Pet Safe Lawn Care

[fa icon="calendar"] Sun, 05/17/2015 - 15:00 / by Lynn Tootle

equipment safety - pets

Over 60% of US households have at least one pet - nearly 50% have at least one dog or cat, many of which spend time outdoors. That’s over 83 million dogs and 95 million cats serving as four-legged family companions. As pet owners will attest, these fur-babies are without a doubt part of the family and no expense or amount of love is spared to keep them happy and healthy.  Here are some areas to consider to keep your family’s paws safe on your property.


When applied properly, pesticides are 100% safe for your pets and family; and short of replacing your lawn all together are often the only effective treatment for several common lawn issues.  

Pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are commonly used to keep landscaping healthy and looking its best. The chemicals in these products are highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be safe for home use but precautions should be taken to protect humans and pets from potential harm. Both for the sake of your lawn and those who use it (human and animal alike), only the minimum effective dose should be applied. Carefully follow the application instructions and keep your pets and children off of the treated areas for one to two days or as long as recommended on the label or by lawn care professionals. 

If your pets are prone to eating or digging grass or flower beds, take extra measures to limit their access. Unlike old organophosphate based applications that were general nerve synapse inhibitors which could affect all living creatures, today’s insecticides utilize synapse nerve inhibitors designed only to affect insects with exoskeletons. Since we and our kids and pets do not have exoskeletons, there is little risk of harm but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Chemical containers should always be stored where pets and children cannot access them - while they are generally safe when applied via spraying or seeding, high concentrations of unused chemicals can be very dangerous if ingested.

Dangerous Plants

Plants are a major component of most landscape design and can add color, depth and charm to many indoor and outdoor spaces. Unfortunately, many plants can be toxic to animals such as dogs, cats and horses. If ingested, these plants can have systemic and/or intense gastrointestinal tract effects on pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains a list of toxic and non-toxic plants that are reported as potentially harmful. This list includes many common o

rnamental and vegetable plants such as Aloe, Apricot, American Holly, Begonia, Bird of Paradise, Carnation, California and English Ivy, Daffodil, Dahlia, Daisy, Eucalyptus, Garlic, Geranium, Hibiscus, Holly, Iris, Lemon and Lime, Nightshade, Onion, Orange, Periwinkle, Rhododendron, Skunk Cabbage, Tomato, Tulip, and dozens more. Click here for a complete list. If you think that your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.potentially toxic plants

In addition to plants which may be toxic if ingested, those with prickly branches or flowers such as roses, foxtail grass, cacti and blackberry bushes can also cause harm by becoming imbedded in the skin, eyes or paws of pets.

Make sure compost piles and bins are also properly secured so that pets are not tempted to eat rotten scraps.

Fences & Water Features

pet safe water featuresFences are a great way to add security and privacy to 

your home as well as keep pets from getting loose. Continually inspect your fences for damage which may allow pets to escape and be sure that they are especially sturdy near the base to prevent digging under. Also be careful that if pets are kept on a long line there is no chance for them to scale the fence and get caught hanging on the other side - a gruesome yet sadly not uncommon scenario for athletic or determined dogs.

Aquatic features such as fountains and ponds are beautiful details that can provide elegance and tranquility to landscape designs. For pets however, these elements can look like nothing more than huge water bowls. Stagnant water acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes which can carry potentially deadly heartworm and other parasites. Chemicals are also often used to keep water features clean which could be harmful if ingested.

Equipment Safety

Most pets steer clear of loud machinery such as lawn mowers, weed whackers and trimmers but some may be intrigued or view them as a threat. Obviously these types of equipment have the ability to do great harm in a split second to any living creature that gets too close. Pets have a tendency to move quickly and erratically, especially when scared, so it is best to keep animals indoors while maintaining your property as accidents can happen quickly. Notify professional landscapers of your pets as well so they can pay close attention, particularly if pets have a history of interfering with lawn care or have trouble hearing or seeing. Even when not in use, equipment should be stored where animals cannot access them in order to avoid contact with sharp blades, plastic line which can be chewed or fuel which can be ingested.

Keep your pets safe by taking precautions in the areas above and consult your local lawn care professional to identify potential hazards on your property. Your pets rely on you and want nothing more than to live a long, healthy life by your side.


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Topics: Pet Safe Lawn Care

Lynn Tootle

Written by Lynn Tootle

K. Lynn Tootle is the General Manager of GroMasters Inc., a division of TideWater Landscape Management Inc. Lynn is a certified arborist and turf grass professional, a past president of the Coastal Landscape and Turf Professional Association and a graduate of the Urban Ag Leadership program. He graduated from Clemson University in 1999 with a BS in Wildlife Biology and a minor in Forest Resources.

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