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Spring is here and summer is coming! With that comes more opportunities to play outside our four-legged housemates. We want our pets, from dogs and cats to bunnies and other critters, to be able to safely roll around in the grass and to not worry if they eat something off the ground. Here are some ideas to create a safe outdoor haven for your pets and for the local flora and fauna.
Of course, we’ve heard for a while that chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, inside the home or the ones you use on your yard, can be dangerous for your pets and kids. Switching to organic pest control can take a little time, since it’s about creating balance with nature, but when you do, you will find that it’s very rewarding. Choosing native plants that thrive in your local conditions is a good first step. Natives also provide food and habitat for the local pollinators and beneficial critters that help keep the landscape thriving.
If you have a water feature in the yard, be sure to keep your pets from drinking its water. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water options in other areas for your pets and think about installing some kind of barrier around the pond to deter them. Because they are used to drinking water from our taps, our four-leggeds may not have built up resistance to pathogens from bird poop and other plants, including algae, that could build up in outdoor ponds.
The ASPCA has updated their Toxic and Non-toxic Plants for Dogs and The Toxic and Non-toxic List for Cats, which is similar, but not necessarily the same. These lists are extensive, so you might take a copy with you to the garden center so for reference. Some of the more popular landscaping choices that are toxic include azaleas, rhododendrons, foxglove, English ivy, daffodils and lilies.
According to the ASPCA, “Pets that eat poisonous plants can have symptoms ranging from vomiting, diarrhea and excess salivation to coma, cardiovascular collapse and death,” so it’s worth taking that extra moment to be sure.
Another category of plants to watch are fruit trees. While the fruit’s flesh may be fine for your pets to eat, the pits and seeds of apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums and apples, trees that typically grow well in Colorado Springs, contain the toxin cyanogenic glycoside. Avoid planting these in areas where your pet can graze on fallen fruit.
According to an article in AARP, it’s a good idea to make your outdoor space less welcoming to the ticks and fleas that can be brought in by birds, squirrels and other wildlife. “You can also make your outdoor space less welcoming to these insects by keeping the grass mowed, raking leaves, placing 3-foot-wide areas of gravel between your yard and any wooded areas … and keeping any woodpiles neatly stacked and dry.” Additionally, talk to your veterinarian about the proper products to keep your pet up to date on their heartworm, flea and tick preventatives.
When considering mulch for your yard, choose carefully. Many mulches are dyed, so check whether they dyes are natural and safe before you buy. Cocoa bean mulch is a biproduct of the chocolate-making process and is toxic. Rubber mulches are made with chemicals, so their safety is unproven. Stick to wood mulches that don’t contain any artificial dyes and supervise your pets to keep them from eating it if possible as they could create a choking hazard.
In the same vein, compost is great for the garden, but molds that build up should be reserved for microbes and worms, not for your pets. What goes in your compost may smell great to your pet, so make sure to keep the pile in a secured bin or in an area of your yard that they cannot access.
Finally, a few other hazards to consider: Don’t leave garden tools with sharp blades laying around. Make sure metal edging materials have a rolled edge or a cover to keep their sharp edges from cutting into unprotected paws. Keep all garden fertilizers and products in a locked shed or garage, away from unsuspecting noses.
You and your pets are going to want to enjoy your yard all summer without worry. Hopefully these thoughts help you get ready for the outdoor season and let you enjoy the sunshine together!