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Gardening Safety for Pets

Spring is here, and that means it’s time to get outside and work on the garden! Before your green thumb gets busy, however, make sure your garden is pet-friendly. Here are a few things pet owners should avoid having in the garden!

1. Toxic Flowers and Plants
For a full list of toxic and nontoxic flowers, check out the ASPCA plant list. Below are the more common flowers and plants that are toxic to pets:
• Tulips, Daffodils, and Hyacinths
Although beautiful, these flowers contain a bulb that is toxic to pets. If eaten, the bulb can cause stomach irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, lethargy, convulsions, and even heart abnormalities. The bulb could also get stuck in your pet’s GI tract. Leaves and petals are also toxic but to a lesser extent.
• Azalea/Rhododendron
Azaleas are a species of Rhododendron and they contain grayanotoxins. All parts of azaleas and Rhododendra are toxic. Grayanotoxins cause vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness, and lethargy. Severe azalea poisoning can ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.
• Oleander
All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic. They contain cardiac glycosides which cause serious effects including GI tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, and even death.
• Chrysanthemum
These beautiful and popular blooms belong to the Compositae family and contain pyrethrins. If eaten by your pet, this toxin may produce GI upset (drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea). In more severe cases of poisoning, Chrysanthemums can cause lethargy and loss of coordination.
• English Ivy
This plant contains triterpenoid saponins. If eaten, these can cause GI upset including vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive drooling, and diarrhea.
Here’s a guide to common poisonous plants, toxic plants, and pet-friendly plants:

2. Mulch
In general, pets don’t tend to get into mulch, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. There are three major concerns when it comes to your pets and mulch:
1. When pets eat mulch, it can cause GI upset or an obstruction. For this reason, it’s best to purchase a product that has large pieces so your pet can’t easily eat it. We recommend using large bark pieces.
2. Mulch can grow mold which produces “mycotoxins.” When eaten, mycotoxins can be life-threatening, causing muscle tremors, seizures, and a whole host of other symptoms.
3. Many people know chocolate is toxic to pets, so it should come as no surprise that cocoa bean mulch is also toxic. Cocoa bean mulch, made with cocoa bean hulls, has a sweet, chocolatey smell that tempts pets. Cocoa beans contain caffeine and theobromine, which can be toxic to our pets, depending on the amount ingested. The amount of theobromine in cocoa bean mulch is very small, but it is still possible for a dog to eat a toxic amount if the cocoa bean component in the mulch is high. Symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to an elevated heart rate, hyperactivity, stumbling, and even seizures. If you notice these symptoms, bring your pet to the closest animal emergency hospital immediately for appropriate treatment.
3. Fertilizers
Some fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When eaten by our furry family members, fertilizers cause GI irritation. Always purchase pet-friendly fertilizers!

4. Onion, Garlic, and Chives
If your pet eats these vegetables and herbs, he/she may experience GI irritation. These foods can also cause red blood cell damage which leads to a life-threatening type of anemia. While cats are more susceptible to this damage than dogs, dogs can still eat a large enough amount to cause toxicity.

5. Herbicide Monosodium Methanearsonate (MSMA)
This herbicide kills crabgrass and weeds without killing your grass. Arsenic is the toxic compound in MSMA – a deadly GI toxin. Sadly, sudden death is often the only sign of pet toxicity, but other symptoms can include bloody vomiting and diarrhea. If your yard is treated with MSMA, keep pets away until after a good rain.

6. Bone and Blood Meal
These by-products are used as soil amendment products, fertilizer components, or even to repel wildlife. If eaten by your pet, the bone and blood meal can cause GI irritation, severe pancreatitis, and foreign body obstruction.

7. Paraquat (Crisquat, Dexuron X, Gramoxone, Herbaxon, PP-148, PP-910)
Paraquat is used as a herbicide, desiccant, and defoliant. When ingested by pets, it causes severe GI distress and severe lung injury.

Let’s Chat Catnip:
Catnip is safe to grow in your garden. Before you plant it, it’s important to know that the active ingredient in catnip is cis-trans-nepetalactone. This is a mild hallucinogen. Do not give to your cat if your cat has a history of seizures or is an aggressive cat, as catnip can worsen that behavior.

Always check that items you plant or products you use on your garden or lawn are pet-friendly. If you have any questions about a particular item you are considering using, ask your family veterinarian first. If you suspect your pet ate anything toxic and your family veterinarian is unavailable, contact ASPCA or your local animal emergency hospital. We hope you and your pets enjoy some time outside in the garden this summer!

By: Chelsea Wolf, DVM

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