By DR. TRACY ACOSTA / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi, Miss. Animal Hospital. If you have pets, your backyard can be deadly this time of year. Some of the more common hazards are garden and yard applications ranging from insecticides to treat fleas and ticks to fertilizers.
Whether you apply these chemicals yourself or hire a professional to do it, it is imperative that label instructions be followed exactly to ensure safety. Apply only the suggested amounts and follow the time frames given regarding when it is safe for pets to return to the yard. Even if using organic methods, read labels carefully for possible pet reactions. Alternate the areas that you treat, so that at any one time your pets will have a safe area for exercise, water and elimination. Remember that your pets can be endangered by yard chemicals not only through oral ingestion, but also through skin contact. Pets have chemical risk either through direct contact with their paws or through oral ingestion after licking their paws. Label instructions vary from one product to another; don't assume you know how to use a product. Store these products out of animals' reach or contact when not in use.
Other commonly used products in the yard and home include baits aimed at everything from snails and slugs to moles and gophers. Rodenticides aimed at mice and rats also fall under this warning category. These are all potentially fatal if ingested by a pet. Extreme caution – better yet, avoidance – is advised. If you even think your pet has possibly ingested any of these types of products, seek veterinary attention immediately and bring along labels from the products in question.
Many pet owners fail to realize that ornamental plants can be dangerous to pets, if eaten. If you have added a puppy or kitten to your household, review the plant material in your landscape for toxicity. It is highly recommended that you choose plants, mulch and other
ground covers that are nontoxic through either direct contact or consumption. Obviously, some pets that are not in the eat-everything-in-sight stage may allow more flexibility in plant choices, but always inquire if a plant is toxic when making additions. If you have questions, ask your veterinarian. Azaleas, calla lilies, dumb canes and oleanders are plants to avoid or to use with caution. Again, the decision depends on the pet's personality and whether your pet chews on things. Finally, keep pets far away from lawn equipment. Lawn mowers and weed eaters throw debris into their eyes, especially if your dog charges anything mechanical. Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi, Miss. Animal Hospital.