Monday, July 22, 2013

ASPCA Guide to Pet-Safe Gardening

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experts field tens of thousands of calls each year
involving animal companions who’ve had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed
killers and pet-toxic plants.

"Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you've stepped outside,"
says Dana Farbman, APCC pet poison prevention expert. "Protecting your pet from potential
hazards in your yard is just as critical."

While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal

Our experts recommend you watch out for the following:

Poisonous Plants
When designing and planting your green space, it's a good idea to keep in mind that many
popular outdoor plants—including sago palm, rhododendron and azalea—are toxic to cats and
dogs. Sago palm and other members of the Cycad family as well as mushrooms can cause liver
failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe
all affect the heart. Please visit our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your

Just like you, plants need food. But pet parents, take care—the fertilizer that keeps our plants
healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large
amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in lifethreatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the
appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.

Cocoa Mulch
Many gardeners use cocoa bean shells—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping.
Popular for its attractive odor and color, cocoa mulch also attracts dogs with its sweet smell, and
like chocolate, it can pose problems for our canine companions. Depending on the amount
involved, ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea
and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and even seizures. Consider using a lesstoxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark, but always supervise curious
canines in yards where mulch is spread.

Like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are often necessary to keep our
gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren't meant for four-legged consumption. The most
dangerous forms of pesticides 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. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and
read the manufacturer's label carefully for proper usage and storage.
You're doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earth—you're composting! Food and
garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you're tossing in
the compost bin, they can also pose problems for our pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so read up on people foods to avoid feeding
your pet.

Fleas and Ticks
Since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it's important to keep those lawns mowed and
trim. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as
anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a
variety of complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain
spotted fever and Babesia.

Garden Tools
Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be
hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet's body. Rusty,
sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don't
appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in
a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.

Allergy-Causing Flora
Ah-choo! Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets have allergies to foods, dust and even
plants. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can even cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock if
the reaction is severe. If you do suspect your pet has an allergy, please don't give him any
medication that isn't prescribed by a veterinarian. It's also smart to keep your pet out of other
people's yards, especially if you're unsure of what kinds of plants or flowers lurk there. Keeping
your pet off the lawn of others will make for healthy pets and happy neighbors.

Originally published by the ASPCA.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ack—My Pet Ate Garbage!

Why worry? Because people food is not safe for animals. And food isn’t the only risk—animals will eat the most unexpected things. It’s important to guard that garbage can.

“You don’t want your dog to pig out on chocolate or leftover pizza, chicken or turkey—anything with a high percentage of fat can lead to pancreatitis (inflammation and swelling of the pancreas, which can cause permanent damage and be fatal)," says Martha Gearhart, DVM, owner of Pleasant Valley Animal Hospital, Pleasant Valley, N.Y. “Raw bones are digestible, but their sharp points are dangerous, and cooked bones are very brittle and can shatter [once eaten].”

The odor of food or blood attracts animals to garbage, sometimes with tragic results—Gearhart’s brother’s dog ate the plastic wrap and Styrofoam tray from a package of meat, killing the dog. “It didn’t show up in the X-ray, but the points from the Styrofoam punctured the lung,” she recalls.

Boredom and separation anxiety can make animals explore trash cans or pounce on decorations, Gearhart says. “Some dogs have a passion for salty, smelly socks!” she notes. “I had one dog that enjoyed knocking down glass ornaments and biting on decorative balls.”

Cats eating tinsel is so common that tinselitis is a veterinary term. “Cats won’t eat tinsel from the garbage can, but will be attracted to tinsel on a tree,” warns Gearhart.

I discovered that myself—my own cat once ate tinsel. I found out when she eliminated it, tangled in balls of poop that she dragged around the apartment. I was lucky to get her to the veterinarian in time for treatment.

Dogs may eat used tampons or sanitary pads, which cause dangerous internal obstructions, Gearhart says.
There is string in a roast or bird, and string is severely dangerous—it causes internal damage. Cats are more likely to eat string than are dogs, notes Gearhart.

Prevention First
Prevention is the best way to protect animals from garbage:
  • Rinse wrappers, containers and packaging before pitching them.
  • Lock garbage under the sink or on the porch.
  • Use trash cans with tight-fitting lids (heavy, self-closing cans for households with large dogs).
  • Move garbage from indoors to well-secured outdoor containers.
  • Put tinsel and breakable decorations high up, out of reach.
  • Put a decorated tree in a room with a door—and keep it closed.
  • Keep dogs away from dangerous and tempting situations.
As Gearhart notes, “I’m all for crate training. They feel better and more secure.”

Protective Measures
If precautions fail, the best thing to do is call your veterinarian, who might have you come in to get a vomit-inducing drug. Or, they may encourage you to induce vomiting, unless the animal ate something sharp, acidic or caustic.

In some instances, your veterinarian might have you wait—it can take up to 5 days for elimination. Regardless, work with your veterinarian to find the best “cure” for your pet.
Here’s to a safe diet, and holiday season, for your animals!
Readers: Tell us what your pet has gotten into by e-mailing the editor at

Originally published by AAHA.