Beware of backyard pet dangers

By Denice Rackley
Denice Rackley
Denice Rackley
June 5, 2021 Updated: June 5, 2021

Summer sunshine calls to us, ‘Get the bike, light the grill, grab the ball, spend the day in the pool and enjoy a day outside with family, friends, and pets.” Trips to the local park, grilling out, or even hanging out in the yard can pose dangers to our pets.

To fully enjoy summers with our pets, we must be mindful of the hidden dangers in our own backyards that threaten their health.

Cookouts

Cookouts and picnics are summer traditions that can be enjoyed safely with your pets if we take precautions. Many foods we take for granted pose can cause serious harm to pets.

The sugar-free sweetener Xylitol is highly toxic to pets. Found in diet beverages and foods – sugar-free gum, candies, ice cream and yogurt, as well as mouthwash, toothpaste, vitamins, and even medicines, Xylitol is potentially fatal. It interferes with your pets’ ability to control their blood sugar. Even in small doses, it can cause seizures, liver failure, and death.

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Having fun is what summer is all about, lets make sure our pets are safe as we enjoy the warmer weather. (Hiro Takashima/Unsplash)

Raisins, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts, avocado, chocolate, and coffee are considered poisonous to pets. Corn on the cob and any cooked food containing bones present a choking hazard. While raw meat bones are often consumed without incident, grilling or cooking meat makes the bones brittle. These brittle bones, when chewed, break into sharp pieces that can perforate organs or cause blockage, leading to medical emergencies.

Pests

Unfortunately, summertime brings unwanted pests, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes. Yuk.

Fortunately, the health risks from the diseases these pests carry can be prevented with the assistance of your veterinarian. But these creepy crawlies also cause your pet to scratch and cause skin irritation. Add in the summertime heat and humidity, along with the scratching and the normal bacteria of the skin can get out of control. It doesn’t take long for the skin to become irritated, inflamed, raw, and weep, creating what is commonly referred to as a “hot spot.”

More often than not, these irritations require veterinary care to combat the inflammation and overgrowth of bacteria. Keeping pets well-groomed, free of matted hair, and making sure they dry thoroughly after swimming or playing in the water will decrease the chances of hot spots occurring. If their coat remains wet, pets are at risk for fly strike and maggots, making simple hot spots seem like a walk in the park.

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There can be tiny pests in yards and gardens that can affect your pets, taking precautions can make summer fun for everyone, including our pets. (Hendo Wang/Unsplash)

Flies are attracted to moisture and any open wounds; they lay eggs producing maggots. Maggots burrow into their fur and begin eating. No question, it is one of the most unpleasant experiences for both pets and owners. Preventing fly strike is worth taking the extra time to dry your pet and treat any wounds.

Inhalant and contact allergies also flare up during the summer months. They affect pets just like they do us. Pet’s ears, eyes, and or skin itch causing them to lick and scratch, intensifying the problem. Again, ensuring your pet’s coat dries all the way to the skin and regularly using a vet recommended solution to clean and dry their ears can prevent problems.

Bee stings also can cause mild discomfort. Like us, some pets are allergic to bee stings and can have a more severe reaction. Signs of a reaction that require medical attention can include hives, significant selling, general weakness, and difficulty breathing.

Pools

Swimming in a backyard pool that is properly maintained is generally safe for dogs, but there are some precautions that will help keep your pet safe if you own a pool. Dogs, like children, should be monitored if they have access to a pool. Not all dogs swim well, and most will have trouble exiting a pool.

Installing a ramp and teaching your dog how and where to exit the pool is a great safety measure. A pool alarm that is activated when there is movement in the pool gives added peace of mind. Pool chemicals can cause skin irritation, so it’s best to rinse your dog off after swimming and ensure their coat dries completely.

Pet life vests may also give added security if your pet doesn’t swim well. Pets don’t understand they can’t walk on pool covers. To them, it looks like a solid surface. Floating covers can trap pets (and children) preventing them from reaching the surface or exiting the pool. Pool safety covers that strap to the sides of the pool and can support your pet’s weight will provide more security.

