April showers bring May flowers… and weeds! ‘Tis the season for chemical-covered lawns and fertilized flower beds. For pet owners, this can be a daunting time, trying to keep their beloved fur babies safe from such toxins. As a professional dog walker, I am in a hyper-vigilant search this time of year to avoid grass with that dreaded “Keep Off” sign poking out. But yet no one wants a yard full of unsightly weeds either. So where can pet owners find a happy medium this Spring?

Wisconsin Pet Care promotes a healthier, more organic, and natural lifestyle for all our pets… from education on more natural foods to feed, right down to better alternatives to weed killers and pesticides. In this blog, we will discuss why spraying your lawn could be harmful to your pet, what symptoms your pet may experience if exposed to these chemicals, and some pet-friendly weed killing alternatives to try instead.

There is much controversy as to how “safe” some of these chemicals may be for our pets. Many veterinary toxicologists at the ASPCA will state that if the label directions are followed accurately, and the product has completely dried, chemical weed killers pose little immediate threat to our pets. However, long-term studies by the National Cancer Institute show your pet is at higher risk for developing cancer, particularly bladder cancer and lymphoma, if they have consistent exposure to the common pesticide dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2, 4-D). Despite all the new commercial weed killers that may be labeled “pet-friendly”, I suggest to avoid them all. There is no sense in risking your pet’s quality (or quantity!) of life, just to have a pristine lawn.

Symptoms of toxicity from weed killers can vary between pets. The National Pesticide Information Center reports that approximately 1 out of 7, or 15% of dogs that ingest grass treated with glyphosate-based weed killers (ie: RoundUp) have significant toxic reactions. Common symptoms reported include vomiting (with or without blood), diarrhea, nausea, inappetence, excessive drooling, lethargy, and weight loss. Often times the skin (where direct contact with the chemical is made) can become extremely irritated, red, and pruritic (itchy). Also consider that dogs sweat through the pads of their feet. If they step on a freshly sprayed lawn, they could absorb the chemicals through their sweat glands, causing even more severe toxicity symptoms, including coma.

So if these pesticides are potentially harmful for our furry friends, what are some safer alternatives to killing weeds this season? Your best bet is to find a homemade recipe, so you know exactly what you’re exposing your pet to. Safe non-toxic sprays can be made with vinegar, but often need to be reapplied. Be sure to add a small amount of dish soap to your homemade sprays, it helps adhere the spray to the leaves for more killing efficacy. Boiling water works great to destroy weeds in the cracks of sidewalks and concrete. Corn meal, salt, or sugar can be sprinkled at the base of the weed to deter growth. Corn meal may be preferred, as it doesn’t harm other plants, but it keeps the weeds from growing. Salt can change the pH of the soil around the weed, killing flowers and plants around the weed. And sugar can attract ants and other pests (it’s suggested to mix with chili powder to prevent insects). This blog has a recipe for a homemade vinegar spray, and great anecdotal information on this topic: http://mynjdog.hubpages.com/hub/vinegar_weed_killer

“Spring” into action and try some of these alternatives! “Weed” love to hear if you have any favorite recipes — please comment below!