Last summer I started a series on gardening with dogs, but never finished all I had planned to. So we’re continuing this summer with two more posts to finish the series. If you missed last summer’s, here are the links to each:
Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Quiz – Do you know what these plants are and if they are safe for your dogs? Even though the prize giveaway is now closed, you can still have fun with this quiz and then find the answers in Part 3.
Part 3 – Quiz answers
Part 4 – Herbs
Part 5 – Levels of Toxicity – Not all plants that are toxic are deadly. Also common toxic and favorite non-toxic flowers.
The first posts in my series focused mainly on flowers and herbs. For this post I want to discuss some of the other things in your yard and garden that could be dangerous for dogs (and other pets).
There are many fruits and vegetables that are safe for dogs, and that are even very good for them. I often add fresh fruits and veggies to the dogs’ meals or as a snack (Luke loves many, Cricket – not so much). However, there are some that are not safe. When I decided to do just a little gardening at our then new house last year, one thing I definitely wanted was some tomato plants. I found some organic ones at a local farm stand and considered putting them in the garden area inside the dog yard – until I found out that tomato plants can be toxic to dogs and cats!
Tomato plants contain a substance called solanine that is toxic to dogs and cats. It might take them eating a lot of the plant to really make them ill, but I always default to “better safe than sorry”. I put the tomato plants in pots for that year and used that garden area for safe herbs instead. This year I have a new vegetable garden area where I planted them.
Other fruits and vegetables you might have in your yard or garden that can make dogs sick include:
- Raw garlic – garlic is under debate as far as it’s safety for dogs, but it is definite that whole raw garlic cloves are NOT good.
- Rhubarb (rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans as well)
- Cherries, apricots, and apples – the seeds and pits of these fruits are not safe for dogs, though the flesh of the fruits themselves are. The truth is, my dogs have eaten whole apples before with no ill effects. But you have to consider the size of your dog and the quantity of seeds eaten as well. Some of my early dogs ate grapes too, before I knew better.
I don’t know about where you are, but here in New England, whenever it rains a lot, the next thing you know mushrooms are popping up all over the yard (how they pop up so fast, I don’t know!). Although I’ve never seen any of my dogs pay attention to them, they still make me nervous. I know dogs who have died from eating wild mushrooms. Only 50 to 100 of 50,000 species of mushrooms are actually toxic, but how you can you know which ones are in your yard (other than trying to look each one up!)? Again, I go with “better safe than sorry”, so when I’m cleaning up the dog poop in the yard, I scoop up any mushrooms I see as well!
This is also where training things like “leave it” can be so important; mushrooms can also be anywhere you walk your dogs.
Avid gardeners know the advantages of mulch: it holds in moisture, keeps back weeds, and also makes flower beds look pretty! But not all mulches are safe for your dogs and there is one that is especially dangerous: any kind of cocoa mulch (bean or hull) contains “theobromine”, the same substance that makes chocolate toxic to dogs. It may be more attractive to them as well because of the smell, but either way, some dogs will eat anything off the ground and that can include mulch of any kind.
Therefore, I select my mulch carefully. I prefer a shredded bark mulch. The pieces are smaller so less likely to contain splinters as well. There are different varieties to choose from such as cedar, hemlock, and pine. My preference is pine because it tends to be more natural. The others sometimes contain dyes for color. I always read the bag carefully to be sure it is all natural and there is nothing added. There’s really no reason for it, other than looks, which is not my biggest concern! I prefer something that looks more natural anyway.
Pesticides and Fertilizers
I garden organically so pesticides have no place in my yard and gardens. I live in the country so I’m not looking to have that perfect lawn, and we have to find natural ways to get rid of insects. I would never have my dogs playing or lying on grass that had been treated with any kind of chemical. Luke eats grass like crazy – we call him a cow – so there is just no way. Whether or not it could immediately make your dog very ill is up for debate, but I also worry about how these chemicals contribute long-term to cancer.
I choose only organic fertilizers for my gardens. That’s one thing that having chickens is supposed to be good for – apparently chicken manure is one of the best organic fertilizers out there! However, we haven’t put that to use yet so I still had to buy fertilizer this year. The truth is not even organic fertilizers are safe for dogs, things like blood meal and bone meal are organic but they are toxic to pets. The worst thing is they can smell good to them as well.
I’ll never forget the time that our beagle Kobi was in my greenhouse with me when I was planting. I had a can of fertilizer out and he licked the top of it! I wasn’t worried because it was organic, and obviously he didn’t ingest much just off the cover, but it does show that it was attractive to him. Some of these things can make your dog extremely ill so it is best to keep them away from all fertilizers completely.
This year I planted some herbs, along with lettuce and kale in the garden that is inside the dog yard (seen above). I added a little fertilizer to the soil but I again fenced off the areas where I had put it, and put it only underneath the surface as well. While having dogs and gardens in the same area can make things like that a bit more work and challenging, I don’t mind. Knowing my dogs are safe from harm is always the most important thing to me.
The final post in our series is going to be about dog friendly plants that might also help repel insects – a special request from one of our friends/readers last year, and something I wanted to research for myself too!