Is there anything that screams SUMMER more than lush, green grass? No this isn’t an ironic statement directed toward Southeastern Wisconsin’s lack of rain, and therefore, straw-like lawns. Really it’s more of a unanimous understanding that summer is the time for blooming plants, bright green blades of grass and big, leafy trees! However, as we know all too well, nature doesn’t always bring weather that is conducive to these idyllic attributes. The lack of moisture has been rough on plants and grass, but utilizing pesticides as you begin to revive your parched yard can prove to be deadly for your four-legged friends. This week, Wisconsin Pet Care will look at one of the concerns facing pet owners as they work to save what’s left of their grass.

Let’s get canine for a minute. Dogs have no idea what pesticides are. When they lock eyes on a bed of grass, all they see is a place that they can play, dig, lay, grab a quick bite and roll around until their hearts are content. They don’t notice that their paws and fur are being coated with pesticide residue as they do their doggy deeds. Unfortunately, there have recently been studies that show a direct link between professional pesticides and Canine Malignant Lymphoma. More specifically, it is the herbicide/pesticide ‘2,4-D’ (used by most professional lawn care services to restrict the growth of broadleaf weeds). If there is a cancer risk, why do the professionals use this chemical application on our lawns? There are three reasons: It’s cheap, it’s effective, and unlike in Canada, it’s legal in the US.

So what is Canine Malignant Lymphoma? Lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymph nodes and/or organs that contain lymphoid tissue.

How can you prevent Canine Malignant Lymphoma? While pesticides are a proven contributor to encouraging cancer growth, there are other factors that cannot be controlled in the prevention of Canine Malignant Lymphoma – such as size (dogs over 50 pounds) and breed (studies show that some breeds are more likely to develop cancer than others), which are also risk factors associated with this type of cancer.

What can you control? Don’t use pesticides on your lawn. One local lawn care company boasts an “Organic Lawn Care” service. Instead of using “traditional” pesticides to control weeds in your yard, they resort to planting new seeds to grow thick turf (with the intention of crowding out the weeds). Sounds safe, right? But the small print states: “a hand-detailed weed application, using conventional products to control broadleaf weeds [most likely the aforementioned ‘2,4-D], will be provided at no additional charge.” While “No charge for cancer’ is not exactly the catchiest tagline, it would help to draw attention to what they are actually selling. That’s not to say “Organic Lawn Care” isn’t a step in the right direction. Grass is expensive and it does take a lot of work to make it the outdoor carpet of every pup’s dreams. However, make yours a pesticide/herbicide-free yard. If there are a few weeds that make their way into the lawn, pull them out by hand or do what the organic farmers do: seek alternate pest/weed-control treatments.

It may go without saying, but keeping your dog away from other chemically-treated areas is also effective in reducing the risk of Canine Malignant Lymphoma. If you are unsure whether a common area has been treated, or if your dog goes rogue in unknown territory, it is best to get him home and in the bath right away. The chemical just sitting on the skin and coat is what causes a lot of the damage. Be sure to pay close attention to paws (a quick scrub with a nail/foot brush will ensure that you’ve reached all crevices and nails).

Canine Malignant Lymphoma is a serious form of cancer that has proven links to pesticide chemicals. There are treatment options for cancer in dogs, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can’t control what goes on in every home, but Wisconsin Pet Care encourages you to provide a safe haven in your own back yard. A safe environment lets a dog be a dog, and really, is there anything more fun than being around a happy, healthy dog?