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Pets love to roam free, and homeowners with outdoor space often let their pets get some exercise and play time in their backyards. While it's important for pets like dogs and even some cats to get some time outdoors, pet owners should recognize the potential threats to pet health looming in their lawns and gardens.
• Mulch: According to the Pet Poison Helpline, mulch made from cocoa beans can pose a threat to pets. This type of mulch is made of discarded hulls or shells of the cocoa bean. These byproducts of chocolate production contain varying concentrations of the toxins theobromine and caffeine. When ingested in high concentrations, these toxins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and, in some instances, death. The amount of these toxins present in a given batch of this type of mulch may not be readily known, so homeowners should avoid applying it.
• Slug and snail baits: The PPH notes that the active ingredient in slug and snail baits is metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to cats and dogs. Symptoms of distress, including restlessness, vomiting, seizures, and high body temperature, can appear as soon as one hour after these baits are ingested. The baits are typically available in pellet, granular, powder, and liquid form, but each should be avoided by pet owners who allow their pets to play in their yards.
• Compost: Compost is a great and natural way to enrich soil. But compost piles should be cordoned off so curious pets cannot access them. As the organic matter within compost piles decomposes, mold can begin to grow. If ingested by pets, moldy materials inside compost piles can make pets sick in as little as 30 minutes. Pets who have ingested moldy compost may appear agitated, pant, drool, or vomit, and some may even suffer from tremors or seizures.
• Flowers/plants: Of course, some flowers and plants can pose a threat to pets as well. Before planting new plants and/or flowers in their gardens, homeowners should inquire at their local gardening center or speak with their veterinarians to confirm if the plants or flowers are safe to ingest. If not, do not plant them or plant them in raised garden beds that cannot be accessed by curious pets.
• Fertilizers: Certain types of fertilizer also may be harmful to pets. According to the PPH, fertilizers that contain blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, and iron can be dangerous to dogs. When ingested in large doses, such products can form a concretion in the stomach, which can obstruct the gastrointestinal tract and cause severe pancreatitis. Fertilizers that are high in iron also can contribute to iron poisoning if ingested by pets.