Just as it’s important to “pet-proof” your home, it is also important to check your garden and make sure that it does not harbour any dangers to your pets. You may not realise it but there can be many things that might be harmful to our pet dogs and cats in our gardens. With a bit of attention and planning, however, it is easy to create a pet-friendly garden so that both you and your pets can enjoy the outdoors together safely.
So here are some tips on how to create a pet-friendly garden:
Deadly Plants and Flowers
Check the plants that are growing in your garden and identify them as much as you can. Many dogs and cats like to chew parts of plants, often in curiosity, but unfortunately, many common plants, flowers, weeds and herbs can be poisonous to cats and dogs if chewed and swallowed. Any kind of lily, for example, can be dangerous, especially to cats. Similarly, the bulbs of Tulips, Daffodils, Spider Lilies, Jonquils Nerines and Crocuses can also be deadly. These can be especially attractive to dogs who like to play with balls. Here is a list of potentially dangerous plants which you should try to remove from your garden or at least plant in an area that your pet cannot access: (Note: This list is not exhaustive so if you are unsure about any plant, ask your veterinarian and local plant nursery.)
- Asparagus Fern
- Aloe VeraM
- Burning Bush
- Castor Oil Plant
- Japanese Yew
- Golden Chain
- Lily of the Valley
- Mock Orange
- Daffodil and most other bulbs
- Mountain Laurel
- Morning Glory
- Sweet Peas
- Jerusalem Cherry
If you have a vegetable patch, make sure you check the vegetables growing in there too. Remember, there are several things that humans can eat which could be toxic to dogs and cats, such as garlic, onions and chives, which can induce anaemia if ingested in large amounts. Similarly, any part of the raw potato plant can be toxic and the cores of fruits like apples, cherries, plums, peaches and apricots have seeds which contain poisonous cyanide. It’s a good idea to keep pets out of the vegetable patch by either fencing it off or installing motion-detector sprinkler systems (although this may not work so well if you have a water-loving breed like a Labrador!)
Beware of Chemicals
Be careful about any chemicals that you may be using, such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers. These often contain strong, toxic compounds that could be fatal to your pet. So make sure any bottles or packages are tightly sealed and safely out of reach of curious noses and paws – perhaps up on a high shelf or even better, inside a locked cabinet. If possible, consider switching to natural, non-toxic, organic alternatives. If you must use the chemical version, try to keep pets away from the treated area for at least a few days afterwards.
Poisonous Pest Control
Pest control can also be a source of danger – not just the insecticides mentioned above but slug and snail baits, which are a common cause of poisoning in dogs. Again, a non-toxic, “natural” method of pest control (such as a beer trap) may be the best solution.
Check your pets’ bodies for allergies regularly when they are spending time outside in the garden. Look for any red, flaky or inflamed skin or bald thinning patches; also if you notice your pet licking, scratching, chewing or rubbing a certain area. Even if a plant is not directly poisonous, it may still cause an allergic reaction in your pet. Many dogs and cats are allergic to various grasses and plants, such as rye grass, paspalum, and the notorious Wandering Jew, which causes itchy feet, legs and stomach rashes. By keeping your grass short and restricting your pet to areas of mown grass, you can help to reduce allergic reactions – however, if you notice your pet with any of the symptoms described, take it to the vet for allergy testing.
Be careful if you have a young or very small pet and a deep pond in your garden – you may want to consider covering the pond or fencing it off temporarily until your pet is larger or older and wiser. If you do have a swimming pool in your garden, ensure that it is securely fenced off or covered to prevent pets falling in and drowning – although most dogs and cats can swim instinctively, they can become exhausted if they panic and cannot find a place to climb out easily.
Don’t forget to protect your pets from themselves…dogs, especially, can be their own worst enemy, by escaping from your garden and getting lost, run over by traffic or injured in some other fashion (don’t forget, many farmers will not hesitate to shoot dogs if they think they are worrying livestock). Fence your garden securely – make sure it is:
- High enough so your dog cannot jump over it
- Deep enough so your dog cannot dig under it
- Strong enough so your dog cannot chew through it (or push through it!)
- Solid enough so that your dog cannot attack people or other dogs – or even escape – through a gap in the fencing. Solid wood fencing is often best.
Finally, encourage your pets to stay in your garden by making it a fun place for them – provide interactive toys for them to play with and comfortable places to rest, as well as shelter from the weather. Don’t forget to always have fresh water available as well.