By Elizabeth Maimon, DVM, MPH
Hills and Dales Veterinary Clinic, Kettering, Ohio
As summertime approaches and people begin to think about bringing color back to their lawns, I find myself reminding clients, “When landscaping your yard, please remember that animals are sensitive to topical parasiticides and weed killers.” Then, they always follow up with the question about what kinds of pet-friendly sprays they can put on their yard to keep away weeds, fleas, ticks and other pests.
Animals lick their paws after outdoor exposure, and many will frequently eat grass and soil, so it’s extremely important to watch what goes onto your lawn.
Some pets that already have allergies can experience a hypersensitivity to topical chemicals. Adverse reactions can mimic an anaphylactic reaction like vomiting, diarrhea, facial swelling, hair loss and labored breathing.
In addition to pesticides, careful evaluation of mulching agents should be considered. To achieve rich, dark-colored mulch, some companies include recycled coffee grounds in their mulch. Coffee grounds contain methylxanthine, a stimulant found in caffeine, and dogs are highly sensitive to caffeine. If the mulch is ingested, they can experience gastrointestinal upset and elevated heart and respiratory rates. Be sure to ask what ingredients are actually in your mulch before spreading it on your garden.
As a veterinarian, I frequently recommend that clients use preventive medicine based on their pet’s health status, disease exposure and travel history. If you have wildlife in your backyard, plan on taking your pets hiking or camping, or want to visit areas with free-standing water, extra precaution is a good idea. In addition to heartworm and intestinal parasite control, a flea and tick preventive is warranted. Clients who prefer to avoid topical products, bathe their pets often, or have pets who swim should consider a combined oral flea, heartworm and intestinal parasite preventive with a tick collar.
Be aware that many over-the-counter drugs are obsolete pesticides that may cause harm to your pets and do not prevent or control fleas, ticks or intestinal parasites. However, the good news is that there are many safe prescription preventive choices, and your veterinarian can help you determine which prescription agent is best suited to the needs of your family and pets.
Fleas and ticks aren’t just a danger to your pets; they are also a danger to all members of your family. Respect these pests and the terrible diseases they carry by using monthly preventive on all your pets year-round.