Monday, April 16, 2012

Protecting your pet from your neighbor's lawn chemicals

Liam the pug resting after a long walk
Liam resting after a long walk.
In general, I dislike fertilizers for urban lawns. Most fertilizers sit on top of the ground, and when the next rain comes, all of those chemicals go right down the drain and into streams, where they boost algae production and kill native fish. (See more on that topic here.) Fertilizers can do more than kill fish, however. If eaten in large quantities, lawn fertilizers can also be toxic to dogs and cats.

On Sunday, we took the dog out for his customary walk, and he did a bit of running in the grass between the sidewalk and the street. When we arrived back home, I noticed a chemical scent in the air, and then looked down to see Liam gnawing and chewing on his feet. After washing his paws twice with rags, to no avail, I gave him a complete bath and scrubbed those feet and rinsed them twice. Only then did the chemical smell disappear, and only then did he stop licking.

Dogs and cats are sensitive to smell, and they dislike smelling like chemicals. They attempt to clean up by licking and digging, and when they do that, they ingest the chemicals on their feet. While some people say that lawn fertilizer is safe when applied properly, it is possible that some people are still using herbicides on their lawns to kill weeds, and those chemicals can be toxic.

The best way to protect your pet on a walk is to keep the animal on a leash on the pavement at all times, and then smell those pads when you get home. If you smell chemicals, a dip in the tub is necessary.

But homeowners have their own part to play. Ideally, chemicals like this shouldn't be part of the lawn-care manual. They're not safe. Period. But if you must use chemicals, gate off the area where the chemicals are used, so animals can't access them (see my post about the gates I use on my roses here). If you will not use a fence, even a note that reads "Chemicals applied! Keep off!" would do the trick. This ardent dog walker would certainly appreciate a heads up.