There are dangers in the garden. Poisonous plants, toxic chemicals, and sundry other things that we humans could not even imagine but our pets will. So how can you make it safer for them?
Most pet dogs want to be part of your daily activities; if you are digging in the dirt, they want to dig too. They also enjoy stealing tools, empty plant containers, or even a recently planted shrub. They mean no harm; it is just what they do. Often they are trying to engage us in play, just as they would a fellow furry friend. It is our job to train and protect them. “Leave it” is a phrase I frequently say every day. When I got my most recent dog about five years ago, I enrolled the two of us in some basic training classes and found it very rewarding. Even though I have been in the vet business for over 20 years, I found you can train an old dog to do some new tricks, (and my dog did well too). Training consists of mostly teaching you how to train your dog. There are many wonderful dog trainers in the area, so ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Does my dog always “leave it”? The answer is emphatically “NO.” So, if I am working with something that is dangerous or harmful to my pet, I keep him indoors or safely secured away from what I am doing. Don’t assume they will behave, but assume they will not behave, and take precautions to protect them. The results are always much more satisfying than worrying about the “what ifs.”
But sadly, mistakes happen. They happen to all of us. If your pet ingests or chews on something and you are unsure of its safety, call your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately for assistance. There are also some great websites that can assist you in determining if a particular plant/chemical is poisonous to your pet. Here are a couple of sites that are helpful: ASPCA (www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control) and Animal Poison Control (www.petpoisonhelpline.com). If you are planning a garden, you may want to look at these sites before buying plants. Any chemicals, fertilizers, or insecticides used in the garden should be secured and kept out of reach of our four-legged friends. If you are outside spraying chemicals, please keep the pet inside to prevent licking, inhaling, or getting the substance on their fur. Again, the age-old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
For the past few years according to the ASPCA, the top ten toxins listed for dogs include: insecticides, rodenticides, lawn/garden products, and plants. Not to leave cats out, their top ten include lilies and plants containing insoluble oxalates (such as philodendron). (Please see the full lists at the above websites, where there are also other important items. This article pertains only to gardening.) So, please take precaution and protect your pets as best you can. If using dangerous chemicals keep pets away. Even if you do not have pets, remember that poisons can kill unintended victims too. I recall one sad day when two dogs arrived at our clinic having seizures, drooling, and in very critical condition. Unfortunately their neighbor, in an effort to rid his yard of some pests, had placed a poison in peanut butter on a piece of bread. During the night a nocturnal animal carried the bread over the fence to my client’s yard. Both pets consumed the bread and died from the poisoning. Please be careful when using such dangerous chemicals. Over the years, I have seen too many of these types of cases. The University of Georgia has an in-depth handbook for the homeowner on pesticide safety: http://www.ent.uga.edu/pmh/Hm_Pesticide_Safety.pdf.
Enjoy your pets and gardening. Just remember: When in doubt, keep them away.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website, www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee ; or contact the Cherokee County Extension Office, 1130 Bluffs Parkway, Suite G49, Canton, GA, 30114, 770-721-7803. The Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. Follow Cherokee County Master Gardeners on facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners for gardening tips as well as upcoming seminars.