Spring Garden Safety for Pets

Pet Garden Safety

The warmth and beauty of spring are finally here, calling us and our four-legged friends to the great outdoors.  For many of you, this means spending time beautifying your exterior living spaces and planting gardens.  For our furry friends, this probably means sniffing, eating, and digging their way into mischief!  As you embrace the changes of the season, get our advice on keeping your pets safe in and around the garden.

Choose Plants Wisely

Garden Pet Plant Safety

We all love the sight and smell of fresh flowers and plants.  Before planting this spring, do your homework to make sure your favorite garden flowers aren’t harmful to your pets! Image source: Ellen Zangla Photography

Unfortunately, many of the most common garden flowers and plants are extremely toxic to pets.  Extreme caution should be used with plants such as crocuses, daffodils, English Ivy, sago palms, rhododendrons, and tulips.  Ingesting just a small amount of these plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and more serious or fatal reactions such as liver or heart failure.  The Pet Poison Hotline’s website contains a wealth of information on various pet poisons including the top ten poisonous plants.

Store Garden Supplies Out of Reach

Insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can be extremely toxic if ingested from their bags.  While most toxicity levels are low to nonexistent after applied to the ground and plants, it’s best to do as much research as possible on specific products to be sure they are safe to use around pets.

Snail and rodent baits are also highly dangerous and should not be used in areas where your pets frequent.  These products are extremely toxic, with the ability to cause poisonous reactions just from licking the substances off of paws!

Take Care with Composting

Decaying food and organic matter is great for the health of your garden, but can be problematic for the health of your pets if ingested.  As organic matter decomposes, it is common for mold to grow, which may produce tremorgenic mycotoxins.  Clinical signs such as vomiting, “walking drunk,” tremors and seizures can occur in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion.

Steer Clear of Cocoa Mulch

Cocoa Bean Mulch Pet Garden Safety

Cocoa much is made from discarded cocoa bean shells, and just like the bean, the shells contain two chemicals that are harmful to dogs – theobromine and caffeine. Theobromine is particularly harmful because dogs metabolize this compound much more slowly than humans.  This means that the toxin can reside in the system for prolonged periods of time, causing continued and/or worsening signs in your pet.  A toxic dose can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, and death, in severe cases.

Because cocoa mulch has both a sweet smell and flavorful taste compared to other mulches, it may be enticing to curious canines.  We suggest selecting another mulch for your garden beds and be mindful of the smell of cocoa mulch in public areas.

Learn more about the dangers of chocolate for pets in our article here.

Think Twice before Planting Roses or Other Thorny Bushes

Garden Pet Safety Rose Thorn bushes

Some of the most common garden-related pet injuries are caused by thorns.  Thorns can cause serious eye and face injuries and become lodged in sensitive paw pads.  If you have rose or other thorny bushes, keep them out of pet paths by tying them to supports or trellises, and make sure to clean up those prickly clippings after pruning!

Prepare a Pet First Aid Kit

To be prepared for garden and outdoor accidents, every pet owner should have a basic first aid kit on hand.  Sometimes the easiest way to create a pet first aid kit is to buy a human kit and build on it with pet-specific items.

Here’s our list of recommended items to include in your pet’s first aid kit.  In particular, tweezers can be used to remove foreign materials like thorns and ticks, and antihistamines (such as Benadryl) can be used at times to address mild allergic reactions to insect bites or stings.  We advise you contact your veterinarian for an appropriate dose for your pet and ALWAYS remember that any anti-histamine given to a pet should NOT have a decongestant added.

Pet First Aid Kit


Download the ASPCA Poison Control Center App!

The best defense against pet poisoning is educating yourself and being aware of potential toxins before your pet gets into them.  The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has a great mobile app that outlines toxic plants and products organized by species.  For more information and links to download the app, click here.

Pet Toxins Animal Poison Prevention Week ASPCA Poison Control Center App

When in doubt, contact us or call the Poison Control Center hotline.

If you suspect your pet has ingested or come in contact with a harmful product, food, or plant, call us immediately.  If we are closed, we recommend calling the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center’s hotline at 866-426-4435.  (This contact info is also available on their mobile app as discussed above). Please be aware, a $65 consultation fee may apply to the phone call.

When calling us or the hotline, be prepared with the following information:

  • Species, breed, age, sex, weight
  • Symptoms and signs of your pet’s poisoning
  • Name, strength, and amount ingested (have the product container or packaging available for reference)
  • The time elapsed since the time of the exposure


Have a great time with your pets outdoors this spring and summer season!


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