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by Dr. Chris Roth, DVM

Beware of these common garden dangers that are toxic to pets.
When winter has finally passed and spring is on its way, millions of Americans begin heading to nurseries and home improvement stores to gather supplies to beautify their yards. Gardening is a fun and healthy hobby, but it’s important to be aware that some plants and gardening chemicals can be harmful to your pet’s health. In this article, we’ll discuss six garden threats that can pose a danger to the furry members of your family.

1. Insecticides

Many commercial insecticides contain organophosphates, which are poisonous to dogs. Ingesting insecticides can cause dogs to salivate, tremble, and sometimes urinate or defecate. Occasionally low heart rate and seizures can occur as well. Luckily, with treatment, the prognosis for those affected is generally good. Even so, it’s imperative to carefully read the precautions on all products you use and avoid allowing your dog to be exposed to dangerous chemicals. One way to eradicate this potential problem is to look into pet-friendly options to control pests in your garden. Other solutions include putting up boundary fencing around your gardens or using boundary training to teach your dog to stay out of certain areas.

2. Fertilizers

Most fertilizers are relatively safe if you follow the instructions and your pet avoids contact with the fertilized soil. If your pet gets into fertilizer, they can experience irritation on their feet or skin, and if ingested they can develop mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. If you’re concerned that your pet has been exposed to fertilizer, it is recommended to use warm water to remove the product from their skin.

3. Weed Killer

If used correctly most weed killers are relatively safe. Roundup®, for example, is not particularly dangerous, unless your pet consumes large quantities of the undiluted product. The chemical 2,4-D herbicide is also safe but ingesting an extreme quantity can cause myotonia, vomiting, and weakness in dogs. If this occurs, your pet can experience generalized weakness and possibly reversible paralysis. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet is presenting these symptoms.

4. Rodenticides

Rodenticides are commonly used to control unwanted rodent populations and they are extremely toxic to domestic animals. The chemical is formulated to taste pleasant so a rodent will eat it, but unfortunately it also tastes good to cats and dogs. Most rodenticides work by inhibiting the rodent’s ability to clot blood, and they bleed to death. If your pet ingests rodenticides, he can begin bleeding internally a few days after consumption and experience lethargy and pale gums. If you suspect your pet has ingested rat or mouse poison, don’t wait for symptoms to appear—immediately take him to your veterinarian. This situation is highly treatable if caught early.

5. Creepy Crawlers

Some insects, amphibians, and even wild reptiles can have natural toxins than can be harmful to your pet. Bees and wasps are a common garden visitors that can cause problems for pets. In addition to pain at the sting site, some pets can have an allergic reaction, just like people. If your pet’s face starts to swell following a bee sting, veterinary care is warranted.

Some toads carry a toxin on their skin, specifically the cane toad. This toad lives in tropical Central America and the Caribbean areas. If your dog licks a cane toad, it can cause him to immediately salivate, foam, and even vomit. The toxins can also act on the heart and nerves of your pet to produce potentially serious cardiac and neuromuscular problems. If you live in an area with cane toads and think your pet has encountered one, wash his mouth out with water and contact your veterinarian.

Snakes can pose a threat to animals as well. Pit viper, rattlesnake, and coral snake bites can all cause serious injuries to our pets that can be fatal if not treated. Antivenins used by veterinarians can work well, but the medication must be given promptly. With quick veterinary attention and supportive care, fatalities can be limited, and recovery is generally expected. A rattlesnake vaccination is available in highly endemic areas. It is not a substitute for emergency treatment in the event of a snake bite, but it will greatly increase your pet’s chance of survival if you encounter a rattlesnake while hiking with your pet. Ask your veterinarian for more information if your dog is at high risk.

6. Plants

No garden is complete without flowers and plants! Unfortunately, the following plants can be dangerous to pets if they eat them and therefore exposure should be minimized.


Lilies are very dangerous to cats and cause kidney failure. They are less dangerous to dogs but can still cause gastrointestinal upset. All parts of the plant are thought to be dangerous if ingested and prompt veterinary attention is needed.


Vines are a beautiful addition to any yard, but grapevines can be toxic to dogs, causing kidney failure. Try cutting off the budding grapes before they turn into fruit as a way to salvage the aesthetic value of the leafy vines and also protect your dog.

Plants That Contain Raphides

Many plants contain needle-shaped crystals called raphides that can cause mouth and throat irritation to pets, as well as swallowing difficulty and swelling. These include:

Elephant’s ear
Dumb cane
Umbrella tree
Other common garden plants that can be harmful to pets if they are exposed include: Nightshades, Datura (Jimsonweed), poppy plants, Oleander, and Digitalis (foxglove).

What to Do if Your Pet Has Consumed Poisonous Garden Plants

If you’re concerned that your pet has consumed a possibly poisonous plant, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you are a Pets Best customer, you can contact our 24/7 Pet Helpline, and speak to a veterinary expert about your pet’s symptoms in addition to a wide range of other topics.