Why You Shouldn't Let Your Pets Near Lawn Pesticides

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated October 4, 2021
Girl plays with dog in the yard
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A beautiful lawn shouldn’t put your pet’s health at risk

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Spending an afternoon playing fetch in your yard should be a joyful event, but when it comes to lawn pesticides and pets, the care and feeding of both don’t always go together. Before you use a pesticide or other lawn care products, protect your pets with this guide about what you need to know when it comes to lawn pesticides and pets. 

Are Lawn Chemicals Toxic to Pets?

The short answer is, yes, lawn pesticides are toxic to pets, as are most herbicides. Several common lawn products you use to care for your lawn and yard are considered harmful to pets. 

4 Common Lawn Products Toxic to Pets

Many homeowners have a lawn care checklist that includes weeding, feeding, and pest control. Here are four common types of lawn care products that can be toxic to your pets. 

1. Pesticides and Insecticides

Few pesticides or insecticides are 100% safe for pets. For example, disulfoton is a chemical found in many rose-protecting products, slug, and snail bait with metaldehyde is also highly toxic. Watch your labels for these in particular:  

  • Acephate

  • Chlorpyrifos

  • Diazinon

  • Disulfoton

  • Fonofos

  • Malathion

  • Parathion

  • Terbufos

  • Carbofuran

  • Methomyl

  • Metaldehyde

Warning signs of poisoning in dogs from pesticides or insecticides include diarrhea, weakness, shaking, tremors, trouble breathing, drooling excessively, vomiting, urinating, and constricted pupils. 

2. Herbicides

Herbicides, including weed blockers and growth inhibitors, are everyday items in many garden sheds. But before you apply, read your labels, and check them twice. Like pesticides and insecticides, few chemical herbicides are safe for pets, including those that contain: 

  • Glyphosate

  • Pyridine

  • Dinitroaniline

  • Disulfoton

  • Sodium Arsenite

  • Metaldehyde

  • Ammonium Sulfamate

  • Borax

  • Benzimidazole

  • Chlorophenoxy Herbicides  (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid; 2,4-D)

  • Benzoic Acid Herbicides

Warning signs of herbicide poisoning include diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, convulsions, chemical burns (on tongue, nose, or mouth), and difficulty breathing.

3. Fertilizers

While common ingredients in fertilizers aren’t necessarily toxic, many organic and non-organic fertilizers frequently contain ingredients like fish meal and bone meal that appeal to dogs. When consumed, they can cause gastrointestinal distress or worse. In addition, you should always be mindful of these things:

  • Never apply fertilizer while pets are present.

  • Don’t allow pets to dig in garden beds.

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s specific directions.

  • Do not overapply fertilizer.

  • Some fertilizers have iron and can cause iron poisoning.

Warning signs of fertilizer ingestion and toxic exposure include collapse, tremors, shaking, loss of appetite, yellowing of eyes, blood in stool, and lethargy.  

4. Mulch

You might not think of mulch as potentially harmful to your pet, but there’s one that is:

Cocoa bean hulls are a common mulch sold in many nurseries.

  • They are the hull left behind after cocoa bean roasting, part of making chocolate.

  • Cocoa bean hulls and chocolate are both toxic to dogs.

Warning signs of cocoa mulch ingestion include excessive drooling, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, dark red gums, and rapid heart rate. 

What Happens if a Dog Gets Into Pesticides or Other Lawn Chemicals?

The consequences of exposure to pesticides or other lawn products can depend on how much of the actual product your pet ingested or got on its fur or skin. If exposed to herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or other toxic long products, your pet may show one or more of these symptoms: 

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Tremors

  • Collapse

  • Weakness

  • Excessive urination

  • Excessive drooling

  • Dark red gums

  • Abdominal pain

  • Canine malignant lymphoma

  • Death

Are Pesticides Safe for Cats?

Cream colored cat walks across fence
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Dogs aren’t the only animals at risk of exposure to lawn chemicals. Toxic lawn chemicals can get indoors, too! Chemicals from a treated lawn can travel inside on your pet’s paws as well as the soles of your shoes, bringing chemicals into the home, which can then expose other pets in your household, including cats. In addition, if you have a cat that roams outside, you risk exposing them to pesticides. 

Warning signs of toxicity in cats are similar to dogs and include:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Tremors

  • Collapse

  • Weakness

  • Excessive urination

  • Kidney or other organ failures

  • Abdominal pain

  • Death

How to Keep Your Pet Safe from Lawn Pesticides

To keep your pet safe from toxic chemicals, the number one way to protect your pet is to avoid using any product known to be poisonous.

  • Consider non-toxic, pet-friendly alternatives to insecticides and pesticides.

  • There are also many less-toxic ways to control weeds.

  • Fill your garden with pet-friendly plants that naturally control pests. 

  • Always store any chemicals properly in a pet-proof, chew-proof container in a place well out of reach of any pets.

  • Before treating, remove any pet toys, balls, or dishes from the area before applying.

  • Keep animals out of the treated area during and after treatment with a barrier and watch them vigilantly.

  • Chemicals can travel inside your home on the soles of your shoes or the paws of your pet, so remove shoes when entering your home.

  • Watch your pet for chewing or licking their paws, especially if exposed.

  • Be mindful of public spaces. Commercial properties typically require signage when chemically-treated lawns are toxic to pets and children, but not always.

How Long After Applying Pesticides Is It Safe for Pets?

Generally speaking, it can take up to three days for chemicals on the grass to be absorbed. You should wait 48–72 hours after applying any chemical, including fertilizer, before you allow your pet in the area. 

Always follow the manufacturer’s specific recommendations, which may say that it is safe once the area is dry—but erring on the side of caution will help keep your animals safe.

What Should You Do if You Think Your Pet Came Into Contact With Lawn Chemicals?

If you have reason to believe your pet has come into contact with pesticides or any other toxic chemical, you should contact your vet. The ASPCA also has a 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center that you can call at 1-888-426-4425.

You can also avoid having any chemicals in your home by hiring a local lawn care service. Be sure to ask about the types of chemicals they use and if they are pet-friendly.

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