might live in the lake or pond water can pose serious dangers to your dog. Pet Poison Helpline reports that blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, produce toxins that affect both dogs and humans who swim in or drink from contaminated water. You can find this algae in freshwater lakes, streams, and ponds. Blue-green algae grow and form “blooms” that give the water a blue-green appearance (hence, its name). Even small exposures can result in fatal poisoning. If you suspect a body of water might be contaminated, the only safe course of action is to keep your dog away from it.
4. Your pool
Your dog isn’t automatically safe if you have a pool, not a pond. PetMD reports the small amount of chlorine in your pool likely won’t poison your dog. (Of course, you should make sure all pool chemicals, including chlorine tablets, are securely stored.) Drinking chlorinated water might cause some irritation. But the consequences typically aren’t severe. The biggest health risk associated with pools? Drowning. Not all dogs are good swimmers. You should always supervise your dog. And never assume just because a dog instinctively knows to paddle, that keeps him safe from drowning.
Dog owners might think it’s harmless for their animals to play fetch with sticks. But that assumption couldn’t get further from the truth. The BBC reports that according to veterinarians, playing with sticks can cause all kinds of injuries. Your dog can get a splinter in his tongue. And in the worst-case scenario, a stick could pierce your dog’s tongue, or a piece of the stick could injure a vital organ if he swallows it. A dog can even impale himself on a particularly sharp stick. Sure, dog toys can get expensive. But they’re a much safer alternative to sticks when you want to play with your dog.
6. Your grill or fire pit
You wouldn’t fire up the grill or start a bonfire in the backyard if you weren’t confident any small children in the vicinity would stay at a safe distance. So you should also proceed cautiously if you have a dog in your backyard. A grill with burgers or hot dogs on it will probably smell pretty tempting to your dog. So you’ll need to keep a close eye to protect him from getting burned. The same goes for a fire pit. Plus, Scientific American reports the particles in wood smoke can get in your eyes and respiratory system. You know the dangers. But your dog doesn’t. So make sure you look out for his safety the next time you have a fire in the backyard.
A good fertilizer helps your lawn and all of the other plants in your backyard grow, but most types of fertilizer pose at least some level of danger to your dog. According to The Nest, most fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in concentrations strong enough that they can cause gastrointestinal irritation in your dog. Nitrogen can even burn the pads of your dog’s paws. Some fertilizer manufacturers offer products that are “safe” for dogs. But even those products can still contain compounds that will hurt your dog. You should keep your dog off treated grass for at least 24 hours — or forego the fertilizer.
8. Organic fertilizers
It’s not just the standard commercial fertilizers that can harm your dog. Organic alternatives can be toxic to Fido, too. The Pet Poison Helpline explains bone meal and blood meal, both organic compounds that gardeners use to naturally increase the nitrogen content of their soil, “can be just as poisonous” as commercial alternatives. Your dog might like the taste of these fertilizers, but they can do some serious damage. Blood meal can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe pancreatitis. And bone meal ingested in large amounts “forms a large cement-like bowling ball foreign body in the stomach — which can cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract — resulting in possible surgery to remove it.”
9. Your compost pile
Composting offers an attractive alternative to buying commercial or organic fertilizers. But as Pet Poison Hotline reports, your compost bin or pile can be toxic to your dog. The reason why? “These piles of decomposing and decaying organic matter and molding food products have the potential to contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, which are toxic to both pets and wildlife.” Make sure your compost bin is secure or your compost pile is appropriately fenced off. And be sure you don’t compost any dairy or meat products.
Herbicides, or the chemicals you use to kill weeds and control unwanted plants in your yard, can be extremely dangerous to your dog. In fact, a study in the 1990s linked herbicides to lymphatic cancer in dogs. And Mother Nature Network reports the chemicals also increase your dog’s risk of developing bladder cancer. Your dog can be exposed to these chemicals even if you don’t use them, but your neighbor does. Plus, your dog can track the chemicals into your house, where you and your children can come into contact with them.
11. Insecticides and pesticides
Products that help control insect populations and other pests are also pretty unsafe for your dog. PetMD reports exposure to insecticides, even those that control fleas and ticks, can be toxic to dogs. Poisoning can cause symptoms, ranging from fever and diarrhea to seizures and respiratory failure. The Pet Poison Helpline notes most pesticides and insecticides function as basic irritants to dogs. Most don’t pose a huge poisoning concern unless your dog directly ingests the product. However, some kinds of pesticides can react with other chemicals and are life-threatening for your dog to consume.
12. Flowers and ornamental plants
Every gardener who’s also a dog lover knows some plants are dangerous to dogs. But you probably didn’t know exactly how many popular plants are toxic to your canine. You can check out the ASPCA’s extensive list for all the details (and how to puppy-proof your garden). Some common plants to watch out for? American holly, azaleas, begonias, boxwood, buttercups, chrysanthemums, daffodils, dahlias, daisies, elephant ears, and English ivy all make the list. And we aren’t even halfway through the alphabet.
13. Your vegetable or fruit garden
Even if you’ve checked that all of your ornamental plants are safe for your dog to be around, you might not be off the hook yet. Many of the plants in your vegetable garden can also hurt your dog. The AKC notes the green parts of a tomato plant are poisonous to dogs. And according to the AKC’s list of toxic plants, apple trees, cherry trees, chives, fig trees, garlic, grapefruit trees, leeks, lemon trees, mint, onions, orange trees, peach trees, rhubarb, sweet peas, and tarragon can also poison your dog. Make sure when you plant fruits and veggies for human consumption, you confirm they won’t hurt your dog.
Many gardeners use mulch to keep weeds under control. But you might want to think twice about your annual mulch delivery if you’ve added a furry friend to your family. Gardening Know How explains many dogs like to chew on and even eat mulch. But that can be pretty dangerous. Cocoa mulch, specifically, contains an ingredient called theobromine. The compound smells great to your dog but is toxic to him. Other types of mulch, such as those made from pine, cedar, and hemlock, are less toxic to dogs. But they still pose a choking hazard. Dogs can also have an allergic reaction to mulch. So you should always supervise your dog carefully.
You probably don’t go out of your way to cultivate fungi in your backyard. But you might not do anything about them when you see mushrooms popping up, either. You’ll definitely need to be vigilant if mushrooms tend to grow in the parts of your yard that your dog can access. PetMD reports mushrooms are a common hazard for dogs. Of course, there are many different kinds of mushrooms. Some contain more toxins, or more dangerous toxins, than others. Your dog’s symptoms will depend on the kind of mushrooms he eats and how much he eats. But when you spot mushrooms in the yard, you should remove them.