Discourage your dog from drinking pool water; it can lead to intestinal upset, typically nausea, vomiting. Drinking excessive amounts of water from any source can cause a critical imbalance of electrolytes in the body, in both pets and people. This condition called water intoxication, while rare, can lead to severe consequences and can be fatal.

Lawn and Garden Hazards

Plants and Shrubs

Plants and flowers inside our homes and in our yards also pose dangers to pets. Many bushes that contain berries are tempting for kittens and pups. Just like kids, more often than not, our pets put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t. While most plants, if chewed on or eaten, can cause upset stomachs or diarrhea, some plants can cause more serious illness. Before planting items outside or bringing plants and flowers inside, it’s always best to check if they are potentially toxic.

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Dog peeking thru shrubs. (Dagmar Klauzova/Unsplash)

Here are just a few of the most common flowers toxic to pets:

  • AZALEA AND RHODODENDRON
  • SPRING BULBS
  • LILY
  • CHRYSANTHEMUM
  • ENGLISH IVY
  • LANTANA
  • ZONAL GERANIUMS (Pelargonium) – the annual, also called common geranium is harmful to pets. perennial cranesbill geraniums (Geranium spp.) not harmful.
  • HELLEBORE (Helleborus spp.) – known as Lenten rose, Easter rose, or Christmas rose
  • HYDRANGEA
  • DAYLILY
  • FOXGLOVE
  • BLEEDING HEART

Many plants are more toxic to cats than dogs. In some instances, animals can even become ill if the groom themselves after coming into contact with the plant or pollen. Drinking the water from flower vases containing some of these dangerous flowers can be toxic.

Landscape Material

Mulches and rocks used in landscaping can also pose a danger. Some mulch is treated with chemical preservatives or artificial coloring that can cause intestinal problems.

Cocoa bean mulch contains the same toxic ingredients as chocolate, theobromine and caffeine. These chemicals can cause vomiting, diarrhea, an increased heart rate, tremors and seizures.

Even rocks in landscaping can lead to complications. An amazing number of dogs ingest rocks. Pets chew on the rocks or play with them, then end up swallowing the rocks. Rocks, and any non-digestible material, can lead to stomach and intestinal complications. Removal of indigestible items often requires surgery.

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Try to use natural remedies in your yard and gardens, this reduces the chances of your pets getting sick from chemicals used to treats lawns and plants. (Feri Tasos/Unsplash)

Chemicals

Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers need used with caution around pets. Pets are sensitive to chemicals that we typically use on ourselves to prevent ticks and mosquitos. Don’t assume because products are safe for us, they are safe for pets. Human products like Deet are harmful to pets.

Generally, pets should not come into contact with wet chemicals. Read the labels, follow individual instructions, or question your lawn care professionals concerning the safety of products. Ensure all chemicals and medicines, even pet medications, are out of reach of curious pets.

The Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center are staffed by veterinarians and qualified experts 24 hours a day. The Pet Poison staff is capable of assisting with exotic and large animals in addition to dogs and cats. Both services require payment.

  • Pet Poison Helpline (toll free) 1-855-764-7611 Website: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (toll free) 1-888-426-4435.
  • Website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/

Prevention and Treatment

Taking precautions to avoid harmful chemicals, products, and dangerous situations is always the best course of action. However, even the best plans sometimes fail.

If you feel your pet is ill because of coming into contact with a household substance, lawn chemical, harmful food, or plant, contact your vet, the local emergency clinic, or one of the pet poison hotlines. It is always a good idea to have the product and label available if you are sure of exposure.

Some pets have adverse reactions to not only human medications but pet medications, in particular flea and tick preventatives. It is important you contact a local clinic or a poison control center with these packages also in hand so the professional can give you the best advice.

Frequent Rest Breaks and Taking Precautions Ensure Summer Fun

Remember, pet can’t sweat to cool off like we can. Pets cool off by panting, lying in the shade, and drinking cool water. Providing for your pet’s needs and ensuring they take frequent breaks from playing when it is hot and humid will lead to your pets enjoying the summer as much as you.
Taking precautions and supervising your pet so they avoid the many backyard summertime dangers will help you enjoy long fun filled days together playing frisbee, swimming, or just hanging out under a shade tree.

Denice Rackley
Denice Rackley