Veterinary experts warn pet owners to avoid these toxic Spring items

From tomatoes and lilies to artificial grass and slug pellets, veterinarians warn pet owners to keep these deadly substances out of their backyards, and offer these six tips to ensure a pet-safe garden.

The garden is a great place for pets and owners alike to relax and enjoy the spring weather.

However, garden plants and human foods commonly found growing in vegetable patches can be dangerous to pets, with these items making up nearly a quarter (24.3 percent) of all calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline in 2023.

Pet sitting platform TrustedHousesitters has worked alongside veterinary surgeon Dr Lily Richards to inform pet owners about the potential hazards lurking in backyards this spring.

From identifying toxic plants in vegetable patches to creating dedicated pet zones, the crucial advice below helps owners balance between a beautiful, flourishing garden and all-important pet safety.

Cultivate a pet-friendly garden and ensure your pets can safely enjoy the outdoors with these six expert tips
Tip 1: Keep these toxic plants out of your garden
If you have pets, it’s vital you choose the right plants for your garden. One surprising vegetable patch addition that could put your pets at risk is tomatoes. While the ripe fruit itself is safe, the stems, leaves, and unripe green tomatoes contain glycoalkaloids called solanine and tomatine, which are toxic for cats and dogs. Owners should always exercise caution when growing tomatoes around pets.

Compost is a great way to provide gardens with rich soil; however, compost can be highly toxic to dogs and other animals due to fungi that grow in the decomposing plant or food material. Choose an area in your garden that can be easily fenced off to prevent them from accessing the compost.

In addition, avoid using food items that are toxic to pets in your compost pile, such as onions, garlic, coffee grounds, and chocolate.

“Some examples of commonly grown toxic garden plants and vegetable patch additions include onions, garlic, chives, oregano, leeks, daffodils, lilies, and rhododendrons,” said Richards. “It is always better before planting to check the suitability of plants and vegetables around pets if you plan on sharing the space.”

Opt for pet-safe plants, fruit, and vegetables in your garden, such as dill, marigold flowers, magnolia bushes, rosemary, fennel, basil, or carrots. In addition, utilizing hanging planters, raised beds, or large containers can help deter pets from accessing potentially dangerous plants.

If you have a pet who likes to dig, you should be even more careful with what you’re growing in the garden, as the bulbs of plants are usually the most toxic. If you suspect your pet has ingested any part of a toxic plant, it’s vital to get it to a vet as soon as possible.

Tip 2: Keep your vegetables safe from your pet
“Consider raised beds or hanging baskets to keep your pets and vegetables safe,” said Richards. “Avoid chemical products on or around your plants, such as slug pellets, insecticides, weed killers, or growth products. You can also try organic alternatives and pet-safe compost as a natural, safer alternative.”

If possible, you should also fence off any pet-free zones with the appropriate fencing for your pet. Chicken wire or hardware cloth to create a barrier is an affordable option and works well for smaller pets, such as rabbits, chickens, or small dogs. Richards recommends monitoring or leashing your pets when they are in the garden to ensure they do not enter pet-free zones, which is especially important during the initial stages of training or when introducing new pets to the garden.

“Be aware of the types of fences for each species, as rabbits and guinea pigs have different requirements to keep them safe than dogs,” said Richards.

Tip 3: Choose for paw-safe materials
As the weather heats up, so do backyard surfaces. Hot paving slabs and tarmac can quickly pose a burn threat to your pet’s paws during hot weather. According to Richards, some lower-quality artificial grasses can also be dangerous for pets, as the synthetic material gets much hotter than real grass in the sun.

The ideal surfaces for pets in your garden are real grass and wood decking. In addition, Richards recommends utilizing trees for added shade. Be sure to check surfaces with the back of your hand before allowing your pet’s paws to explore. This includes artificial grass, which can get about 20 to 50° degrees Fahrenheit higher than natural grass. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s far too hot for their delicate paws.

Tip 4: Consider a dedicated pet-safe area
Digging is a natural behavior for dogs. If your pet enjoys digging and you’re worried about them damaging your garden, Richards recommends creating a dedicated pet playing area with toys and a sand pit. Creating a dedicated playing area where your pet can thrive will stimulate and preoccupy them, keeping them from sniffing out other parts of the garden and causing damage. Play areas also provide essential enrichment for dogs, particularly high-energy dogs, and they can reduce boredom and the likelihood of developing behavioral issues.

Tip 5: Choose grass and patio treatments carefully
“Consider weed killers and patio or grass treatment products carefully,” said Richards. “Pets that walk across treated areas are liable to transfer the product onto their feet and groom it off, ingesting it later. This could lead to toxicities and serious illnesses in pets. Consider natural or pet-safe products, or, if you must use potentially harmful products, ensure your pet doesn’t have access to the garden until there is no residue of the product left.”

If you suspect that your pet has ingested anything harmful, take it to the vet immediately. Common signs of poisoning or toxicity in pets include diarrhea, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, and tremors. In addition, if possible, Richards recommends bringing the container of the product that your pet ingested with you so that the vet can best determine how to treat your pet.

Tip 6: Watch out for wildlife
While garden wildlife can be dangerous for pets, so can the products designed to deter wildlife.

“Well-kept and thriving gardens often invite nature and wildlife, so keep an eye out for slugs and snails,” Richards said. “These creatures can carry parasites and infectious diseases, such as lungworm, that can cause serious disease in your pets. Avoid using non-organic slug pellets to keep these critters at bay, though, as these are also toxic to your pets.”

The garden can also be a hotspot for fleas and ticks, especially if you have long grass. However, your pet will remain safe with the right, vet-approved preventative measures. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate parasite protection for your cat or dog.

For more information on poisonous plants to avoid around dogs, visit the TrustedHousesitters blog. To learn more about the TrustedHousesitters platform, visit trustedhousesitters.com/.