We think of our yards as the safe haven: It’s where the dog romps and the kids can run barefoot in the sheer delight of summer. This safe haven for your family could potentially be a dangerous area of your home. Just a small amount of attentiveness and awareness to the common dangers of your backyard can keep your family safe and healthy all summer.
Examine your edging: A dog’s paw can be cut by the steel edging that separates grass areas from bed areas. Surprisingly, a cut paw is one of the most common of all pet injuries. Sharp steel edging is also dangerous for kids if they step or fall on it.
A better option: When selecting edging, choose between edging with a rounded edge, poured concrete edging, or bricks pavers.
Strange but true: many dogs eat rocks!
- River Rock: If you use river rock as mulch there is a risk that your dog may swallow some rocks while they are roaming the backyard. If this situation were to occur, your dog’s life could be in danger and they could potentially have to have emergency removal surgery. Crushed granite is also small enough to be eaten and its sharp edges can cut paws and feet.
- Bark and wood mulches: These ground covers often trigger undesirable chewing and splintering. Also, light-weight mulch is easily kicked out of beds causing unsightly bed edges and bare spots in your garden.
A Better option: Use cobble that is about the size of a large baked potato, these rounded rocks are too big for dogs to eat and cobble wont’ get kicked out of beds.
Don’t leave your dog on the deck. Dark wood decking gets extremely hot during the hot summer afternoons. Dogs left on decks are at risk for heat stroke and dehydration.
Water features: Water features can be beneficial for you and your pets. However, with young children safety measures such as a fence around the water feature should be taken to avoid any accidents. Dogs perspire through their feet, so walking through the water is cooling. A water feature can also serve as a water source for animals, but only in addition to any water that you give them. Don’t force your pet to depend on a water feature for water on a hot summer day.
What about plants?
Weeds are more than unsightly, prickly weeds such as thistle can be painful. Some weeds, like purslane, are toxic to dogs.
Gardening tip: Don’t weed in front of the dog. The dog will see you pulling the plants and it may encourage them to dig up or eat your plants.
Wild mushrooms: Mushroom clusters that tend to erupt after rainy periods, can be toxic so you must deal with them quickly. Don’t rake or mow mushroom clusters, as that spreads the spores. Wear a disposable glove, pick them and dispose of them in a bag that goes in the trash. Never compost mushrooms.
Common landscape plants are toxic to pets
Many plants and even some that are edible to humans are toxic to pets. Avoid these plants if your dog is prone to digging up or chewing on plant material:
- Foxglove digitalis: Can cause heart failure. Is toxic to humans and pets.
- Lilies: Easter lily, tiger lily, day lily, lily of the valley and Asiatic/oriental lily are known to be toxic to cats, and potentially dogs as well.
- Spring bulbs: Daffodil foliage will cause GI upset, but the bulb itself can cause seizures. Most spring-flowering bulbs can be toxic if a dog digs them up and proceeds to chew on them. We recommend that you plant your bulbs in the front yard if your pets spend the majority of their time in the backyard.
- Tall ornamental grasses: Dogs often eat these tall grasses and the sharp grass blades have the potential to cut their stomachs.
Toxic fruits and veggies
Some of our common edibles aren’t suitable for pets.
- Onions: Mature and green onions, garlic and leeks, both raw and cooked, are toxic to dogs.
- Hops are toxic: If you grow them for home-brewed beer, be aware and keep your pets away from them.
- Chamomile: Chamomile grown for tea is another pet toxin.
- Grapes: Are very toxic to dogs, including dried grapes (raisins).
- Seeds of stone fruits: Peaches, cherries, and apricots contain cyanide which can poison pets. Notice whether your pet eats fallen fruit and how much, then check in with your vet.
Composting tip: If you compost, use an enclosed tumbler bin as the smell attracts animals. Bacteria in decomposing matter can make them sick.