Keep pets safe around garden chemicals, plants

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Spring has sprung. A large portion of the springing is from plants, including those planted in family gardens.

o make plants grow, neighborhood gardeners use various chemicals and fertilizers. Many of these chemicals and fertilizers can cause health ailments in the family pet.

According to Douglas Green, gardening author and horticulturist, a major problem in the garden spurs from the use of bonemeal. Bonemeal tastes and smells good to cats and dogs. Gardeners mix the bonemeal with chemical weed or insect killers. Dogs and cats are prone to check out and eat the bonemeal, and the chemicals mixed with it.

"The pet won't be able to understand that the garden chemical is dangerous but will smell that tasty bonemeal and wander in to investigate," Green said. "There have already been several reports of pets being poisoned this spring."

The organic content of fertilizers is also appealing to the taste buds of dogs and cats, Green said, but too much fertilizer intake turns into an unhappy situation.

Older animals and the very young are more at risk from both fertilizer and exposure to garden pesticides while female animals of breeding age should never be exposed to garden chemicals of any kind, Green said.

"Generally, herbicides are safe," Kelly Hepworth of McCandless Animal Hospital said. "But animals should be kept off the gardens until the chemical gets into the soil or plant."

Pesticides, especially the powerful ones, can cause the most damage to pets. Cats are very sensitive because they are metabolically unable to detoxify many types of pesticides

Symptoms of a pet ingesting poisonous chemicals include excessive salavation (drooling), vomiting, dilated pupils, stomach and bowel symptoms, weakness, slow breathing and cramps.
Sometimes the chemical will absorb into the pet's body. The Moffat County Extension Office urges pet owners to immediately clean the substance off. If not, the pet may lick it off, causing internal poisoning.

f the pet shows signs of poisoning, the Extension Office warns owners not to try and medicate it with over-the-counter medicines. Some of these are even more poisonous to pets. While the pet is sick and on the way to the vet, keep it warm and dry. If the poisoning agent can be found, take a sample of it to the vet along with its container.

Officials agree pets are curious. Building a fence is probably the only way to keep pets out of the garden, Hepworth said. And just because one yard is free of poisons, other neighborhood yards may not be. The Extension Office encourages pet owners to not let their animals roam unattended through neighborhoods.

Green said gardeners can take steps to reduce pet exposure to garden chemical products.

Use organic products where possible. Many garden problems can easily be solved without the use of noxious chemicals.

Never apply bonemeal or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion at the same time as garden chemicals. Bonemeal is great for installing plants and digging into planting holes, but a waste of money as a general spring fertilizer. It isn't water-soluble so it stays on the surface, away from plant roots.

Follow all directions on the label of the chemical product. Many products suggests watering the product after application to dissolve it into the soil. Do this and ensure your pet doesn't have access to the garden until the product is completely gone.

"It's better to be safe than sorry and your pets depend on you for their safety," Green said.

As far as eating other plants such as grass, "dogs are omnivorous they eat a lot of things," Hepworth said. "(Grass) is not harmful."

He said dogs are prone to eat more grass in the early spring.

Although grass is not poisonous, some naturally-growing and commonly-planted vegetation is. Some of these plants common in Northwest Colorado that are poisonous to pets are, according to Ann Franklin of the Moffat County Extension Office:

Amaryllis bulbs, appleseeds, apricot pits, arrowgrass, asparagus, avocado, azalea, black-eyed susan, black locust, bladder pod, bleeding heart, blue bonnet, buckeyes, buttercup

Crocus, cherry pits, chokecherry, clematis, cockle burr, daffodil bulbs, death camas, delphinium, dicentrea, eggplant, elderberry, jasmine, jonquil, juniper, lantana, larkspur, locoweed, lupine


Marigold, mock orange, monkshook, mushrooms, oak, onions, poinsettia, poison ivy, poison vetch, poppy, potato plant

Red cedar, rhododendron, rhubarb, skunk cabbage, snowberry, snow-on-the-mountain, spinach, spurges, stinging nettle, sweetpea, tansy mustard, tulip bulbs.

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