Don't you just love the advent of Spring? You don't have to coax a shivering Shih Tzu to step out into freezing weather to do her business. And the tug-of-war trying to get a Dane to venture outside through the snow drift on the back porch has given way to ferocious Frisbee tug-of-wars in a suddenly blooming backyard.
But Spring also brings dangers to your furry friends. A backyard can be a haven for pests, plants and gardening substances that can harm your pets, as well as those of your pet sitting clients. Unfortunately, these hazards present no flashing warning signs or poison labels. But here are a few cautions about your backyard blooms that could save you a trip to the emergency room.
Plants Hazardous To Animals
You would think that mother nature's beauty would not be a threat to your pet. But nature's strong natural defenses can be a bad thing for your dog or cat.
Castor Bean. What? The castor bean that provided the oil that our mothers spooned into our throats as youngsters? (Well, only Boomers and earlier would remember that.) Yes the same plant. Castor bean is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family. It can grow to 30 feet tall, has purple leaves up to 30 inches wide, and greenish-yellow flowers. The toxicity of raw castor beans comes from ricin, a well-known and highly toxic poison. All parts of the plant are toxic, but especially the seeds. (Processed castor oil does not have this toxin, so don't try to blame any current ailments on its past use.)
Larkspur. Your cat won't be purring after eating this plant. Neither will your dog. This plant is an easy to grow annual from the buttercup family. It has white or purplish flowers on tall 12-18 inch spikes. For cats and dogs, the seeds are poisonous, and the leaves and flowers can cause stomach problems when ingested.
Lilies. There are many types of plants that are part of the lily family--and several species are toxic to your cats. Among those that are poisonous are asparagus fern, autumn crocuses, and day lilies. If a cat eats any part of these plants, you need to get them immediate veterinary care to prevent kidney failure.
Vegetables. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Yes, your mom was right. But when planting your garden, keep in mind that some of those fruits and vegetables are not as good for your pets. Keep your pets away from onions, garlic, tomato plants, and grapes.
Not Just Plants
Don't forget that the substances you put on your garden to help it grow can have adverse effects on your pets. Fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers and even your choice of mulch can have harmful ingredients. I'll have more information on what to watch out for in a future blog, but in the meantime, follow the warnings on the packaging and go online to check out the ingredients to see what threat they pose to your pets' health. Also, if you're pet sitting, make sure to scope out the client's backyard for any hazardous plants or substances that the pet owner might not be aware of.