Outdoor enthusiasts in southeast Texas enjoy tending to their gardens and yards in the mild spring weather, wanting to get outside as much as possible before the intense summer heat kicks in. But, the outdoors holds more dangers for pets than many people realize. Keep your pet in mind as you encourage your grass to green and flowers to bloom. The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nasa team shares safety tips to protect your pet from common outdoor dangers.

#1: Check for pet-toxic plants

Everyone enjoys the beauty of plants and flowers in their yards and homes, but many plants contain toxins that they use as passive defense mechanisms against predators—which could include your pet. Consult the ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants before you bring a new plant home, and check your yard for possible toxins before letting pets roam outside freely. A knowledgeable landscaping company can help you remove toxic plants and still have a pet-safe, aesthetically pleasing yard.

Pets who become ill from plant toxins can show signs from simple drooling or stomach upset, to seizures, kidney failure, liver failure, or death, depending on the plant and how much they consumed. Lilies are particularly dangerous for cats, because contact with any plant part—including the pollen and the vase water—leads to rapid kidney failure. The toxic plant list is extensive, but other common culprits include:

  • Tulips
  • Sago palms
  • Hyacinths
  • Irises
  • Daffodils
  • Crocus

#2: Use fertilizers and pesticides with caution around pets

Some fertilizers contain animal products, such as blood or bone meal, that are extremely attractive to pets, but the chemicals make the products dangerous for pet consumption. Keep pets off the lawn immediately after fertilization and always read the product instructions to determine when the yard is safe again. Store all fertilizers securely out of your pet’s reach.

Snail and slug baits contain metaldehyde, a poison that leads to vomiting, seizures, and a life-threatening, elevated body temperature shortly after consumption. Avoid using these baits if possible, and look for other general pesticides that are dangerous while wet, but may be pet-safe once they dry. Ensure you check the product packaging.

#3: Clean up yard debris regularly

Acorns, dead vegetation, sticks, seed pods, and fruit pits or seeds can cause intestinal obstructions in dogs who chew on or eat them. Sticks or mulch can also splinter in a dog’s mouth, and debris shards that get stuck in gum tissue can cause an abscess in the mouth or behind the eye. Sweep your yard visually and remove tempting, harmful items before letting your dog outside. 

#4: Choose a pet-safe mulch type

Any mulch can be dangerous when consumed in  large amounts, leading to potential intestinal obstruction or gastroenteritis in your pet. One particular mulch type—cocoa bean mulch—has an attractive aroma and contains the same toxins as chocolate. However, the toxins in cocoa bean mulch are more concentrated and may be more dangerous than chocolate. Toxicity signs may appear only a few hours after consumption. Mild toxicity causes vomiting and diarrhea, but severe ingestion can cause tremors, seizures, body temperature elevation, heart arrhythmias, and possible death. Choosing a different mulch type is the best way to prevent this toxicity.

#5: Securely fence compost piles

Composting can effectively recycle nutrients, limit waste, and reduce your carbon footprint, but a compost pile is dangerous to your pet. Decomposing food provides an excellent home for many mold species, including those that produce tremorgenic mycotoxins. Pets who consume mold and mycotoxins show illness signs, including agitation, tremors, seizures, panting, drooling, and vomiting, only 30 minutes after ingestion. Thankfully, pets who receive prompt veterinary attention and supportive hospitalized care can recover.

If, despite your best efforts, your pet ingests or contacts an outdoor poison, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline. These services charge a small fee, but will provide valuable information about the potential toxicity of the item your pet ingested. When you open a case, your veterinary team has access to a professional toxicologist’s advice, increasing your pet’s chances of recovery. 

Immediately after speaking with a poison control expert, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nasa team, let us know that your pet ingested a toxin, and we’ll do our best to provide emergency care. If we cannot see your pet, or they need attention when we are closed, contact your nearest emergency veterinary hospital for immediate medical attention.