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Our pets often spend a lot of time in the yard during the warmer months, whether it’s playing a fun game of fetch, rolling in the grass or taking naps in the sun. We do our best to keep them safe from dangers like running into the street or getting into the outdoor garbage or compost bin, but one danger we don’t always think about is the products we use to keep our yard and garden green and thriving.

Chemical lawn treatments and weed killers, pest control pellets and sprays, and items we use to spruce up our landscaping can all be a source of dangerous toxins for pets. Even some garden flowers and plants can be highly toxic to our canine and feline friends. But don’t worry, ditching the chemicals doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful lawn and garden. Here are the top toxins you should keep out of your yard, and what you should use instead.

Landscaping Mulch

Mulch is commonly used in landscaping for aesthetic reasons, as well as to keep soil moist and help prevent weeds. Commonly made out of wood chips or shredded bark, it is usually free of toxins, but it can still pose a danger if pets ingest the tiny pieces of wood.

One type of mulch that should be avoided if you have pets is cocoa bean mulch, which is made from discarded cocoa shells from chocolate production. Like chocolate, the caffeine and theobromine that naturally occur in the shells can be harmful and potentially fatal if enough is ingested. Keep pets safe by choosing untreated wood mulch or a chop-and-drop mulch method instead.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

The quest for a perfect green lawn leads many homeowners to use a variety of pesticides and fertilizers to kill weeds and promote lawn growth. You have probably seen little signs placed by landscaping companies telling people to keep kids and pets off the lawn for at least 24 hours after application — so what does that tell you about the chemicals being used?

A study conducted in 2012 found that the use of certain lawn care chemicals placed dogs at a higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma, a type of cancer. Another study conducted in 2008 looked at overall chemical contamination in dogs and cats and found that samples taken from pets showed high levels of chemicals, including those commonly found in outdoor environments.

The problem with these products is that they work their way into the grass and soil, leaving a toxic residue that can cause serious harm to pets even after the product has dried. And if a pet happens to get into a bottle or bag of pesticides or fertilizer, they can suffer from seizures or even death. You can avoid chemical exposure by using a natural approach to keep your lawn green.

Weed Killers and Pest Control

Weeds and certain bugs are often unwelcomed guests in the yard or garden, causing people to reach for chemicals to help combat the problem. And while this approach may be effective, it is filled with dangerous chemicals that can harm both pets and people. The presence of weeds can sometimes mean your lawn is missing something, so take the time to learn about alternative ways to take care of the problem, which might be as simple as adding a garden full of native plants.

Certain garden pests can destroy a garden, but chemicals are not the only solution. Ladybugs, for example, can help wipe out an aphid infestation. You can also turn to non-toxic approaches for weed and pest control that are effective, yet safe.

Plants and Flowers

Everyone loves the beauty that flowers and plants add to the landscape, but certain varieties — including tulips, lilies, and azaleas — are toxic to our furry friends. Several commonly-used plants and vines also carry the risk of making pets sick, causing vomiting and digestive upset if ingested.

A Happy Yard for You and Your Pet! 

The ASPCA has a list of plants that are toxic to both cats and dogs that can be used as a reference before planning your garden. And as with lawn care, be careful when choosing products to manage pests or enhance flower growth in your garden. There are plenty of eco-conscious ways to fertilize soil and control insects.

An eco-friendly approach to lawn and garden care is always best to keep pets safe and protect aquatic habitats from pollution from lawn chemicals. A lawn care professional can always help point you in the right direction and assist you in making choices that are best for your pets, family, and the planet.

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