Creating a beautiful yard using our favorite landscaping choices of flowers, trees and shrubs is a common undertaking in Houston. Given our weather, colorful landscaping is abundant year-round but in the spring and summer in particular. We tend to see more bugs and parasites that are also enjoying our plants and flowers. So, what do we do to save our investment? The choices range from toxic chemicals to safer environmental solutions. If you have pets that have access to your yard and landscaping, it's important to be very careful in the choices you make in gardening. Let's look at the top 3 toxicities in dogs & cats relating to gardening practices: 

Commercial Fertilizer ingestion 

Fertilizer is only toxic if eaten in large amounts (straight from the bag). If consumed in large amounts, it can cause iron poisoning. Symptoms include GI distress and liver/kidney failure if a large dose is ingested.  

Natural Alternatives: Natural replacements are compost, earthworm castings and manure. 

General Purpose Pesticide Ingestion and Contact  

Pesticides are chemicals that may be used to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, plant diseases, snails, slugs, or weeds among others. Insecticides are a type of pesticide that is used to specifically target and kill insects. Although these chemicals are designed to kill insects and the like, they can be very harmful to pets. Dogs are especially at risk of inhaling or ingesting debris left on grass, eating a treated plant, or eating an undissolved pellet of water-soluble insecticide. The list of dangerous pesticide ingredients include substances such as acephate, diazinon, fenoxycarb, malathion, terbufos, just to name a few. Many pesticides contain a synthetic permethrin chemical which is especially bad for cats and small dogs. Toxicity signs include vomiting and drooling with low doses and muscle tremors and depression in higher doses. 

 Natural Alternatives: neem oil, garlic (oil or whole), and hot pepper spray. 

Commercial Snail & Slug Bait Ingestion  

These critters love to munch on leafy plants so most gardeners want rid of them but beware of using slug bait. This is the most severe toxicity associated with gardening products! The products contain a chemical callled metaldehyde which causes severe GI distress and attacks the nervous system creating seizures. Ingestion is as easy as your pet walking on the bait, then licking their paw, which could result in a serious illness. 

Natural Alternatives: There are natural slug baits available that contain iron phosphate, which is much safer. Other natural remedies are recycled wool pellets and copper barriers – both of which are uncomfortable for the slug or snail to move over. There are many ways to control insects safely without harming plants or animals. The use of other plants and insects is one way to help control these pests. There are many other DIY sprays or organic solutions available so that you can have a beautiful yard as well as healthy pets! We hope you’ve found helpful our top 3 toxicities in dogs & cats.

By Dr. Andrew Tesh, Bingle Vet,