Protect your pets from common garden hazards

The arrival of warmer weather means more time outside for you and your pets. But even in your own back yard, there are some potential hazards that could get in the way of the fun. Even certain plants and flowers can be poisonous to pets. Don’t let that happen with the following tips to keep your pets safe from garden hazards.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic substance, call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately. You may also want to contact the ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline (1-888-426-4435, fee) or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680, fee).


Fertilizers and Herbicides

Garden tools

  • Before applying a chemical to your lawn or in your yard, consider whether natural, organic or chemical-free remedies such as those described by the Oregon Department of Environmental Qualitymight be just as effective for your intended use.
  • Store all fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides in their original packaging and away from pets. Be sure to read labels before application; overapplication can lead to excess residue.
  • Cover or remove outdoor food bowls, water dishes, pet toys and bird baths before any applications of chemicals.
  • Do not let your pets in the yard while applying chemicals. Wait until chemicals have dried and even up to four days after application before allowing a pet into the area. Pets who lick their paws after walking on treated areas can be poisoned.

Insecticides and Pesticides

    • These products tend to be more toxic to pets than fertilizers and herbicides, so store all insecticides and pesticides in their original packaging and away from pets. The National Pesticide Information Center (800-858-7378) can help you make informed decisions about pesticide use.


  • The most dangerous forms of pesticides include: slug and snail bait (containing metaldehyde), fly bait (containing methomyl), systemic insecticides (containing disyston or disulfoton), mole or gopher bait (containing zinc phosphide), and most forms of rat poisons.
  • Dogs can be attracted to slug bait that contains metaldehyde. Signs of poisoning include tremors, seizures, shaking, vomiting, hyper-salivation, rapid heart rate, and abdominal pain. If your pet ingests slug bait, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Use caution with newer “pet-safe” slug baits containing iron. These products are toxic to pets and can initially cause gastrointestinal signs.
  • Natural alternatives to insecticides and pesticides include:
    • Diatomaceous Earth: This is made from fossilized remains of one-celled algae. It feels like talcum powder, but scratches and absorbs the wax layer on a bug’s surface, leaving it to die from dehydration.
    • Fermenting Liquid: Set out shallow containers of yeast, water and spoiled yogurt or beer, and bury the container flush with the soil surface. Slugs love the scent of yeast.

Plants, Mulch & Compost

Pup among the flowers - do you know which are garden hazards?

  • Ingestion of even small amounts of certain plants (for example, rhododendron, azalea, oleander, lily, or yew) can be harmful or fatal to a pet. You may want to review Oregon Veterinary Medical Association list ofpoisonous plants. Symptoms of plant poisoning include: irritation to skin and/or mouth, diarrhea, seizures, lethargy, unconsciousness, and/or vomiting. Seek medical attention especially if vomiting (sometimes normal in pets after ingesting plant matter) is accompanied by these other symptoms.
  • Compost can contain bacteria that, if ingested by pets, can cause vomiting and diarrhea, as well as possibly tremors and seizures. Keep your pets away from compost piles.
  • Cocoa mulch could be hazardous to dogs if consumed in large quantities. According to the ASPCA Poison Control Center, “Dogs who consume enough cocoa bean shell mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where very large amounts of mulch have been consumed, muscle tremors or other more serious neurological signs could occur.”
  • Be watchful of what your pet ingests, especially if they have a tendency to ingest organic matter. If you suspect that your pet has ingested any toxic or potentially toxic substance, call your veterinarian.