dog sitting in garden with garden implement in mouth

Plant a Pet-Friendly Garden

It is starting to get warmer out there! With the beautiful weather, many people are outside in the garden and stretching their green thumb. Whether you are planting a garden or walk your pet around the neighborhood, we would like share some tips so you can protect your pets from hazardous plants and materials.  

#1 Beware of Harmful Products

One of the top gardening dangers for your pet is chemicals or poisons you might use to help your garden. Depending on the product, it can be very harmful and potentially fatal if your pet swallows it.


Fertilizers can contain toxic additives to pets, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse if eaten in large quantities. Safer pet-friendly fertilizer is available, but you should still always store it out of paw’s reach because it still is not healthy to eat.

Organic fertilizers sound safe. But surprisingly, many of them are more dangerous. Organic or “natural” fertilizers often contain various “meal” leftovers from the farming or meat industries. These products, such as bone meal, are attractive to dogs but unhealthy for their digestive systems.

Fertilizers can also contain herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and snail bait which will discuss further in this article. 

Safer Choices:  

  • Sunday Review Fertilizer
  • Scotts Natural Lawn Food
  • Greenview Turf Nurture

Weed Killer

There are numerous types of weed killer products, and many of them can cause dehydration, bloody vomiting, breathing and heart issues, mouth ulcers, and kidney or liver failure if your pet ingests them.

If you can, you should avoid using any weed-killing products at all, but at a minimum, you should try to eliminate the contact your pets have with any. A six-year scientific study conducted by Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine found that lawn chemicals increased a dog’s chance of developing cancer by up to 70 percent.

Safer Choices:

  • Green Gobbler Weed and Grass Killer
  • Natural Elements Weed Killer
  • Preen Weed Killer

Slug or Snail Pellets

Slug pellets are sprinkled around growing plants to protect them from pest damage. Slug pellets use an organic compound called metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to pets. Additionally, many of the products are flavored with bran and molasses to attract snails and slugs, but these products also attract household pets.

The first symptom of ingestion in a pet is vomiting, followed by neurological signs such as anxiety, abnormal walking, and tremors. If your pet shows signs of vomiting within an hour of being in a garden or yard, treat it as an emergency and get them to your vet or emergency vet if your vet is unavailable. The severity of the poisoning and the outcome worsen as time passes. 

Safer Choices:

  • Surround your plants with a layer of broken shells, diatomaceous earth, lava rock, or another “rough” material. These rough surfaces will deter slugs and snails
  • Plant lavender, rosemary, or mint in your garden. These deter slugs and snails due to their smell.
  • Trap them. They like moist places and hide and lay their eggs in the same place. You can put out rolled-up moistened newspaper or damp boards. Once they gather in or under them, you can throw out the paper or scrape off the board.

Cocoa Mulch

Cocoa mulch, also known as cocoa bean mulch, is a popular mulch. It has an attractive rich, brown color, pleasant aroma, and excellent nutritional benefits for the soil. Sadly, it is toxic to pets. It contains cocoa bean shells and various chemicals that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, weakness, seizures, or death when eaten by pets. 

Safer Choices:  

  • Mulch made from shredded pine, cedar, or hemlock bark. Some dogs may have skin and respiratory sensitivity to cedar mulch. Observe them for any signs of reaction. 
  • Stone and rock mulch. 

#2. Toxic Plants

Another gardening danger to be aware of is toxic plants. While many plants may be gorgeous additions to your garden, quite a few can be dangerous, if not lethal, to our four-legged friends. Here are some of the more common toxic plants:

Lilies are the plant of most concern for cat owners. If a cat ingests any part of a lily or even licks lily pollen from its fur, it could cause severe damage to its kidneys and potentially death.

TulipsHyacinths, and Irises can all threaten your pet’s health. All three are toxic to cats and dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling if ingested. While all parts of the plants are poisonous, the bulbs are especially concentrated and, therefore, the most harmful part.

Daffodils can most commonly cause vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling when a pet eats even a tiny amount of the plant. If a pet eats many daffodil bulbs, more severe signs such as low blood pressure and seizures in dogs and cats can occur.

Sago Palms All parts of Sago Palms are poisonous, but the seeds (nuts) are the most toxic to pets, and they are more likely to eat them than the fronds. Ingestion of even a tiny amount of the plant can cause severe effects and even death. The toxic compounds in the plant can cause very severe gastrointestinal upset, affect the nervous system, or damage the liver. If symptoms of Sago Palm ingestion are not treated, death may occur due to blood loss and shock.

Oleanders are a popular garden plant due to their beauty and tolerance to poor soil and drought resistance. Unfortunately, they are very toxic to most animals, particularly dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, and even in large amounts, chickens. While most pets will not eat large quantities because of the plant’s bitter and unpleasant taste, even just a leaf or blossom or two can lead to severe symptoms and even death. 

Play It Safe!

Before you plant any seeds or plants, make sure they are not poisonous to your pet. And do your homework. Don’t count on employees at nurseries are being familiar with whether certain plants are toxic to animals. You are safest to check out a plant yourself. If you are not sure if a plant is poisonous to your pet, search the internet by just typing in: “Is (name of plant) toxic to (name of animal) to find out. Here are also some links you may find helpful:

#3. Gardening Equipment

The last gardening danger that we will discuss is the various gardening equipment you might use.

It’s worth remembering that standard garden tools, including lawnmowers, trimmers, and chainsaws, are hazardous and should never be used around pets. The loud noises that garden machinery creates can cause stress in many pets, particularly cats.

If you use one of these tools, ensure that your pet(s) are safely inside with the door closed to protect them from noise or possible injury. 


A pet-friendly garden is beautiful for you and your family, and your pet can certainly enjoy it too. By being mindful of what you plant, poisonous chemicals, and protecting your pets from gardening equipment, you and your pet can frolic and enjoy your garden for many years to come.


Dr. Tammy L. Stevenson

Advanced Pet Care Clinic